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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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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

#FREESPEECH in the News July 22, 2020

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

#FREESPEECH in the News July 22, 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.) ‘It was not protected free speech:’ Father of artist confronted by man claiming murals were racist speaks out

The father of an artist who was confronted by a 60-year-old man Sunday evening says he doesn’t think the man’s actions were covered by the First Amendment.

In a video shared on Facebook, a man driving an SUV can be heard calling a pair of murals on Wilson Street “racist.” One mural depicts Oluwatoyin Salau, a 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist who was found dead in Tallahassee, Florida, after she went missing in early June. The other mural depicted Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died following an encounter with police in 2019.

The man in the vehicle can be heard repeatedly asking the artists where they live, and he at one point claims that “you don’t live here.”

According to a police incident report, the artists had permission from the building owner to paint the murals. When officers arrived after one of the artists called police to report the man had approached them on foot, police told the man the artists were not committing a crime and that he should leave.

The Madison Police Department said the man’s behavior was protected by the First Amendment.

2.) Paxton asks court to reaffirm Title IX commitment to free speech, due process.

Attorney General Ken Paxton today led 15 states in an amicus brief filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, urging the court to allow the Department of Education to reaffirm Title IX’s commitment to protecting students from actual harassment while respecting free speech and fair process. The Department of Education’s “Final Rule” bolsters the anti-discrimination purposes of Title IX without infringing free speech or due process rights.

“Academic institutions cannot deprive students of their constitutional rights to free speech, due process, or fair trial. The Final Rule provides robust protection for individual rights where previous regulations and guidance failed,” said Attorney General Paxton. “The Supreme Court has long recognized that students subject to disciplinary proceedings are entitled to due process, as is every American citizen.”

Without safeguards, academic institutions can and have eschewed due process and imposed life-altering consequences on students without affording them the opportunity to defend themselves. The vast majority of colleges and universities currently deny students the right to present evidence or cross examine witnesses, and less than half require that fact-finders be impartial during investigations.

3.) The Army could block you on Twitch for asking about war crimes, and that could be a violation of free-speech laws

As it looks away from conventional recruitment methods such as billboards and TV spots, the Army is now streaming video games — and providing plenty of potential for critics of the US military to engage in a dialogue directly.

And a lot of the dialogue on the US Army's Twitch streams has been "How do you feel about war crimes?"

Much like people suing to get unblocked by President Donald Trump on Twitter, the scenario raises the question of what rights to discourse people have with official government presences on social media.

"Once the president has chosen a platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants," an appeals court ruled, "he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with."

The Army's blocking of commenters in the Twitch chat could fall under the same guidelines.

The ACLU tweeted that "banning users who ask important questions isn't 'flexing,' it's unconstitutional."

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