Tolerance and Lines

A judge has banned an anti-abortion protester from setting foot in Washington, DC. Surely that’s going too far, even though the guy has made a repeated nuisance of himself.

The ruling came about because the guy climbed a tree with his protest sign to be within sight of the President during the Inauguration on Monday. Capitol police ordered him down and even tried to reach him with a ladder, but he stayed out of reach, and in the tree, for five hours.

I’m sure that’s not the first time someone has climbed a tree to get a better view of an inauguration. But these days, there’s an understandable concern the guy might be hiding a long-range rifle to shoot the President with as well as a sign. I can see a public safety reason for wanting him out of the tree; it was not unreasonable to order him down. But banned from DC entirely?

Here’s the part of the article I found most interesting:

Grogan, 47, who calls himself “Pastor Rick” and runs a ministry and boarding house in Los Angeles, admits he’s an irritant, racking up about 10 arrests and a half-dozen convictions in two years in House and Senate buildings alone.

He said he patiently waits for the proceedings to be gaveled into recess before he stands and shouts — most recently in the Senate gallery when he screamed that legal abortions caused the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

“I preach, and I preach loudly on Capitol Hill,” said Grogan, who said he’s never spent more than a few days in jail. He’s been thrown out of a presidential debate, a Major League Baseball game attended by Mitt Romney and too many buildings to count.

First off, he can’t possibly be running anything in Los Angeles if he spends that much time in DC, but let’s go on — so the guy stands up in the Senate and screams that legal abortion caused the massacre in Newtown. Which is nuts. On the one hand, people have a right to speak, and I acknowledge that what’s insanity to me might be profound to someone else.

On the other hand, the Senate is dysfunctional enough without being interrupted by looney-tunes screaming nonsense from the balcony. As much as I respect protesters, there’s a point at which their exercise of free speech would hold the Senate hostage to a balcony full of screamers, day in and day out. And I would say the same thing about Code Pink as this guy. Just silently holding a sign or wearing a message T-shirt ought to be tolerated, though, and they haven’t always been.

On the other other hand, there’s seems to be nothing we can do about the Crazy on the Senate floor. Not to mention the Asshole.

I’m sure the Right will use this guy to claim that “liberals” are turning the U.S. into a police state. But as a long-time history buff, I assure you that people — both officials and private citizens — were less tolerant of this kind of repeated public obnoxiousness in days past. In the 19th century, Preacher Grogan would have been hauled into an alley and beaten to a pulp by either police or annoyed citizens for being obnoxious. First Amendment or no First Amendment. I’m not saying that was better; I’m just saying that’s how it was.

So what do we do about the Rev. Grogan? Do we want to set a precedent for how far a court may deny any individual access to government? On the other hand, how many public resources must be used to keep an eye on him, in case he decides to take his crusade to the next level and start shooting?

Liberals hate “free speech zones,” I know, but forget that among the first such zones were buffer zones put around abortion clinics to keep the Fetus People from threatening staff or blocking patients from going into the clinics. Another early use of free speech zones were rules keeping religious groups from aggressive proselytizing in airports.

Maybe what we need is a clearer set of rules, so that there’s a clear distinction between genuine security and public nuisance concerns and the right of the people to speak our minds without being herded into “zones.” Or banned from Washington DC.

8 thoughts on “Tolerance and Lines

  1. Instead of “Free Speech Zones,” how about we have, “Don’t Be An Asshole Zones!”?

    I forgive a lot, if someone, or a group, is funny.
    And “Code Pink” is sometimes funny.
    The “Billionaires For Romney” folks were always funny.

    Of course, having said that, “funny” is in the eye of the beholder.
    A liberal might have a brief laugh at an old woman slipping on a banana peel – but then stop, hoping she wasn’t hurt.
    A Conservative will find that funny, and it’ll be ROTFLMAO funny, if she was hurrying to get to her Medicare doctor’s appointment, and a government-run bus rolls over her, squishing her dead.

    Let this asshole yap all he wants, as long as he’s not a danger to himself or others. We’ve lost enough rights.
    Banning him is excessive, imho.
    Everyone should always have the right to stand on a soapbox, and blather on and on about whatever the fillings in our teeth want explained to the rest of America.
    And the rest of Americans should have the right to tell that person to STFU.
    Now, THAT’S free speech.
    And, maybe even, funny!

  2. Well, obviously a court order isn’t going to deter a guy like Grogan. He’s going to say “Blessed are ye when men revile you and persecute you for my sake” and go right back at it. It;s not like they’re going to set up checkpoints all around Washington to keep him out.

    What the court order does is to allow for steeper penalties next time he does make a nuisance of himself. Or even just give the local police another tool to use next time they have to deal with him. From that point of view I’m not sure it bothers me so much. It’s sort of like the city is putting him on notice that they’ve had enough of this crap. I doubt he’s gong to have any trouble with the law if he sneaks into Washington and behaves himself.

    On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of criminal penalties. My thinking is that he should be billed for whatever it costs the city to deal with him. That would be fair.

  3. legal abortions caused the massacre in Newtown, Conn

    Long-lost cousin of the Phelpses of Topeka, KS? Fried minds think alike!

    I find I agree with what Stephen Stralka says, that D.C. has put him on notice: enough already.

    I also find myself reflecting on the rational but effective behavior of people like Abraham Lincoln and William Lloyd Garrison (recently reiterated on American Experience, “The Abolitionists”). Sometimes a crazy-seeming a-hole isn’t an American hero ahead of his time; sometimes he’s just a crazy a-hole.

  4. The guy is afflicted with St.Paul’s syndrome.The more they try to reign him in, or punish him , the more crowns he’ll have to present to Jesus when he appears at the throne of judgment.
    They should have just given him a 1 year in-house prison ministry among a bunch of sodomites. At least that way, when he presents his crowns..they’ll be well earned…and he can say without exaggeration..I fought the good fight (but to no avail).

  5. I think it’s important to differentiate between protesting (link that to Constitutionally guaranteed rights of assembly and the right to petition government) and disrupting a public proceeding. By public, I mean House or Senate meetings, the Inauguration, an assembly which will give an elected official or candidate a forum. I don’t like trolls – left wing trolls, right wing trolls. Doesn’t matter.

    What makes a troll a troll? He’s trying to freeload on your ‘bandwidth’ to promote his message. True on the forums – true in public proceedings. I understand people trying to disrupt Mitt Romeny (when he was a candidate), but it’s wrong. Protesting outside a venue is totally appropriate.

    Civility in public discourse is not an answer by itself. Rudeness between public officials or between the public and elected officials is a problem – by itself. Rudeness from the left – from the right – no difference) Identifying acceptable and unacceptable behavior has to happen (liberals and conservatives). And we have to start policing our standard constantly, even when it puts fetus people in the same category as code pink kooks. If and when we are doing it consistently among ourselves, we can demand it of our elected representatives.

    That said, what is a remedy for disrupting public events?
    First offense – one day in jail.
    Second offense – 4 days in jail
    Third offense – 16 days days in jail
    Fourth offense – 64 days in jail
    Fifth offense – 256 days is over 8 months
    Sixth offense – 1024 days is over three years and appropriate

  6. From the article it would appear that the ‘ban’ is only until Feb. 25, the date of his next hearing. I don’t see that as an unreasonable bail condition, keeps the judge from having to deal with further offences until this one is settled.

  7. The thing that also demands consideration is that the recent shootings have raised everybody’s awareness level and decreased everybody’s tolerance level. When you think about a judge looking at someone “challenging” security, you have to wonder if the judge is not thinking about having to face victims’ families. We do run the danger of becoming intolerant of protest, but I keep reading about thousands of threats, unprecedented levels, against President Obama. Crazy is out there. Some of this stuff is like New York’s “Naked Cowboy” who plays the guitar in his tighty-whities. It is silly and pointless and a waste of time to get a photo with him, but it appeals to some people. Silly levels of protest are much the same, I guess.

Comments are closed.