Sidewalks Belong to Everyone, Lamp Posts Do Not – UPDATED
Sometimes it gets really difficult to figure out what constitutes freedom of speech, what constitutes tax payer dollars, and what is going to get you sued.
Anti-abortion protesters for years have been using the “public” sidewalks near clinics as their own space, claiming that because their taxpayer dollars pay for them, they have the right to wave signs, yell, and even chase women down the street in an attempt to talk them out of having an abortion. After all, they paid for those sidewalks, too, and they are just enforcing their freedom of speech.
Now, the same groups who use freedom of speech and taxpayer dollars to justify their own protests are arguing that tax payer dollars shouldn’t be spent on political speech they don’t support.
The city of San Francisco has allowed the lampposts on Market Street to bear “Trust Women” banners for a period of time, and anti-choice legal teams are demanding they be taken down. “The offending banners, issued by the Trust Women Silver Ribbon Campaign, bear blatantly political statements, including ‘U.S. Out of My Uterus,’ ‘Reproductive Rights are Human Rights,’ and ‘San Francisco is Pro-Choice,’ slogans which are clearly designed to provoke the ire of those who do not share the printed sentiments…’The city minions who “approved” these illegal banners might have thought that the public would ignore the challenge, but they are in error,’ said Dana Cody, Executive Director, Life Legal Defense Foundation. ‘We also believe this puts a stick in the eye of pro-life advocates who will be marching down Market Street on January 21 for the annual March for Life.’”
So to be clear, Life Legal Defense is arguing that there cannot be banners that support a woman’s right to choose up on the lampposts of a street that they intend to march down while protesting against a woman’s right to choose. Because the banners offend some of the taxpayers who pay for the lamp posts, but it doesn’t matter if the march offends a greater number of people who paid for the street.
UPDATED: Looks like the issue may be moot, as someone has pulled down many of the “Trust Women” banners from their posts yesterday. A police report is being filed.
Photo credit: wikimedia commons