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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, November 11, 2020

#FREESPEECH in the News November 11, 2020

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

#FREESPEECH in the News November 11, 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.) Parler 'free speech' app tops charts in wake of Trump defeat

The growing app follows a clampdown on the spread of election misinformation by Twitter and Facebook in recent days.

Prominent investor Dan Bongino said the service was adding "thousands to users per minute" on Sunday.

Parler founder John Matze said the app had added two million new users in a day, and increased its daily active users four-fold over the weekend. Launched in 2018, Parler has proved particularly popular among Trump supporters and right-wing conservatives. Such groups have frequently accused Twitter and Facebook of unfairly censoring their views.

It is one of a handful of start-up social networks - such as MeWe or Gab - trying to appeal to disgruntled users of the biggest platforms.

2.) Cuomo signs anti-SLAPP law, protecting free speech against frivolous lawsuits

Gov. Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday intended to stymie deep-pocketed litigants from filing lawsuits meant to intimidate or suppress free speech.

The new law is meant to deter abusive “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” known as SLAPPs. Such frivolous suits are often brought by affluent plaintiffs who have the means to fund time-consuming litigation that can devastate defendants.

The legislation, penned by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Queens) and Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), expands on the state’s current statute, considered exceedingly narrow, by covering speech, or other lawful First Amendment conduct, related to an issue of public interest.

3.) Protesters sue Austin police officers, City of Austin over use of force during Black Lives Matter protests in May

Another two people who participated in the Black Lives Matter protests in May have filed lawsuits against Austin police officers and the City of Austin.

The first lawsuit alleges an unidentified Austin police officer shot Sam Kirsch in the face with what APD called "less-lethal rounds" while Kirsch was peacefully protesting on Interstate 35. A second lawsuit filed on Tuesday against the City of Austin and an unidentified Austin officer alleges the officer used a shotgun to fire a beanbag full of shotgun pellets at Steven Arawn, who was providing first aid to an injured protester on May 30.

"Shooting an innocent person who is only trying to help another injured person is the definition of excessive force," said Jeff Edwards, their attorney. "Mr. Arawn went downtown that day to help people exercise their First Amendment rights. That the police would use brutal force on peaceful demonstrators like Mr. Arawn during a protest against police brutality is beyond the pale. That APD leadership would defend it shows that APD is in drastic need of fundamental reform. APD leadership knew that the shotgun rounds could cause devastating injuries yet they continued to have officers fire them at numerous people protesting. This type of misjudgment is as dangerous as it gets."

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