Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A successful mass demonstration

First, to contradict myself, I was sloppy in my description of the Rock Against Racism case (see prior post). It's not that music isn't political speech. Of course it can be very political. Still, that's not the explicit basis on which the case was decided:

In the case before us the performances apparently consisted of remarks by speakers, as well as rock music, but the case has been presented as one in which the constitutional challenge is to the city's regulation of the musical aspects of the concert.

The court considered the "regulation of the musical aspects" under a time/place/manner test and deemed that the "manner" of the music was modestly compromised when the city of New York exercised volume control. The group still got to perform in the forum of their choice, to send the message of their choice to their intended audience. As the court said,

The guideline leaves open ample alternative channels of communication, since it does not attempt to ban any particular manner or type of expression at a given place and time. Rather, it continues to permit expressive activity in the bandshell and has no effect on the quantity or content of that expression beyond regulating the extent of amplification.

On balance, in the view of six out of nine members of the court, the decision to allow the city of New York to control the volume was a small infringement on First Amendment rights. As applied to the facts in the Boston case, Rock Against Racism is not all that helpful.

Meanwhile here (via The Revealer) is a report of a successful demonstration that took place outside of the "free speech zone." It was staged by Quakers.

Empty Boots
27 July 2004

Revealer publisher Jay Rosen at the DNC: "On Tuesday morning I encountered one of the most effective acts of political protest I have seen in a while. It took imagination. Organizers--the American Friends Service Committee--laid out upon the grass in Copley Square 907 pairs of black boots, arranged in rank and file like a missing army at attention. Earlier in the week it was done at Boston Common. ( Newsweek : "A Grid of Empty Boots.") They were protesting the American deaths in Iraq, and so their statement was anti-war. It was also about beauty, loss, the unsayable and the ineffable; and it made an implicit comment on the ugliness--the brutality--of the Free Speech Zone near the Fleet Center, which is so unlike the free spaces of a healthy democracy that protesters have declined even to enter it."

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