spokane cit coun free speechMike Fagan‘s eighth man circus has caused another ruckus. I support what Councilman Jon Snyder wrote about it. Still, there is a lot of confusion about what free speech really is.  The City Council did not ban any words the other day, and it is hyperbola for KXLY to claim that it did.  A TV station should have a better grasp of the legislative process and what the word banning really means.

If I want to, it is within my personal 1st amendment rights to ask you to stop talking. I most likely would not do that, because it is a bit overbearing and disrespectful. However, it is also not even what the Spokane City Council did the other day.

I might, however, ask you not to use a word that I consider offense or respectful.  Freedom of speech is not restricted simply because someone is advised not to use a word. It is their right to ask you, and it is your right to ignore their request if you choose.

Restrictions only happen when you are actually denied the right to expressed yourself.However, it is within my rights to restrict the time, manner, and place of your expression if that speech or the means of expressing it infringes upon my rights or that of others. These rights of others include other people’s freedoms of speech, as well as their rights to assembly, personal safety, property rights, and their right to go about their own personal business. These are called time, place, and manner (TPM) restrictions that have been upheld by the courts for two centuries.  There are still some grey areas, but it is pretty well established case law and is overall pretty reasonable.

In other words, “”no” you cannot disrupt the activities of a public meeting and not expect your speech and assembly to be restricted within reason. Likewise, you cannot expect me to let you spray paint a rant on the side of my home.

Councilman Jon Snyder’s reaction to the other nights meeting are below.

You know it’s a slow news night when this story leads a local news broadcast last night. For the record the Council has not taken a vote to ban any words from Council meetings. Part of the responsibilities of the Council President is to ensure decorum. Last week the Council President, at the request of Councilmember Stratton, asked that a citizen refrain from using the term “Hookerville” to refer to the East Central neighborhood. I support Council President Stuckart. This was a simple matter of respect. No neighborhood should have to listen to citizen call them derogatory names on City Cable 5.

Little did we know that this simple request would create a legion of 1st Amendment victims who would come down to celebrate their right to call the East Central neighborhood “Hookerville.” Council listened patiently as several speakers said the Council President’s request for respect was tantamount to shredding free speech protections in the Constitution. One gentleman said he was “enraged” that we were “violating constitutional rights” and even offered this missive:

“I have been in countries around this world. I know what tyrannical behavior looks like… I know what terroristic behavior looks like. I know what tyrants sound like. I know what they hide behind. And you know what? Citizens of Spokane, Councilmembers; tyrants don’t live long. They don’t. I saw one swing at the end of a rope in Iraq.”

Councilman Snyder, thanks for speaking up.


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