Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Red Menace

Did you hear about that brave protester who shouted down China's President Hu on the Whitehouse lawn the other day?

Did you hear that live coverage of the event in China didn't show the protester, switching seamlessly to in-studio commentators?

I'm thankful to live in a country where that kind of censorship doesn't occur. Here the disruption was broadcast all over the media.

I heard that Hu wasn't really bothered by it, but Bush was really pissed that the Secret Service didn't get to her quicker. By get to her, I mean arrest her. That's right, she was arrested for "disrupting a foreign offical" and dragged away. That's one of those charges that our police keep handy for speech crimes - along with "disturbing the peace" "tresspass after warning" "parading without a permit"... they almost never stick, but they're handy to get the speech criminal away from the scene and in a jail cell for a few hours. She's been formally charged with a federal crime.

We don't censor our protesters in America, we just arrest them. Regularly. The fact that the Falun Gong protester was arrested was barely mentioned in the press. I guess we just expect that people who speak loudly and with an opinion on public property are probably going to get arrested.

That's just the price of freedom.

2 Comments:

Blogger ChinaLawBlog said...

I am a fervent believer in the 1st Amendment, but are you actually proposing that protestors be allowed to free reign to disrupt President to President meetings?



china law

1:08 AM  
Blogger Adam Elend said...

Actually, no. I'm not.

This was a public ceremony, not a presedential meeting. They had their meeting in private. I think that's an important distinction, but I still don't think protestors should be allowed free reign to intrude on the free speech rights of others (it's hard for me to call yelling out of a crowd from a hundred yards away "disrupting president to president meetings")

Rather I take issue with her arrest and prosecution. If the interruption were, say, a baby that won't stop crying, or a lound and impertinent cell phone talker, or a person with a violent coughing fit, they would have been escorted out just as she was - to end the disruption. But they wouldn't have been arrested or prosecuted.

She had permission to be where she was, she did not mislead anyone about who she was. The only substantive distinction between her and the scenarios I described above is the content of her speech. And that's a violation of her first amendment rights.

That she was arrested, and a prosecutor stood before a federal judge and asserted that she was a threat to the security of President Hu, is to say that the content of her speech was a threat to President Hu.

After all, no one arrested the camera man who stood behind the protester, grabbed her sign out of her hand and clamped his hand over her mouth. Assault and Battery is an actual crime. Where as "disrupting a foreign official" is a crime made up to make picketing a foreign embassy illegal.

8:16 AM  

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