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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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Tuesday, June 01, 2021

#FREESPEECH in the News June 1, 2020

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

#FREESPEECH in the News June 1, 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.) Florida’s rules on Facebook, Twitter a ‘frontal assault’ on free speech, lawsuit says

Describing the law as a “frontal assault on the First Amendment,” two online industry groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking to block a measure pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to crack down on large social-media companies.

NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association want a judge to prevent the law from taking effect July 1, contending that it is a “smorgasbord of constitutional violations” that would prevent companies from properly moderating content on their platforms.

“The act discriminates against and infringes the First Amendment rights of these targeted companies, which include plaintiffs’ members, by compelling them to host — and punishing them for taking virtually any action to remove or make less prominent — even highly objectionable or illegal content, no matter how much that content may conflict with their terms or policies,” said the 70-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tallahassee.

2.) Virginia Teacher Placed on Leave for Engaging in Free Speech at Public Meeting

The Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Friday to Loudoun County Public Schools on behalf of an elementary school teacher after officials at Leesburg Elementary School suspended him for voicing his objections to two proposed school policies during the public comment period of a school board meeting.

The policies would force teachers to violate their beliefs by requiring them to address students with their chosen pronouns rather than the ones consistent with their biological sex.

The teacher, Tanner Cross, attended Loudoun County’s school board meeting Tuesday, where he respectfully explained his concern for students who struggle with gender dysphoria but also his concern about being forced to violate his beliefs. Two days after the meeting, the school informed Tanner in a letter that he was being placed on administrative leave “pending an investigation of allegation that [he] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”

3.) Lawyer for South Kingstown woman accused of hate crime says she's protected by free speech

Adote Akpabie wanted to enjoy a seafood dinner with his wife and daughters on the shore in Narragansett last June, but the 43-year-old was diverted as he made his way to the hostess stand at the Coast Guard House restaurant.

In the foyer area of the restaurant, a woman vulgarly and loudly called attention to the color of his skin, saying a "(expletive) Black guy," Akpabie testified Wednesday in District Court, Wakefield, at the trial of a 34-year-old South Kingstown woman.

Christine Longo is charged with disorderly conduct and she also faces an enhancement that prosecutors can seek in situations where they believe racial hatred was a factor.

Akpabie testified that Longo on three or four occasions said, "Go back to where you (expletive) came from."

He added: "kind of like that."

After some consideration, Akpabie told Longo's lawyer, Chad Bank, that the confrontation would have been worse if Longo had used the N-word. Bank argued that the state's prosecution tramples on Longo's free-speech rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"The rule of law is clear," Bank said. "Offensive and hateful speech is protected."

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