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Free Speech

Five Arrested at University of Washington Patriot Prayer Rally

UW’s College Republicans had filed a lawsuit against the school last week.

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Five people were taken into custody yesterday as clashes erupted at the University of Washington during a Patriot Prayer rally staged by the school’s College Republicans, who had sued the school over the right to hold the rally.

University of Washington and Seattle Police were on hand to separate those attending the rally and two groups of counter-protesters who showed up to voice opposition to Patriot Prayer and its figurehead, Joey Gibson.

According to a report from KUOW,

Before the event started Saturday, College Republicans acted as gate-keepers, advising officers who was allowed to enter the space cordoned off for the rally that became the stage for speakers.

They were joined by several members of the Proud Boys, a group that has been referred to as alt-right, as well as Patriot Prayer supporters and conservative students. Some of those attending the rally wore red caps with President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” on them. Others wore purple caps with a play on that slogan, “Make UW Great Again.”

Gibson hailed the UW College Republicans for having “the courage to be Republican, the courage to be conservative” at what he called “Marxist universities,” according to reports.

Scuffles broke out on the protesters side of the barrier, which led the police to intervene, taking two people into custody. Three others were arrested later for not protesting peacefully. There were scattered reports of pepper spray being used, but no law enforcement officials confirmed those rumors.

On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining that prevented the University of Washington from enforcing a $17,000 fee against the College Republicans. The group’s lawsuit claimed the fee amounted to a repression of free speech.

Free Speech

Minnesota Wants to Tell Voters How to Dress at the Polls

The outcome of this legal case could have far-reaching free speech implications.

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Can a t-shirt destroy democracy?

On February 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on the case of Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, regarding Minnesota Statute Section 211B.11(1). But, essentially, they’ll be talking about t-shirts.

The lawsuit revolves around dress codes in polling places.

The founding fathers never had an idea t-shirts would one day become a thing. (Image: Flickr)

Currently Minnesota is one of ten states that restricts the type of apparel voters can wear to the polls on Election Day. The statute in question prohibits political paraphernalia in polling places — we’re talking hats, t-shirts, buttons — relating to the election or political issues in general.

This is where the law can stir up controversy because, while it’s clear that voters can’t wear campaign buttons at a polling place, what about a t-shirt supporting gun rights, unionization, or other organizations, such as the American Legion, the N.A.A.C.P., or the N.R.A.?

Enter the Minnesota Voters Alliance.

The case can be traced back to an incident when the founder of the nonprofit, Andre Cilek, entered a polling place wearing Tea Party paraphernalia, including a button that said “Please I.D. Me.” Although the law could not prohibit him from voting, Cliek was asked to cover his button and risked prosecution for disobeying the poll workers.

Although this may seem like a hot button issue now — no pun intended — the law has actually been in effect since 1912.

Opposers of the law think that it directly violates the first amendment’s right to freedom of speech, while supporters of the law pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision in Burson v. Freeman to uphold a buffer zone around polling places for political signs and posters.

However, no matter which side of the argument you’re on, many voters agree that the current law is too broad, leaving it up to last-minute interpretation by poll workers on election to decide what is too political for the polling place.

While the law in Minnesota was upheld in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals last year, there’s a lot of speculation on what the Supreme Court will be deciding this month, as the decision could have a major impact on the polls for years to come.

So, stay tuned, and don’t pick out that Election Day outfit just yet.

via GIPHY

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Free Speech

U. Washington Republicans Sue School Over Patriot Prayer Event

Group says UW is violating its constitutional rights by demanding a $17,000 security fee.

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The University of Washington College Republicans filed a lawsuit against their college on Tuesday, claiming the $17,000 security fee school officials are charging them to hold a rally amounts to a free speech violation.

The Republicans have planned an event featuring Joey Gibson, head of the conservative group Patriot Prayer, for Saturday on the Seattle-area campus.

UW counters that most student groups are charged some type of fee when they hold organized events on campus and that the Republicans do not have to pay before the event takes place.

oey Gibson of Patriot Prayer at a rally in Seattle, WA (Image: By Tiffany Von Arnim via Wikimedia Commons)

According to KUOW, attorney Bill Becker is representing the group and he is outraged by the fee:

“The university is charging an exorbitantly excessive fee to the College Republicans based on the fear that there will be violent disrupters at this event. No other group to our knowledge has ever been charged anything even close to that amount,” Becker said. 

The lawsuit calls the fee “draconian and unreasonable,” and Becker said UW shouldn’t be allowed to pass on high security costs to the College Republicans because their views are unpopular.

The Republicans, who held an event featuring right-wing figure Milo Yiannopoulos last year at one which person was shot, claim in the lawsuit that fee process essentially bans “the expression of conservative viewpoints on the UW Seattle campus.”

University officials counter that many factors are taken into account when setting a fee, including prior history of the group and the invited guests.

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