No, this won’t be a scholarly dissection of Constitutional Law. The question, Mayor Reed, I am leaving in your capable hands, as my professor of Constitutional Law did with me a few (ahem) years ago.
Professor Rogers, who was engaging with me in what seemed like a very long set of questions and answers, said something that made me feel like crap. Not because he was inappropriate; he was decidedly not. But because he was right.
I don’t recall the questions. I only recall that I got to a place in the inquiry where, rather than considering and giving an answer, any answer, that reflected my analysis and risk being wrong, I took the short route to hot-seat freedom. My response to his thoughtful question was an unthoughtful, “I don’t know.” And my momentary bliss at getting to the end of my personal Socratic hell was blasted to dust when Professor Rogers responded, “I think you do.”
So, to you, Mayor Kasim Reed, I ask the question, have you read the brief in Turturice et al. v. City of Cleveland. It’s not long, but it’s lovely; don’t leave all the fun for your lawyers.
Once you have read it, please distinguish for yourself:
- that a regulation of a right that is otherwise protected by the U.S. Constitution must, in each instance of enforcement, be evaluated to determine whether it represents an overbroad and unreasonable prior restraint
It is not enough that whoever wrote the regulations that you think you were enforcing may have considered certain public interests at the time that it was written. Let me say that again. Especially because it is a right protected by the United States Constitution, it is not enough that a city consider this question once, at the time of adoption. It must be considered each and every time that the City exercises its inherent enforcement discretion by electing to limit, evict and/or arrest its citizens.
So it now falls to you. What do you think about the decision to evict Occupy Atlanta from Troy Davis Park on October 25, 2011? What public interest was served by evicting and arresting those who were occupying the park? Sanitation? Weren’t the citizens actually cleaning the park daily? Crime? Security? Weren’t the occupying citizens actually ensuring the safety of the occupiers and other citizens? Weren’t the public coffers potentially relieved of regular costs, rather than increasing the need for monies?
- I believe that the local press has attributed a statement to you that the occupiers were costing the city. It just makes me wonder, in this sidebar, who authorized the “necessary” pressure washing of the park sidewalks on what I recall was Saturday, October 15? You might consider training your staff on unnecessary, even extravagant, use of public monies if it was not your personal decision. And by the way, what public interest is there in flying police helicopters over lawful, pre-curfew assemblage of citizens, sitting cross-legged in a circle on the ground, discussing aspects of their preparation to petition the government?
You have the opportunity to reconcile the U.S. Constitution with your local ordinances, instead of allowing the ordinances to appear to be equal and even superior to the U.S. Constitution. You must answer the question, “Did I do that? Did I reconcile a local ordinance on public spaces with the right of the people peaceably to assemble espoused in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?”
Please do yourself a favor and don’t stop at, “I don’t know” lest Professor Rogers be in the room.