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Sidewalks Belong to Everyone, Lamp Posts Do Not – UPDATED

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.

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521 comments

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2:38PM PDT on May 27, 2012

Freedom of Speech is a right no American wants to relinquish. It is a vital part of what makes our nation so special.
The difficulty is for cities to define what is legal within it's limits without taking a right away from one group or the other.
Clearly no one has the right to touch or destroy another's property no matter what that may be.

Cities have a difficult job to define these rights for everyone and all citizens have a big job to learn what their rights are and to abide by them.

It would be just if people on both sides of the issue would respect one another. Sometimes that happens and sometimes is doesn't. The OWS and unions have been destructive to the tune of thousands of dollars that burden taxpayers and cities. Clearly they believe they are the only ones with rights. Whoever tore down these signs unless it was the city has the same distorted viewpoint.
Strange that these groups would participate in harmful action and expect that others would want to be a part of them or have them in control. Stranger is the fact that many will still participate instead of finding a group that treats others decently.

8:12AM PDT on May 27, 2012

What petty person would rip down posters because you "oppose the message". Talk about trying to oppress others who don't agree with you.

I hope they get a police record for this. You can demonstrate all you want, but that is still vandalising city property and THAT is illegal.

7:49AM PST on Jan 31, 2012

Both sides should each have a fair chance

8:36AM PST on Jan 29, 2012

I think that the Constitution protects freedom of expression of people, not lampposts. As long as a person is holding a sign or banner, the message is protected. But when the sign or banner is posted, it's no longer protected. It's kind of the same thing as the Constitution protecting your right to wear jewelry with religious symbols in the workplace, but your HR department probably has strict policies about religious posters decorating cubicles. If the symbol is on your person, it's personal expression. On your wall, it's not.

7:38PM PST on Jan 26, 2012

Thanks for posting.

8:02AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

I don't think hanging banners on city property is a good idea. Voices make far better persuaders than banners

4:27PM PST on Jan 24, 2012

Unfortunately, a good many of the pro-life people haven't learned to play in the sandbox with those of opposing views. They believe the law should protect them, and they should not have to be bothered by those pagans who are opposed to them. I believe the pro-life and pro-choice people should have equal rights. That means sidewalks and lamp posts belong to everyone, and everyone has the right to speak and to demonstrate.

9:42AM PST on Jan 24, 2012

No one should be able to tell you what to do with your own body. Period. And everyone has the legal and moral right to express they're opinion. Period.

7:58AM PST on Jan 24, 2012

All are equal before law. What applies to the Pro applies to the Anti as well.

8:52AM PST on Jan 23, 2012

I agree with Darlene, I don't accept abortion as birth control, however abortion, under extenuating circumstances, may be the very medical procedure needed. I disagree with the extremes of both pro-life and pro-choice. Yet the point presented here is freedom of speech, my Daddy used to say that Freedom has responsibility "One person's freedom ends where another person's nose begins" - Pro-Life and Pro-Choice have equal rights and freedom to express their views, neither have the right nor freedom to threaten, harass, taunt or abuse anyone whether they agree or disagree.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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