Microsoft Works

That’s probably my favorite oxymoron. There are two other very interesting examples in this Eleventh Circuit decision. The plaintiffs lost on procedural grounds and the court never discussed the merits, but here’s the facts:

Plaintiffs Adam Elend, Jeff Marks, and Joe Redner allege that their First Amendment rights were violated on November 2, 2002, when they attempted to protest at a political rally attended by President Bush at the University of South Florida (USF) Sun Dome.

Marks and Redner held up placards, while Elend videotaped the event and distributed copies of certain Supreme Court decisions pertaining to the FirstAmendment. Plaintiffs began to conduct this activity on a median adjacent to a parking lot on the USF campus, approximately 150 feet from the nearest Sun Dome entrance and 30 feet from event attendees who were waiting in line.

Soon after the commencement of this activity, USF police officers told the Plaintiffs that they would have to stand in the “First Amendment zone,” an area estimated to be one quarter of a mile away from the Sun Dome. The “protest zone” consisted of a metal fence patrolled by law enforcement personnel, some of whom were on horseback.

Plaintiffs contend that others carrying placards and signs indicating support of President George Bush or Governor Jeb Bush were not asked to move to the protest zone.

Plaintiffs explained to USF officers their belief that the creation of such a zone unconstitutionally restricted their freedom of speech. At that point, they were approached by a purported agent of the Sun Dome, Kelly Hickman, who also requested they move to the protest zone. When Plaintiffs refused to relocate, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies arrested them for “trespass after warning.”

Which is worse? Calling a structure designed to keep out the elements the “Sun Dome?” Or calling a metal cage surrounded by armed guards a “First Amendment Zone?”

Actually, now that I think about it, only the former is an oxymoron; that is “A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist.” Sun Dome is by itself contradictory. The purpose of the dome is to keep out the sun. First Amendment Zone, on the other hand, is fine by itself. It only makes you scratch your head when someone applies it to a location designed to stifle speech. In that case, doublespeak is probably the better term: “language deliberately constructed to disguise its actual meaning.”

UPDATE: In case you’re a visual learner, here’s the Sun Dome:

And a free speech zone (though this is actually from the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I’m pretty sure they’re all about the same):

Explore posts in the same categories: Eleventh Circuit, Free Speech

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