Friday, April 06, 2018

Man Claims First and Second Amendment Rights in Menlo Park, CA

 Image from Michael Zelany Facebook

Menlo Park is part of the San Francisco Bay urban area of California. A free-speech and Second Amendment activist has sued the City of Menlo park and a number of City officials, for denial of his civil rights under the First, Second and  Fourteenth Amendments.  The lawsuit was filed on 28 December, 2017.  On 2 February, 2018, the Palo Alto Daily Post wrote about it.  From
Zeleny’s suit contends that his protests are an entertainment ‘event” that he’s filming, and therefore he is eligible for an exemption in the concealed carry law that’s used by the movie industry for performers using guns on camera.

“The city asserts that Zeleny is required to have a permit from the city for his events in order to qualify for state law exemptions to the firearm carry ban,” the lawsuit states. “Yet, the city refuses to grant Zeleny a permit for his entertainment events, even though he is willing to comply with lawful time, place, and manner restrictions. Indeed, the city refuses even to advise Zeleny what the requirements are for seeking a permit.

“Instead, the city has made clear that it will not grant Zeleny a permit because it considers his message offensive, and that if he continues his protests, the city will prosecute him for violating California’s obscenity laws and its open and/or concealed carry statutes,” the lawsuit said.
The idea that the carry of firearms is a form of strong, symbolic, protected political speech, is not new. If burning a flag is protected political speech, it is hard to see how open carry of firearms is not, especially in the context of a political protest.

In 2014, in an article published in the New York Times, Patrick Blanchfield came to the reluctant conclusion that open carry can indeed be protected by the First Amendment. Mr. Blanchfield dislikes the idea that carrying weapons is protected speech, but he comes to the correct conclusion:  it is indeed protected symbolic political speech.

...if I stand outside an event featuring the president of the United States with a loaded handgun and a sign invoking Thomas Jefferson’s injunction that the “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” I’m in the clear.
Mr. Blanchfield  theorizes about how this may be negative, without mentioning any of the reasons why it can be positive.

In California, free speech is under assault, with "Progressive" activists taking the position that oppositional speech is "hate speech".  This is the default position taken by autocrats everywhere. Speech the authorities do not like is what is banned. As has been noted, no one needs a permit to speak in praise of the government and local elites.

It is especially telling that the Menlo Part authorities will not inform Mr. Zelany of the requirements to obtain a permit for his protest.

It is hard to say if Mr. Zelany will have any positive effect with his lawsuit.

I do not have the expertise to say if the lawsuit is well crafted or not.

The linkage of First and Second Amendment rights is clear.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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