Freedom of Speech?

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in a ruling that should cause some cities and towns across the country to snap awake and reread the Constitution, has upheld the rights of day laborers to gather and speak freely in public as they look for work.

By a vote of 9 to 2 this court threw out an antisolicitation ordinance in Redondo Beach, Calif., calling it a “facially unconstitutional restriction on speech.” It rejected the argument by local officials that the law was a narrowly tailored attempt to enhance public safety by keeping men and cars from disrupting traffic.

It appears that two issues are of some great concern; of the first part, we are certain beyond any doubt that if people are going to be soliciting albeit socially, politically, or otherwise then there is one item that is certain, that is, those who would be causing traffic hindrances or at the very least loitering would need a permit issued from the Redondo Beach, California county clerk’s office allowing for the assembling of people.

Now in the second part the precedence set for this city/county ordinance was none other than the Ninth Circuit of Appeals where the follow up cases were being heard. Therefore, throughout the conversation the judges were constantly making references to “the ACORN matter” in which prompted the court to rule thus in the first place. It appears that not long ago ACORN had gathered numerous people to pander from the sidewalks and then run out into the street to receive whatever funds were gained.

It is one thing, the judges said, to place reasonable restrictions on when, where and how people can solicit work in public. But while Redondo Beach had said that the problem was mainly confined to a few major streets and medians, the judges noted that the ordinance applied citywide.

In this action the judges concurred making it illegal “to stand on a street or highway and solicit, or attempt to solicit, employment, business or contributions from an occupant of any motor vehicle.”

The chief of the justices hearing the complaint called upon his exacting stereotyping of illegal’s when he called day laborers “a bunch of scraggly men smoking and spitting while waiting for jobs,” and wrote that he saw no reason why Redondo Beach should not be allowed to drive them away in the name of “safety, beauty, tranquility and orderliness.”

No reason except the Constitution, of course. Day laborers have long been subject to harassment, but they now have an appellate court victory to add to a long string of federal court decisions in their favor. The right of free speech and assembly is essential to a democracy, no matter who is speaking or assembling.

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