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Federal appeals court debates whether a Nazi salute is free speech

In the rarified atmosphere of a full federal appeals court hearing Tuesday, 11 black-robed judges debated whether an activist's Nazi salute to the mayor of Santa Cruz was an act of free speech or an illegal disruption of public order.

"It's OK to give the finger to a police officer," Judge Stephen Reinhardt noted, citing a previous ruling within the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge M. Margaret McKeown asked the Santa Cruz city attorney if boisterous positive expressions among those at city council meetings would also violate the rules of order, mugging gleefully and giving two thumbs up as an example of the "way-to-go" gestures she was talking about.

"Is smiling OK?" Chief Judge Alex Kozinski asked, in reference the Santa Cruz policies that led to the eviction and arrest of homeless rights activist Robert Norse eight years ago. Norse has been fighting the city on 1st Amendment grounds ever since.

The judges, meeting in the highly decorous en banc forum in Pasadena, pondered whether use of the F-word in a public forum would be grounds for ousting the speaker, whether showing disrespect for a mayor's race or gender would be more offensive than Norse's behavior and what case law exists protecting or proscribing a "heckler's veto."

After the attorney for Santa Cruz, George Kovacevich, sought to explain why negative comments and gestures tend to rile city officials more than those in favor, Kozinski, a libertarian stickler on 1st Amendment issues, seemed to hint at the ruling the court will issue months from now when he warned him, "You're digging yourself in deeper."

-- Carol Williams

 
Comments () | Archives (16)

I love the irony: facists who are offended by a Nazi salute.

the jewish handshake is not offensive. give it to me anytime( nothing less than a $100) ok?

Well said.

Would a well-timed flatulation or belch result in somebody's arrest?

Oh, but illegals from Mexico can riot in our streets protesting our laws???

Such a salute was actually used by the romans long before it was introduced into Germany around 1900, which incidentally was before Hitler. However it should be illegal to give this salute to any California politician unless accompanied by the words "Heil Stupid"!

If an insult is considered free speech, then I guess a Nazi salute would be free speech. So sad that we have to waste time and money on such stupidity!!!

Oh, but illegals from Mexico can openly protest our laws.

A pure democracy will fail. There must be some tolerance and respect for those who exhibit mannerisms or idiosyncrasies (at city council meetings). We should all give a little. I would rather see Mr. Morse working at McDee's than down by the shoreline with folded cardboard boxes.

If government contained our actions we will lose our freedoms. Even if I threw the bird freedom of speech. Now crapping on the floor, is not allowed, as freedom of speech.

Arrest of Mr Norse was way over the top but par for Santa Cruz council.
You think they have big heads in Washington?

Don't people know that free speech only applies if nobody is offended.

This is America!

A nazi salute is an insult; to the brave soldiers of WWII -- one of which was my father.

I'M SURE PROUD OF MY DAD!
JUST TO BE THE SON OF SOMEONE
WHO HAS FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR TWO AND WON ....
HE WENT OFF TO WAR IN 1941
HE FOUGHT FOR FOUR YEARS ....
NEAR DEATH & WITH FEARS!
WITH HIS FELLOW INFANTRY THEY SET OUT FROM BARRIE.
AT EIGHTEEN ... A PRINCE EDWARD ISLANDER.
AS THE GERMANS TURNED HIS FELLOW SOLDIERS INTO FODDER.
ON D-DAY AT NORMANDY TO GERMANY
SHRAPNEL, BOMBS & BULLETS DID FLY
TO DEFEND THE WORLD FOR YOU & I.
TO ME HE IS A TRUE HERO & I'D JUST LIKE HIM TO KNOW
A HERO SO YOUNG & SO BRAVE
WITH SO MANY OTHERS IN THEIR GRAVE!
TO KNOW HIM AS A MAN IS ALOT
BUT TO LOVE HIM AS MY FATHER
IS THE GREATEST PRIDE I'VE GOT.

It is actually the ancient Roman military salute.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have not been victim to the Nazi regime, you cannot possibly understand to what extent this goes way beyond free speech and on to an open threat. Is a threat to one's safety free speech? Then yelling fire ina theatre should also be considered free speech. How about "I have a bomb" at the airport or on a plane? All free speech. SOrry, but there has to be a limit to "free speech" somewhere.

Let me first state thet I DO NOT agree with anything having to do with the Nazi's...however, I do wonder if the same legal situation would occur in this instance (or others) were it the "Black Power" fist exhibited. I'm really growing weary of the unfairness of it all...


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