by: Rachel Lederman on June 9th, 2015 | Comments Off
The following post was published on truth-out.org on Friday, June 6th. Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
Under pressure from business after a large May Day demonstration, in which dozens of new cars and bank windows were smashed, Oakland’s new mayor, Libby Schaaf, has instituted a ban on nighttime street marches, which has outraged the Oakland activist community. The mayor’s directive violates a federal court order and has escalated ongoing tension between police and protesters – while doing nothing to address the serious issues of state-sponsored racism, extrajudicial killings and police impunity, targets of the growing movement.
Banning protests doesn’t work as a way to stop property damage or squelch popular anger. Across the Bay, San Francisco tried it in response to vandalism during protests over the 1992 acquittals of the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King. The resulting National Lawyers Guild (NLG) lawsuit cost the city $1 million and led to a Ninth Circuit decision recognizing that First Amendment activity may not be banned simply because prior similar activity involved property damage. As the court put it, the constitutional way for police to deal with “unlawful conduct that may be intertwined with First Amendment activity is to punish it after it occurs, rather than to prevent the First Amendment activity from occurring in order to obviate the possible unlawful conduct.”