Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stay Free, San Francisco!

http://tinyurl.com/stay-free-sf   (The above design is presented for the free use of those advancing body freedom, or human rights and freedom in general, with my blessings; I require neither permission, nor credit, nor royalties.)

Not that I get to set anyone else's terms, but here's why I think the two short words "Stay Free" are the main thing that need to keep being repeated now by crowds and signs protesting this issue in San Francisco:

  1. "SF" alliterates with the city name, stressing it's a local issue.
  2. These keep the message above the fog: it's about freedom.
  3. It's not about Biblical morality, despite the religious right.
  4. It's not about tourism dollars, despite any Chamber-of-Commerce clones.
  5. It's about the freedom of non-violent non-injurious non-interfering citizens to walk down the street minding their own business without being set upon violently and dragged off in chains at the orders of a Board gone rogue.
  6. To borrow Thomas Jefferson's argument, "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to [wear twenty garments or no garment]. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
  7. From which it follows: the Board's penalizing acts non-injurious to others did not use a legitimate power of government.

I thought about having the graphic show the woman wearing a black armband, like the protesters in Tinker v Des Moines (since the Supreme Court agrees that black armbands "inherently express" opinions, thus are protected by the First Amendment, unlike bare skin)... aaand I decided against that:

Someone wearing a black armband might be expressing a different topic of opinion, say, an opinion against war, but it's a sure bet anyone going bare in public is expressing an opinion in favor of the right to body freedom, no matter what else. That's as "inherent" an expression as any Supreme Court Justice or other judge could reasonably require.

But you know, I do have to wonder: what kind of cognitive dissonance would the good judge face if nude San Franciscans started being arrested while wearing black armbands?

It seems to me he'd have to agree they were indeed "sending a message" with the armbands, and therefore were under the First Amendment's protection at the time....

So here's the quandary: would all that mighty Constitutional protection apply just because of the tiny strip of cloth, and none at all only to, or because of, the entire fully human being wearing it?

Is that how Judge Chen conceives "all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights"... except if I take your armband away, I've just alienated your freedom of speech?

Somehow I don't think that's what Thomas Jefferson was "inherently expressing"!

Yet... picture the interrogatory, as the Chief of Police has to explain to the Judge how the law was applied in practice — since that's the level this dispute has come down to.

Judge: ... and it was made very clear the Board could regulate conduct but not speech, therefore traditional forms of speech, of expressing opinion, would not and could not be prohibited. I thought that much was made very very clear, Chief?

Chief: Yes, your Honor, and that's the dividing line we followed, just the way you set it out for us. Everyone has skin, so that's not an opinion; but not everyone expresses an opinion, so it's the differences to look out for; yes, we paid close attention to that. And at first, when the nude protesters came out all wearing black armbands, we thought, okay, they figured out how to get by, and we weren't going to make any arrests.

Judge: Then... why did you?

Chief: Well, all the counter-protesters, the Scott Wiener supporters and anti-nudity folks, pulled out black armbands from their pockets and put them on too, chanting "It's a black day for San Francisco!" Now everyone had black armbands, and these didn't stand for any one opinion anymore. As you put it, they didn't "inherently express" any particular message. That meant they no longer had First Amendment protection, so we just started arresting people without regard to the armbands.

Judge: Chief... that's... remarkably sophistical reasoning. Did you yourself just come up with this on the fly?

Chief: Oh, no, the counter-protesters' armband consultant and supplier flew out from Washington DC for the event, and he was standing right beside me when I had to make the decision. His advice was very helpful, and (points to audience) you can see he's the most knowledgeable man in the field.

Judge: I do see. It's a privilege to have you in my courtroom, Justice Scalia. ... But Chief, then you proceeded to arrest protesters who were not only wearing armbands but carrying clearly printed signs, which at least specify the opinion they express....

Chief: Ah, yes, ah, your Honor, the Justice had also brought out a supply of signs for the occasion,... ah, for every occasion, from birthday to Thanksgiving to union protest to "will work for food",... and by the time those were all up in the air and waving around, there was no longer a sense of any one group having anything coherent to say. So it was pretty much the same situation as with the armbands.

Judge: According to the legal advice with which he then kindly provided you?

Chief: Well, I guess he's not going to be overturned. Is he, your Honor?

Judge: We have just been blessed with help in our fair city, haven't we?


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