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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
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January 12 2014

"It's a Free Country" for protesting on Agents of SHIELD. The Legal Geeks looks at one of the issues that arose from the Agents of SHIELD episode "Repairs".

I don't really know how to comment on this article. The authors are claiming there should be restrictions on The First Ammendment. It seems these authors are on the 'highly-restrictive' end of First Ammendment Rights. The examples they cite are true and correct-the authors however make extra correlations which do not hold up. (If you assume there should be, 'common-sense' restrictions on The Bill of Rights-can you explain how: " Restrictions can be placed that are based on the time, place and manner of taking to public forums." Qualifies as a right or freedom in any case? If I need a permission form to speak my mind, I obviously have no freedom to speak.)
The odd thing is that in watching the scene they reference it occurred to me that the scene was a characaturization to ellicit the type of reaction of the article. The mob in the scene was too mob-by, the police were too complacent, and the victim was extra victim-alicious. The crowd should not have thrown eggs-there is no 1st Ammt. there. The police should not have allowed the violence in the name of 1st Ammnt, and the victim most assuredly had personnal responssibility to not stand on her porch and assume that some law enforcement officer was duty-bound to save her.
I think the authors were primarily attempting to address the common and naive view that many Americans have that "freedom of speech" means the right to say whatever, whenever, wherever, however, which is certainly does not - there are many clear, uncontroversial limits to "free speech" (harassment, yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater, noise ordinances, requirements for permits to demonstrate on public property, etc.). They admit that, at least up until the egg throwing, it's a bit of an unclear cases, but are arguing that the police would have been within the law to disperse the crowd on some of the grounds above, especially harassment. I don't think the authors were attempting to argue against freedom of expression in any general sense.
BarryC: a couple basic examples of when protest would be limited. Protests at hours when ordinances or statutes generally limit noise. If a group is in the street protesting at 1 am, they're probably going to be dispersed.

Protesters in a busy street putting themselves and drivers at risk.

protesters blocking sidewalks.

Protesters shouting outside a building containing children or a hospital.
I think the entire point was missed here. "It's a free country" wasn't a statement of legality by the police officer in question. Yes, according to real world legal precedent, it is invasion of privacy and trespassing to stand in front of some person's private residence and shout and throw eggs. Pretty much everyone knows that (or should . . . seriously, what makes you think that's acceptable behavior??), and so did the cop.

No, "It's a free country" was a statement of indifference, laziness, and probably outright approval, wrapped in a flimsy excuse that doesn't stand up under legal scrutiny. He didn't want to do his job because he agreed with the crowd, so he made up a sloppy excuse why he wasn't doing anything.

Nice explanation of the legal theory behind First Amendment rights and their restrictions, but the comment was never about free speech to begin with.
I'm sure they know that Batman1016. It's still interesting to look into what the actual legality of the situation would be.

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