Can Government Officials Have You Arrested for Speaking to Them?
The Atlantic ^ | JAN 15, 2018 | Garrett Epps
Posted on 1/16/2018, 1:19:18 PM by nickcarraway
The Supreme Court faces a test of the authority of politicians to use police to silence their critics.
If a citizen speaks at a public meeting and says something a politician doesn’t like, can the citizen be arrested, cuffed, and carted off to the hoosegow?
Suppose that, during this fraught encounter, the citizen violates some law—even by accident, even one no one has ever heard of, even one dug up after the fact—does that make her arrest constitutional?
Deyshia Hargrave, meet Fane Lozman. You need to follow his case.
Hargrave is a language arts teacher in Kaplan, Louisana. She was arrested Monday after she questioned school-district policy during public comment at a school board meeting.
She asked why the superintendent of schools was receiving a five-figure raise when local teachers had not had a permanent pay increase in a decade. As she was speaking, the school-board president slammed his gavel, and a police officer told her to leave. She left, but once she went into the hall, the officer took her to the ground, handcuffed her, and arrested her for “remaining after having been forbidden” and “resisting an officer.”
Fane Lozman, whose case will be argued in front of the Supreme Court on February 27, faced the same fate at a meeting of the Riviera Beach, Florida, city council in November 2006. Lozman, remarkably enough, has made his way to the high court more or less without assistance twice in the past four years, arguing two different aspects of his acrimonious dispute with the Riviera Beach city government. The first case, which Lozman won, asked whether his motorless plywood “floating home” was actually a “vessel” subject to federal admiralty law. (Answer, via Justice Stephen Breyer: “Um, no.”) The second case is about police tactics at public meetings; its result could make
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