Courts may quibble over how far away protesters can be forced to stand before their First Amendment rights have been violated (not as far as Tibet or as close as the municipal boundaries of Fairfield), but any officially mandated distance strikes me as an infringement on my right to use public property for a constitutionally guaranteed purpose. So long as I don’t physically prevent passers-by from going about their business, I ought to be street legal.
Proponents of buffer zones often attempt to shuffle this argument from one about free speech to some other issue, such as the hypothetical right of access to health care. The anti-abortion types try the same trick when they shift the debate from a woman’s rights to the mythical legal privileges of a zygote. But this is really about free speech.
If Occupy Portland could take over an entire public park for weeks to make a point about ... well, I’m still not clear on what the point was ... then surely it’s not too farfetched to allow a few fruitcakes to stand on a sidewalk and yell hateful stuff at people who are mostly already convinced these protesters are candidates for strong doses of psycho-active medications.
When you look at it that way, it seems like a self-correcting problem.
That’s enough free speech from me. If you’ve got any, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
: The Editorial Page
, free speech, Planned Parenthood