It seems like with the news of the cancellation of Roseanne Barr’s eponymous TV show and Full Frontal host Samantha Bee’s vulgar take on Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, freedom of speech is first and foremost in the minds of America right now. And that’s a good thing! The First Amendment is primary in the Bill of Rights for a reason — it was the first thing the Founders realized they had left unprotected in the original Constitution, and they sought to remedy it immediately.
But it’s pretty clear how it works. What “freedom of speech” means is that the government can’t stop you from saying what you want to say.
Among the things it doesn’t mean: No, you can’t flip off cops. No, your job is not protected if you say something really offensive at work. No, a record label isn’t required to sell your album if it advocates awful things. No, you don’t get to keep your TV show if you call a black woman an “ape.”
But it DOES protect protesters from unlawful interference from the actual government. Like, you get to go to Washington, D.C. and carry a big sign that says “DONALD TRUMP MAKES THE BABY JESUS CRY” and as long as you’re not harming anyone or committing any actual crimes or blocking traffic or violating any statutes that the capitol cops suddenly remember, you get to stand there all day. You can even chant if you want to.
That’s what hundreds of protesters were doing, in fact, on January 20th, 2017 as Donald Trump was being sworn in as President of the United States. And one of the first official acts that the government took after Trump became president was to arrest those protesters and charge them with felonies.
A sign of things to come? Perhaps. But that could be a good thing, too — because those protesters keep beating their charges, and beating this attack on their First Amendment rights.
You see, the charges stemmed from footage of the protesters “committing crimes” that was gathered by Project Veritas, the filmmaking circle that brought you “Totally Faked Video Of James O’Keefe Dressed As A Pimp And Pretending That Community Organizers Were Helping Him Solicit Prostitutes” and the massively successful “Totally Faked Video Of Planned Parenthood Employees ‘Selling’ Baby Parts In Restaurants.”
Now a judge has dismissed the government’s complaints against ten more defendants, after it came to light that prosecutors had withheld evidence — the unedited footage that O’Keefe’s smear organization never wants the public to see — that would have aided in their defense.
That calls for not just a dismissal “with prejudice” — meaning prosecutors could not bring the charges back up again at a later time — but possibly for charges against the prosecutors themselves for Brady violations. Those occur when evidence favorable to a defendant is suppressed — like in the case of the sixty-nine undercover videos that the government withheld.
We’ll have to wait and see if justice will prevail for those who still have pending charges.
Featured image via New Century Times Gallery