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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 29, 2020

#FREESPEECH in the News July 29, 2020

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

#FREESPEECH in the News July 29, 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.) Flag-burning activist sues Lewisburg, claims its burn law violates free speech

Lewisburg is now the second community sued this year by activist Gene Stilp. The Middle Paxton Twp. resident has sued the borough in U.S. Middle District, claiming his free speech rights have been violated by being charged for burning flags.

The amended complaint filed Monday to correct mistakes in one from Friday is similar to the suit he has brought against the city of Harrisburg.

Stilp describes himself as a prominent political activist in Pennsylvania who frequently publicly protests political corruption and racial injustice by burning flags, often those containing images and slogans supporting the reelection of President Trump.

His court complaint states he had notified Lewisburg in February he planned to hold a public protest involving the burning of flags and was advised he would be violating the borough’s burn ordinance.

2.) Trump asks regulators to examine social media, free speech: White House

The Trump administration has asked US federal regulators to determine whether current internet laws protect social media companies from being sued for altering or otherwise censoring free speech, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.

"On Monday, the Department of Commerce, as directed by President Donald J Trump's executive order on preventing online censorship, filed a petition to clarify the scope of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The petition requests the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify that Section 230 does not permit social media companies that alter or editorialize users' speech to escape civil liability," the statement said.

The move comes after President Trump repeatedly accused social media and internet firms of unfairly censoring conservative views. He issued his executive order on May 28, after Twitter began placing warning labels on some of his tweets.

3.) ACLU accuses Greenfield Union School District of free speech violations

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundations of Southern and Northern California sent a letter to the Greenfield Union School District Wednesday, expressing concerns and alleging “the district has created a hostile environment for Black students and staff in its schools by subjecting them to differential treatment and degrading, off-handed comments.”

The letter details the treatment of seventh grade English teacher Kei Jackson, whose contract was not renewed after she filed a formal complaint on May 13, 2019, alleging that the district maintained a racially hostile environment, violated staff and students’ rights to free speech and expression, and failed to ensure that Black staff and students felt welcome and supported in the district.

The letter was signed by Abre’ Conner, staff attorney at ACLU NorCal, and Peter J. Eliasberg, chief counsel of ACLU SoCal.

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