Freedom of Speech
On Monday, December 10th, we filed papers asking the United States Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of a U.S. Postal Service regulation that bans the collection of signatures on petitions on Post Office sidewalks.
ACLU settles case involving the right to photograph police; MPD issues General Order reminding officers to smile for the cameraJuly 23, 2012
In settling an ACLU-NCA case, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department issued a groundbreaking new General Order explicitly recognizing that “members of the general public have a First Amendment right to video record, photograph, and/or audio record MPD members while MPD members are conducting official business or while acting in an official capacity in any public space.” The order reminds officers that such activity “does not constitute suspicious conduct,” and instructs officers that they “shall not . . . in any way threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording members’ enforcement activities.”
A Pennsylvania woman, Debra Hartley, who walked hundreds of miles from her home to Washington to express her concerns about discrimination against women in law enforcement filed a lawsuit Wednesday (18) that accuses Secret Service Uniformed Division officers of driving her from the White House sidewalk with unlawful threats and demands for personal information.
Testifying before the D.C. Council’s Committee on Government Operations on three bills that would add new prohibitions to the District’s campaign finance laws, Legal Director Art Spitzer engaged in a lively dialogue with Committee Chairman Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) and Councilmembers Mary Cheh (Ward 3) and Tommy Wells (Ward 6) about the balance between First Amendment rights and the influence of money on politics, and about the constant temptation of reformers to impose simple solutions to complex problems — solutions that don’t work.
The ACLU condemned the arrest of journalists attempting to film a public hearing of a House subcommittee, apparently because the journalists were known to have a viewpoint different from the Republican leadership's.
ACLU Findings Alerted DC Council to Failure of Oversight of Police Spying; D.C. Auditor Now Agrees to Do Its JobOctober 21, 2011
The D.C. Auditor has agreed to evaluate MPD reports of spying on First Amendment activities, after ACLU revealed in testimony in March 2011 to the D.C. Council that that office had refused for four years to carry out the Council’s mandate.
ACLU-NCA filed suit on October 19 challenging a federal campaign finance law that favors corporations over citizens. 2 U.S.C. § 441c makes it a crime for any person who has a contract with any agency of the federal government to make a contribution to any candidate for federal office or any political party or committee that is involved in federal elections. By contrast, large corporations that have federal contracts can set up PACs to make contributions, but individuals cannot -- and the officers, employees, and stockholders of corporations with government contracts are bot barred from making political contributions using can their earnings from those contracts, but individual contractors cannot make contributions even from other sources of funds. Moreover, federal employees are free to make political contributions (subject to the same statutory limitations that apply to everyone), but contractors who work alongside them and perform the same functions cannot.
We represent three individuals who have contracts to provide personal services to federal agencies, and are therefore prohibited from making political contributions. We ask the court to declare the statute unconstitutional as a violation of their rights under the Equal Protection Clause and under the First Amendment.
ACLU commended the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently for promptly acknowledging a weekend guard was wrong ordering an amateur photographer to stop taking pictures on a Sunday afternoon on 7th Street, S.W., in Washington, DC, across the street from the dramatic HUD headquarters building.
The ACLU of the Nation's Capital has applauded two agencies acting to enhance the freedom of street musicians to perform in the area. DC police officials and the National Park Service, in separate actions, have responded to the ACLU by interpreting the law in favor of buskers.
On Tuesday, November 23, the D.C. Council passed, on "first reading," three bills of interest to the ACLU.
Over our opposition, the Council passed Bill 18-63, the “Residential Tranquility Amendment Act of 2010,” which would make it a crime for three or more persons to conduct a completely peaceful, quiet, non-threatening demonstration in front of someone’s residence if the demonstration takes place at night, or if the demonstrators wear masks, or if they have not provided the police with advance notice of the demonstration. For more details, please read our letter to the Council on Bill 18-63. We will try to have amendments introduced at second reading.
The Council also passed Bill 18-425, a comprehensive revision of the District's antiquated disorderly conduct laws. We strongly supported this bill, although we supported a few amendents that were not made. Details are here.
The Council also passed Bill 18-893, the Anti-SLAPP Act. A “SLAPP” is a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” -- an abusive lawsuit filed for the purpose of deterring people from participating in public discussion and debate. We strongly supported this bill as well. Details are here.