In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, It seems that singing a song before City Council might get a response from a self proclaimed “civil liberties lawyer” to call for criminalizing certain types of expression protected by the First Amendment.
As I recall, The City of Boulder had shown a significant pulling back from the extreme positions first proposed as “decorum rules” for public speakers because the rules proposed were so ridiculous and an obvious attempt at suppressing free speech.
Macon Cowles has argued to include proposals that were eliminated as an infringement of free speech, such as banning people from the municipal building for some unknown periods of time on a vote by Council.
This is clearly unconstitutional and brings forth images of McCarthyism.
We must be vigilant in making sure such proposals do not succeed and in protecting against laws that have the effect of chilling lawful political speech that is so critical to our free society.
Our city government already has more than enough authority to investigate and prosecute true threats of violence to Members of Council and City staff or other government officials.
Many opinion leaders, activists, elected officials and everyday citizens are now engaging in a serious conversation about the repercussions of speech that calls for violence or uses violent metaphors.
Yet, I read in our Daily Camera that Macon Cowles takes issue with a certain speaker, yours truly, and feelings of “being uncomfortable” because no police were present at the Council meeting on January 18th.
After the public speaking period was over, Mr. Cowles responded by vocally taking issue with this speaker, Seth Brigham, for singing “Blowin’ In The Wind” in honor of MLK day.
It’s Macon’s first amendment right to do so, to take issue with the content of the song, or, as he declared, complain that Council shouldn’t have to “waste time” listening to such “wheezing!”
I wasn’t at the “retreat,” but I would take issue with Council for spending a majority of OUR time discussing “security worries.”
And, ratcheting up rhetoric by “jokingly” suggesting, as Macon did, that he’s not willing to take a bullet and makes references to this public speaker.
Believe me, I don’t feel very comfortable, am intimidated, as when our former Mayor, Shaun McGrath spoke of me as a “threat” on September 11th, 2008 and the reason for police presence at Council meetings.
The Daily Camera has fed this “story” with continuous tabloid like, sensationalized, yellow journalism.
For example, this most recent article, making a leap from “high-profile shootings” to “the Boulder City Council’s own HISTORY with publlc outbursts.”
I don’t recall a “history” of public outbursts. I do recall being arrested for wearing boxers while addressing City Council.
I have insisted on continuing to speak before council primarily in defiance of such elected leaders who try to curtail and control the speech of speakers on the guise that there is some sort of “threat” that exists.
If there is a conversation about “security” one must include the need to defend constitutionally protected speech.
In times like these, when people feel most vulnerable, that our liberties are most at risk.
And, when those in positions of authority use tragedies like September 11th or the Arizona shootings as an excuse to circumvent the constitution and quell free speech.
Unraveling the principles that form the core of our democracy is not the answer.
So, if I happen to break out in song at our next Council meeting thank Macon for the suggestion.
He may have brought about a new tradition, free singing!
But, don’t arrest me for it.
Or, for that matter, have the police draw their guns and shoot me while I’m “wheezing.”
The dilemma is that when I do “break out” in song the next council go around, I’m going to be told to stop by the Mayor, which, will cause me to tell her not to interrupt me and my 3 minutes of free speech.
At this point, the police might be directed to remove me from the podium.
The new “rules of decorum” that have yet to be established make it a crime not to leave the podium as directed.
They have stated in the new proposal that not obeying the mayor’s direction as disorderly conduct.
You can see the catch 22 I’m in.
See you at the next Council meeting?