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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, February 10, 2020

#FREESPEECH in the News: February 10, 2020

Bliss Davis, Content and Programming Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH in the News: February 10, 2020

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.) 10 Wuhan professors signed an open letter demanding free speech protections after a doctor punished for warning others about coronavirus died from it

At the onset of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, local doctor Li Wenliang warned his medical school alumni group about the discovery of a SARS-like illness via the messaging app WeChat. He was then reprimanded by Wuhan police and required to sign a letter acknowledging he had made "false comments" on the Chinese internet.

Li's warning proved to be true, and the Wuhan coronavirus has now killed at least 720 people and infected more than 34,500 around the globe. While treating patients, Li, 34, contracted the virus himself and died on February 6.

After his death, academics around China signed open letters addressing the Chinese government. 10 Wuhan professors signed one letter demanding the government enforce its own freedom of speech articles in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, along with apologizing to and compensating 8 coronavirus whistleblowers.

2.) Marlon Wayans' Free Speech Victory Stands, Appeals Court Rules

In a long-running case that was revived by the California Supreme Court, appellate judges now rule that the 'Marlon' star's conduct toward a co-worker can be connected to public discourse.

For several years now, Wayans has been defending his on- and off-set behavior during the making of A Haunted House 2. He's been in court with Pierre Daniel, who alleges that Wayans subjected him to repeated offensive language.

Two years ago, a panel of judges at the Second Appellate Division affirmed a lower court's dismissal of the case. Wayans was able to use California's SLAPP statute, which is meant to deter frivolous lawsuits chilling First Amendment activity. Under the SLAPP law, judges first analyze whether a lawsuit arises from protected activity on a matter of public concern. If so, the suit is then screened for minimal merit before the legal action moves any further. The case generated a lengthy discussion of race and creativity, and Wayans came out ahead.

3.) 'I perceive it as free speech:' Vulgar anti-Trump signs return to Jacksonville Beach home

A controversial Jacksonville Beach woman has taken down her Christmas decorations and put her vulgar political signs back up for all to see. Signs lining Sonja Fitch’s fenced yard read everything from “peace,” “love,” and profanity.

After retiring her anti-Trump signs for the holidays, Soja Fitch is back out on South Beach Parkway expressing her disdain for President Trump.

The Jacksonville Beach Police Department said according to city ordinances and laws, Fitch has done no wrong-doing. They said if people don’t like her signs, they can choose to look in the other direction.

“Our attorneys have looked at what she’s doing and determined it falls under constitutionally protected rights,” said Mike Staffopoulos, Jacksonville Beach city manager. “Therefore for us to take action against her would not be in line with the constitution.”

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