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Friday, June 15, 2012

Free speech is no laughing matter in Cincinnati

Posted by Justin Jeffre

The city of Cincinnati has a horrible record when it comes to protecting free speech. This report about Forest Thomer being arrested for speech that may not be politically correct in a public park is just another outrage. Updated: Below

Thomer was with his comedian friend Ally Bruener who is battling congenital muscular dystrophy and the perception that the public sometimes has with people confined to wheelchairs. Bruener told the Enquirer she’s challenging the stigma around the word “cripple”. “They assume I have no common sense,” she said. “There’s a lot of harsh stereotypes against people with disabilities.”

Thomer and Bruener were promoting her upcoming show with come unconventional and some might say politically incorrect guerrilla promotion tactics. Thomer was walking up to people and asking, “Do you want to laugh at the crippled girl?” while standing next to Bruenner. She would then tell some jokes that are part of her act and tell them when her upcoming gig is. But their promotional jokes were interrupted by Cincinnati Police who charged Thomer with disorderly conduct.

Court documents show police accused Thomer of “walking into people and shouting obscenities at them” and when told to stop “persisted in yelling and shouting causing annoyance and alarm to others.”

“We don’t allow anyone to hand out promotional materials at our events,” Chris Kemper, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber spokesman, said. Kemper was told Thomer “disrupted the event because he was videotaping our guests without their approval” in the public park.

But it is a public park and people do have a right to free speech.  And you are allowed to video tape people in public parks with or without their approval.

Thomer said “They never made any effort to find out what was going on.” When the Enquirer asked for an expalaination Cincinnati police spokesman Lt. Anthony Carter said,“I’m not going to try this gentleman in the media” and denied to talk about the case.

Bruener said, “The police are trying to censor us. They’re trying to tell us how we can or can’t promote my comedy.” And Thomer said, “I don’t know when it became a bad thing for just saying words.”

The real crime is that the City of Cincinnati has a habbit of violating people’s first amendments rights to free speech. The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition has sued and won lawsuits against the city several times when they have passed unconstitutional laws preventing people from panhandling.

Panhandling and politically incorrect speech may annoy some people but they are protected speech under the1st amendment of the constitution. Freedom of the press is also protected, but that doesn’t stop Cincinnati Police from enforcing unconstitutional laws.

For instance undercover police officers threatened Occupy Cincinnati protesters with arrest for taking video, still photos of them or if they told anyone they were undercover police. They said they would be arrested for telling anyone they were police. This raises the question ‘how can they arrest you for taking their picture if they are under cover and how are you supposed to know one way or the other?

Undercover police did in fact arrest an occupy protester last year for taking a picture of undercover police.

From the Enquirer,

One individual, 36-year-old Lloyd Jordan, of Clifton, was charged with disorderly conduct while intoxicated and obstructing official business after police officers saw him take photographs of a covert police vehicle, including the license plate, according to his arrest report. No where on the report does it say why police believed he was intoxicated.

Jordan’s charges were later dismissed and it is well documented that anyone can take a photo of any police officer that is on duty and in public. It is protected speech or freedom of the press.

The city of Cincinnati needs to start respecting people’s free speech rights or it will face more lawsuits. Police are charged with protecting and serving, but when they harm citizens they aren’t held accountable. Most of the city budget goes towards policing and we deserve a style of policing that protects our rights.

Updated: In related news UC just lost a lawsuit for restricting free speech on campus. In March they were ranked as worst in the nation because of their “free speech zone”.

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  1. Kyle says:

    Thomer has a right to say whatever he wants without getting arrested. If the Chamber didn’t like what he was saying or how he was saying it, they could have just kicked him out of the area of the park they reserved for their event. Yes, it’s a public park, but having a reserved event gives the host more leeway on controlling what goes on there. For instance, they don’t let you bring coolers to the event, which are otherwise allowable at Yateman’s Cove.

    I find it conflicting that you oppose the free speach case of Citizens United.  The whole case revolved around blocking a pay-per-view political movie.

  2. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    No, the Chamber had no right to kick him out. You have a legal right to go up and talk to people. There’s no evidence he was being disorderly, just as there wasn’t any evidence that Loyyd Jordan was disorderly. The police just made that up because they no their charges are BS. They are being bullies and inacting unlawful orders.

    Citizens United has nothing to do with free speech. Corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech.

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