Help OB Rag Writer Doug Porter Get Busted for Free Speech in 2012

by on January 5, 2012 · 21 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Popular, San Diego

I have a resolution for the New Year that I’d like to share: I would like to challenge an anti-free speech law in 2012. Specifically, I’m looking at the San Diego Municipal Code §56.30 Seditious Language Prohibited, which states:

That it shall be and hereby is declared to be unlawful for any person within the said City of San Diego to utter or use within the hearing of one or more persons any seditious language, words or epithets, or to address to another, or to utter in the presence of another, any words, language or expression or seditious remarks, having a tendency to create a breach of the public peace.

The law dates back to 1918. And was re-upped in 1952. It was passed after the Courts overturned ordinances that banned soap box speakers throughout downtown and triggered the Free Speech Fights of 1912. This year San Diegans will be commemorating the centennial of that battle. The local Occupy movement has also announced that they’ll be submitting a proposal to revise the City’s ordinances relating to what the cops call encroachment, which, loosely translated, means you’re being someplace where they don’t want you to be.

Getting busted for being seditious would be the icing on the cake for me. It’d be more than just a protest about a stupid law, it’d be a personal celebration. For the past six months, as I’ve been fighting a battle with cancer of the larynx, the ability to utter words has been an off again on again proposition for me. Now, after all the treatments, side effects and treatments for the side effects, I’m getting my voice bac

I have no fear about getting busted. They can tattoo that arrest on my forehead for all I care. If I can survive in the world for more than six decades, have several great careers, a beautiful wife & daughter, AND beat cancer, I’m certainly not gonna let the likes of Bonnie Dumanis or her ilk make me worry about my “permanent record” .

The problem is, of course, that you’d have to be in the right place and the right time, say the right thing and have the wrong cop hear what you’re saying. I can make educated guesses about the place & time, and hope for the best (worst) with the SDPD. But figuring out exactly what to say that would be considered “seditious” is posing a challenge.

So, in the spirit of the Free Speech Fight commemoration, I am asking for your help. What can I say that would get me busted for sedition? Use the comments space below to make your suggestions.

There’s just one caveat: The utterances MUST be able to be broadcast on the TV News. Not that they’ll cover it, but I figure it’s a good way to get beyond having to use obscenities to make a point.

Think about it people. And while you’re thinking, think about just how precious your Freedom of Speech really is.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Ben Katz January 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm

This may help people:

My personal recommendation would be to read this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it….

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avatar doug porter January 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm

excellent start.

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avatar radicaluterus January 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Totally excellent start.

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avatar Shane Finneran January 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I think Ben’s got it right, particularly his last bullet point. If you harp on how it’s time for revolution, and how even the Constitution makes room for it, that’s probably as uncomfortable as speech can make the establishment.

Discouraging people from enlisting in the military war machine might ruffle some feathers, too.

Heads up — that link Ben sent says a federal law is still on the books saying it’s a crime “to advocate or to teach the desirability of overthrowing the United States Government, or to be a member of any organization which does the same.” I’m not sure how that squares with “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it”…

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avatar Bob January 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Go to a City Council Meeting and tell the City Council to stop effing around and pull their heads out of their arses and do something to fix the effing (insert your pet peeve here). The council meetings are broadcast.

Please let me know by email if you do this so I can be there and applaud you.

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avatar Louisa Golden January 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

You might want to pick a different law to violate. To be guilty of sedition, I think (but could be wrong) you have to encourage other people to rebel against authority. I think violence, or at least “not peaceful”, is a part of that. To be guilty, you have to encourage others to violently or not peacefully rebel against authority.

The whole point of Occupy is peaceful protest. Setting out to encourage others to be not peaceful seems the wrong way to go.

Of course, as recent film footage has shown, you don’t actually have to be guilty of something to be arrested for it at Civic Center Plaza. At least, that’s how it looked to me….

Whatever you decide to do, it will be interesting.

Louisa Golden

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avatar Sunshine January 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm

here’s a discovery from wiki:
The end of prosecutions
The indictments and trials ended in 1957 as the result of a series of Supreme Court decisions. Yates v. United States ruled unconstitutional the convictions of numerous party leaders in a ruling that distinguished between advocacy of an idea for incitement and the teaching of an idea as a concept. The Court ruled 6-1 in Watkins v. United States that defendants could use the First Amendment as a defense against “abuses of the legislative process.”Template:354 U.S. 178 (1957)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_Act

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avatar Jack January 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Doug,

You realize it is not only you who can be arrested in this little endeavor? The fact of the matter the salient portion of California Penal Code sec 182 provides:
a) If two or more persons conspire:
(1) To commit any crime….
They are punishable as follows:
… they shall be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail
for not more than one year, or in the state prison, or by a fine not
exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that
imprisonment and fine.

You and your co-conspirator(s) may be prosecuted for a felony, even if the criminal violation is only a misdemeanor.

So while I commend acts of civil disobedience under the proper circumstances, the mere fact anyone helps you come with an idea (an overt act), then they too may be prosecuted. And the evidence? The OB Rag.

Simply a caveat….

Peace, Jack

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avatar Frank Gormlie January 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Oh, the lawyer in you!

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avatar Frank Gormlie January 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Here’s a good one: “Know any good lawyer jokes?” “Nope”.

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avatar Jack January 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Look Frank, even though I have had all my shots, the condition is chronic and simply flares up from time to time. The good thing is that I am no longer contagious….just annoying.

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avatar Frank Gormlie January 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Oh, I know what ya mean. Somedays, my ass just aches, but it’s the lower back that really gets me. Must relax it with special treatments et al. But seriously folks, what really got to me was that in an extremely important decision, we couldn’t get a majority of the US Supreme Court to agree to the universal application of the habeas corpus. That’s only an 800 year common law tradition. Hey, but ain’t life and what ya light grand?

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avatar Louisa Golden January 5, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Just so, Jack.

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avatar Anna Daniels January 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I think the “sedition” bar is pretty damn high. Remember “If ballots don’t work, bullets will.” ? And “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” ? That was not viewed as seditious. It was considered red blooded patriotic American stuff by the Tea Party a while back.
If you want to go forward with your resolution Doug, I recommend that you wrap yourself in the American flag and proclaim “Occupy the Firing Range” and see what happens. Don’t place the flag beside you under any circumstance. You will be busted for encroachment, or cited for the size of your pole. ;)

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avatar Jack January 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm

But then again, California Civil Code section 3522 provides, “One (i.e. the government through the Constitution) who grants a thing (i.e. free speech) is presumed to grant also whatever is essential to its use (i.e. its exercise and discourse among the people).”

In the article, Doug speaks of the Sedition Act of 1918. Most of the convictions were eventually overturned, although some non-citizens were deported. The act itself was focused on Anti-WW1 activists who were attempting keep people from supporting the war. In the intial hearings, the free anti-war speech was likened to yelling fire in a crowded theatre. When the Supreme Court finally overturned the convictions in the decision was written while yelling fire in a crowded theatre is generally wrong…it is not so when the theatre is on fire. So too, when the nation is plunging itself into war, it is incumbent upon the people to engage in dialogue to determine the proper course.

So, I am not really a wet blanket, just an opinionated old fart.

Peace, Jack

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avatar doug porter January 5, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Actually, the Feds got in and out of the sedition game several times. Each time they’ve tried, going back to the early years of the US, common sense–usually via a court decision–has ended the practice. The last round of sedition prosecutions took place during the 1950’s, aimed at the leadership of what was left of the Communist Party. They were overturned on appeal.
So the real question here is, if the Feds can’t and won’t prosecute for sedition, why the heck is the City of San Diego carrying such a law on the books? I’m sure we’ll find some left over commie hunters like Richard Rider (the tax nazi) who think that sedition prosecutions are a viable option, but let’s face it, the law was put on the books to allow arrests for behavior the local power structure found unacceptable..
In the meantime, I’m still fishing for good ideas for seditious language.

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avatar Louisa Golden January 6, 2012 at 5:29 am

I don’t think the SD anti-sedition law is really about political speech, though authorities might be tempted to try to use it that way. I think it’s really there to keep people from avoiding responsibility for harmful speech, for “fighting words.”

Disclaimer: I do not suggest you do this next thing. I offer the example in hopes you will find a different free speech project.

You could quite properly be arrested for seditious speech if you were to tell a fellow protestor (or group of protestors), “Heck! This peace stuff is just not getting the message across! You all should light a bunch of torches and burn all the police cars in downtown. Punch that cop standing there while your at it, why don’t you?”

When you get to court, you cannot claim that since you didn’t actually commit arson or assault and battery, you are guilty of nothing. In that hypothetical (and I certainly hope it stays hypothetical!), the speaker is guilty of harmful speech. Even if no one actually followed the directions, it’s still seditious and arrest on those facts would be a perfectly valid application of the law.

Also, you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater when there is no emergency.

Also, in my opinion, you can’t tell people to bomb women’s health clinics or kill doctors who perform abortions and then claim you are not responsible.

I think the problem with anti-sedition laws is when those in power try to expand the purpose of the law to cover true political speech they don’t like. It’s one of the problems I have with how SDPD is enforcing the encroachment law. I think that law is a good attempt to keep cafes from putting a bunch of permanent things on sidewalks to expand their seating areas (without permits) or hotels from blocking off public areas to host weddings. Using it to harass protestors or route out homeless people without having to offer a bed annoys me. Greatly.

I want some legal beagle to go after that encroachment law as it is being applied. Through legal processes, of course.

Very interesting and entertaining dialogue. Thanks, All.

Louisa

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avatar B January 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Seditious:
Inciting or causing people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.

I would suggest that you advocate with your bullhorn for people to sleep in public. How seditious!

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avatar gummyballz January 5, 2012 at 7:04 pm

well since the definition of the word in itself means loosely, Mutiny or treason, and considering our dear president just signed in to law a bill that allows indefinite detention without due process, I think that if you mention anything about bringing down the govt through a revolt, you should be successful. but be forewarned, they could label you a terrorist and no one will ever hear from you again…. Viva la revolution!

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avatar JMW January 6, 2012 at 3:41 am

Dear Comrade,
It is gladdening to hear you are feeling perkier. I’m not sure this text, quoted from an unpublished novel called, Molotov’s Decanter Collection, is what you’re looking for, but I offer it with feelings of solidarity and no promise to share the costs of your success.

“It’s time. Right now.
Of course, we could wait a bit more. You’re right, it wouldn’t make that much difference, but, see, there is no hope. No hope of change. No hope the criminals will self-indict. No hope the disease will effectively self-diagnose and self-medicate, and thereby self-heal.
It is the very futility of maintaining hope that makes right now the time; the moment of ignition. Now is that millisecond of time when it all begins; when the corrupt business-government conspiracy feels the first fists of on-coming freedom pound upon its chin. Now is the time when the blows purposefully designed and delivered with the sole intent to render this state insensate and smashed to bits begin to rain down upon the minions and their masters until none remain.
Of course, the state might mend its ways from the inside out and from the top down, but you well know they will not. They will have business as usual. ‘After all, I do have mine.’
The boot does remain upon the neck, but the pressure is steady and sufficient, as it should be when professionally applied by every officer from every department at every level of administration. So, yes, we could wait a little more. I can still breathe. You? Yeah. See, we can still breathe. No danger of imminent expiration. ‘Oh, compassionate protector!’ So, we could wait.
We could, but why would we? For what? Until when? And do what instead?

There is no hope of change except that which comes from the overthrowing this state, assuming domain, and rewriting every oppressive or corrupt statute. We must seize the powers and assets of the ruling elite! We must wrest power by any means from those who hold it.
Now is the time; we are the people!”

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