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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Monday, May 14, 2018


Bliss Davis, Content Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland


As the Citadel of Free Speech here in Cleveland, we work to protect and promote the basis of our democracy by sharing related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century. Here's what's making the news – and what you should know about – in the past week.

1.) Free Speech Or A Threat? Vermont Supreme Court Decision Highlights Continuing Tension

The Vermont Supreme Court overturned the decision to convict a man who placed Ku Klux Klan flyers at the homes of two women of color in Burlington, Vermont.

In 2015 William Schenk was convicted for disorderly conduct for the placing of these flyers.

Originally arrested and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct, the court stated that the case did not show threatening behavior in placing the flyers. According to Jared Carter, an assistant professor at Vermont Law School, the state had to prove Schenk’s actions were an immediate threat to the two women. The state argued that the KKK’s history of violence should have been enough to prove an immediate threat.

2.) Rap on Trial: How An Aspiring Musician's Words Led To Prison Time

Free speech advocates say a response to music, which is considered art, was a violation of a college student’s.

In 2007, Olutosin Oduwole was arrested. Police had found a note found in his locked car with rap lyrics, which led to him being convicted of attempting to make a terrorist threat and sentenced to five years in prison. Police say the note described a shooting similar to the incident at Virginia Tech.

His conviction was later overturned, but not without the Illinois attorney general attempting the fight the reversal. The Illinois Supreme Court, however, allowed the reversal to be upheld. In a rare move, the conviction was outright nullified rather than a whole new trial given. Oduwole’s attorney, Jeffrey Urdangen, said in an email. “The Court here found that no rational juror could have convicted under these facts.”

3.) A dress code for polling places? Supreme Court to decide constitutionality

A fight in Minnesota over what attire can be worn to the polls has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under state law, voters cannot wear t-shirts, hats, buttons and any other attire featuring political messages. Opponents say the law is too broad and can too easily impede on voters’ free speech rights. A poll worker may take note of one message and not another and some messages may fly under the radar entirely (for example, a shirt with a rainbow).

Proponents say the law is meant to give all parties a fair chance at the polls, and poll workers are properly trained in identifying attire that can be seen as political.

The court will hear in the case in June.

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