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By Brad Friedman
on 11/13/2011, 10:17pm PT
On Sunday afternoon I found myself in a spirited Twitter debate about Occupy Wall Street, its effectiveness as a movement and, of most interest to me, the First Amendment rights of the Occupations around the country as the attempts to evict the Occupiers, by local mayors and police departments in a number of cities have been slowly, but surely, ramping up over the last several days and weeks.
This particular debate was not of the sort you're likely to see in the MSM, in that it didn't include any Rightwingers and their fake arguments. (If you're interested in one of those debates, see my radio debate with a RWer last week here.) It included a few self-identified progressives, a few self-identified Democrats and Obama supporters (who do not necessarily consider themselves progressives, and often view them with scorn), and a few attorneys. None of the participants were Republicans or Tea Baggers...
This was a Twitter debate and while I've done my best to put things in order here, it can be difficult to read, at times, for those not familiar with how Twitter works --- particularly as several of us were replying to each other at the same time that other replies were occurring to earlier points. So you'll have to do your best to make sense of things, but hopefully it's not all that difficult.
As messy as it is, just like democracy, it's a discussion worth having and one, as I say, not had, in general, in the MSM. So I thought I'd post it here and welcome your thoughts, observations and additional debate in comments.
To set the stage, the participants here include @AngryBlackLady, @DCPlod and, occassionally, @SheriffFruitfly (all ardent supporters of President Obama), as well as @MSBellows (late in the conversation) and myself (@TheBradBlog).
Both @AngryBlackLady (did I mention she's an ardent O supporter?) and @MSBellows (an occasional BRAD BLOG commenter) are attorneys. I am not.
I don't know @DCPlod, other than she identifies herself in her Twitter profile as "Liberal" and a "political junkie". @SherrifFruitfly is...well...a supporter of @AngryBlackLady's. I'll let his tweets speak for him beyond that.
The first few tweets, mine, help to set the stage today, though they were written a bit earlier this morning and the tweets that followed from the others were not in direct response to them. A little later then, you'll see that I jumped into a conversation between @AngryBlackLady and @DCPlod about the First Amendment rights of the Occupiers and things took off --- for good or bad --- from there...
Reader comments follow below ad...
READER COMMENTS ON
"Debating #OWS and its First Amendment Rights, on Twitter, With a Bunch of Non-RightWingers"
(11 Responses so far...)
COMMENT #1 [Permalink]
said on 11/14/2011 @ 8:03 am PT...
I enjoyed your debate as i myself have had many similar to it.
I would say in this argument I agree with both the angry black lady and you. While the first amendment allows people to peacefully assemble that doesn't mean that as long as they do not harm anyone they are exempt from the law. However, since Zuccoti park is privately owned and the owners have not called for an eviction then the occupiers do have the right to stay there. With reference to the tear gas and pepper spray I don't agree with the methods the police are taking with the exception of the occupy Oakland movement.
I also would agree that the occupation has meaning and if it ends then much of the movement's momentum and voice would be gone. I think officials know this and want to get rid of the occupation to try and end the movement and i cant very well blame them.
COMMENT #2 [Permalink]
said on 11/14/2011 @ 10:42 am PT...
I just read through the tweet odyssey.
1. I don't tweet and don't understand the language very well. Like crossword puzzles. I don't understand the rules of crossword puzzles. I say just cram in any answer that might be right and don't worry about the letter boxes. But I anarchically digress...
2. That said, I'm understanding maybe 25%(a generous guess) of your multi-tiered conversation here. So with that caveat....
3. AngryBlackLady sounds like a dismissive, complaining snob. She also sounds like she fundamentally doesn't "get it" concerning OWS.
4. DCPlod sounds like she's basically Angry's ideological sister.
5. Loved Brad's remarks. Wein.(that's the 1st one of those I've ever done. Cuz I object to and don't understand the new popular abbreviation language either. Does my first attempt already exist in the lexicon or might I get credit for creating a new one? Could this be the start of a new tweeting career for me? Please say it ain't so. wein=what else is new)
COMMENT #3 [Permalink]
said on 11/14/2011 @ 12:57 pm PT...
Guest @ 1 (BTW, please pick a more identifiable name, if you don't mind):
While the first amendment allows people to peacefully assemble that doesn't mean that as long as they do not harm anyone they are exempt from the law.
What law? An unconstitutional law?
COMMENT #4 [Permalink]
said on 11/14/2011 @ 12:59 pm PT...
Lasagna @ 2:
Loved Brad's remarks. Wein.(that's the 1st one of those I've ever done. Cuz I object to and don't understand the new popular abbreviation language either. Does my first attempt already exist in the lexicon or might I get credit for creating a new one? Could this be the start of a new tweeting career for me? Please say it ain't so. wein=what else is new)
That mighta worked, had you used WEIN instead of "Wein". So... #FAIL!
But thanks for trying. (And get thee on Twitter! You'll like it! I promise!)
COMMENT #5 [Permalink]
Political Left Post
said on 11/14/2011 @ 1:08 pm PT...
I agree with the point your making Brad. However, I have an issue with those 99%er's OWS (whatever the term is today). I too am a firebagger...a real lefty but, I have issues with OWS. I've been to many of the OWS cities. What I've found is there's plenty of advertisement for Ron Paul and those waving the "Don't Tread On Me" flag. This is a non political movement yet, they seem to be advertising their candidate for President. Or simply the Tea Party agenda. I don't have a problem with everyone fighting for the same cause/outcome but, the movement is in complete conflict with Paul and the Tea Party ideology. It's rather hypocritical. They stand against everything this movement is for. Accountability, Regulations (which are much needed in Wall Street) Health Care for all (nurses union) and the support of Unions in general. God knows the right wingers hate the thought of of anyone of the above mentioned. Yes, I realize there's more to the movement, yet those issues too are in direct conflict. It seems to me this was not to be a political movement but, a people's movement. I think when you have brochures, DTOM flags and signs for Ron Paul it kind of takes the legitimacy from the movement. There are been plenty of protests prior to OWS that have been successful in many ways. Take Wisconsin for instance...The fought for bargaining rights etc., it was a complete attack on Unions and the Middle Class. I dismiss OWS for including those Hearty Souls in WI that withstood the blizzards, piles of snow, rain, sleet and hot weather as part of their movement. Obviously the WI protestors came well before OWS. I'm not from WI but, I find it hard to accept that OWS would like to take credit for something they had now part in. The people of WI, taught OWS how to occupy different issues. I realize the Unions are now supporting them, but, that doesn't mean they should take credit for many of the protests that started way before OWS. Tar Sands protestors are a good example of that. They have now come together, but, OWS is not a consistent message. The original message was great yet, the right wingers have begun siphoning the message to advertise their ideology. That said, it's pretty clear their ideology is in complete contrast to Union's, Tar Sands protestors not to mention those who endured months of horrible weather to fight Walker. I find the movement lacks credibility when they embrace a group that is clearly against OWS original message was. Don't get me wrong there are plenty of good souls in the movement, yet, it's a terrible turn off to see Ron Paul Signs and DTOM flags. WOW! complete opposites. Period. Although, many of those who participate in OWS mention there are a small number of Ron Paul supporter and DTOM folks at the movements. Well, I live in the South and I can tell you from first hand experience in many cases it's half the people. I can't get behind a movement that embraces right wing agendas. Until they OWS understands they loose credibility due to political persuasion...I find it hard to support OWS. Although, I do support Unions, Health Care for all, Tar Sans Protestors..their message is clear and consistent. Perhaps, OWS could use some consistency...and not just embrace every Tom, Dick and Harry just to show their movement is growing. Especially those that are only using the movement for political gain. IMHO
COMMENT #6 [Permalink]
said on 11/14/2011 @ 1:23 pm PT...
Brad I just love it when you get ON something. You never let go. It was enjoyable reading the whole argument because it is happening in progressive chats all over the net. Here's my take on the whole topic:
1) I will stipulate that I am not an attorney, and aside from taking a few paralegal classes in college, back in the dim dark past, I really have no legal background. That being said, I find it very condescending when people with a legal background, such as those you were debating, imply that a layperson cannot possibly understand the first amendment and therefore is unworthy to participate in a discussion. This usually means they are losing the debate.
2) Something that wasn't brought up, and never seems to be brought up when arguing about the legality of OWS: Rather than the Occupy movement being legal under the "right to assemble argument", I think it should be considered legal due to the "right to free speech". Think about it. If money is considered "free speech" in the Citizen's united because using it for advertising is "speech", then tents too can be considered free speech in this case. The reasoning is that the Occupy Movement, by it's very name, is speaking to the it's issues by occupying public space. That is how it is making it's "free speech" heard. If you take away the spaces it occupies, then you are taking away it's freedom of speech. You completely kill what the Occupy Movement is saying. I think the SCOTUS, even in all it's current right wing glory, would have to agree with this argument.
COMMENT #7 [Permalink]
said on 11/14/2011 @ 9:05 pm PT...
Political Left Post @ 5
First, if you don't mind, add paragraph breaks every now and again. Makes it much easier to read! Thanks...
To a few of your points:
I've been to many of the OWS cities. What I've found is there's plenty of advertisement for Ron Paul and those waving the "Don't Tread On Me" flag. This is a non political movement yet, they seem to be advertising their candidate for President. Or simply the Tea Party agenda.
No clue how many of those you've seen or not, but I'll take your word for it. I'm quite sure there are many Paul supporters around, as they have much in common with OWS. The Paul supporters --- the real Tea Party, circa early 2007, as opposed to the Tea Baggers (aka, the Sore Loser Party, circa just after they lost the 2008 election) have much in common with OWS. They were calling long ago for auditing the Fed, getting out of phony wars, accountability for Wall Street crooks and war criminals, etc.
But the larger point is that OWS is held in public squares. They can no more legally kick out any group of demonstrators they may not agree with than the police can (though, obviously, the police do it anyway...illegally).
I don't have a problem with everyone fighting for the same cause/outcome but, the movement is in complete conflict with Paul and the Tea Party ideology. It's rather hypocritical.
I disagree. For one, I don't think they said they were all "fighting for the same cause/outcome". That's one of the reasons it's taken so long for them to put together "demands" via consensus. For another, as noted above, they may be in conflict with the fake Tea Party (the Republican Tea Baggers), but not necessarily the Paul Tea Party on many points. Not sure where you got the idea that they were.
There are many places in which the OWS folks, in general, don't see eye-to-eye with the Paul folks. But again, if you've got the idea that it's a unified movement, I'm not sure where you came to that conclusion. It isn't, even as they all seem to agree on many things.
I think when you have brochures, DTOM flags and signs for Ron Paul it kind of takes the legitimacy from the movement.
Not if you're a Ron Paul supporter it doesn't. And, again, all are welcome in the public square.
There are been plenty of protests prior to OWS that have been successful in many ways. Take Wisconsin for instance...The fought for bargaining rights etc., it was a complete attack on Unions and the Middle Class.
The WI uprising was focused on a very specific thing: The union-busting bill of Gov. Walker and the Republicans. So those protests were focused specifically on that, and that only. OWS is not that (though many of the sentiments, obviously, are similar.)
All of that said, the conversation above --- and really all of our reporting on OWS here --- has not taken a particularly side in the political issues of the movement and whether we agree with them or not. The conversation above, and most of our reporting here, has been on their right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of greivances, as per the First Amendment.
BTW, I'd argue in favor of those same rights for the original Ron Paul Tea Party and the fake GOP Tea Bagger demonstrations as well.
Where you may take issue with the political message of OWS, as you see it, I'll also fight for your right to do exactly that!
COMMENT #8 [Permalink]
said on 11/14/2011 @ 9:12 pm PT...
4Earth @ 6:
Brad I just love it when you get ON something. You never let go.
Glad you love it! I'm exhausted by it!
I find it very condescending when people with a legal background, such as those you were debating, imply that a layperson cannot possibly understand the first amendment and therefore is unworthy to participate in a discussion. This usually means they are losing the debate.
I'll defend AngryBlackLady to that end, only on this one narrow point: Where she seemed to question my understanding was on case law, as opposed to the First Amendment. Her argument, at times, was that case law --- which is a record of how the court has practically interpreted the First Amendment --- takes a more narrow, specific view of "peaceable assembly", etc., and when it can be broken up by law enforcement.
While she may (or may not) have read more case law than me on the First Amendment, from what I have read, I think she's wrong, in that the expression here is the Occupation, is the fact that they are staying over night, etc. As you suggest in your second point.
And on that point, I should note that @MSBellows came into the discussion and added something very similar to what you suggest, when he tweeted: "Best nutshell argmt I've read: if money is speech, so is camping."
So, yes, I completely agree with the points you make in your second argument there! Smartly writ!
COMMENT #9 [Permalink]
said on 11/14/2011 @ 10:35 pm PT...
Thank you for getting me to look up and learn that Zucotti Park is a publicly accessible park that is privately owned. As far as I can tell, nearly all other OWS sites are on publicly owned property. Given that each is in a different jurisdiction (city, county, state), it does help explain to me the range of reactions by governments at all levels.
COMMENT #10 [Permalink]
said on 11/14/2011 @ 11:47 pm PT...
And the BBC is now saying that the police are evicting OWS at the request of the landowner.
COMMENT #11 [Permalink]
Beth in OR
said on 11/16/2011 @ 1:27 am PT...
I think the witty retort "If money is speech, so is camping" is apropos in this instance. I reject money as anything other than a medium of exchange. Speech is so much more; as OWS and their supporters are reminding us as well as those with more money than brains.
The unusual occupation of public spaces by citizens who have gathered expressly to exercise our dessicated 1st Amendment rights on behalf of themselves and the millions of us who can't or won't takes priority over other uses of the public space, in my opinion. I wish they were in Congress. I feel certain they would respond to me.
I think it's perverse that there are homeless people forced to live in our tiny public spaces and we don't bother to remedy that situation, but those nonviolent people with Citizens' Purpose, oh, Watch out! Assault them! Break Them! Whine mightily! Spend millions of dollars! Despicable.
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