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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, June 07, 2021

#FREESPEECH in the News June 7, 2021

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

#FREESPEECH in the News June 7, 2021

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.) Former Johnston detective vindicated in free-speech lawsuit settlement

Civil liberties advocates this week are celebrating the settlement of a free-speech lawsuit tied to a Johnston police detective who was disciplined for speaking to a reporter in 2016.

U.S. District Judge Mary McElroy on Wednesday signed the settlement, mandating that the Johnston Police Department pay now-retired Det. James Brady nearly $500 in lost pay and remove any related disciplinary records from his personnel file. The Police Department must also revoke a media-relations policy that McElroy determined violates the First Amendment.

The terms of the settlement were hailed by free-speech advocates.

“The outcome in this case sends a clear message to officials that sanctioning employees for speaking out on matters of public concern is an abuse of government power and a blatant violation of the First Amendment,” American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown said in a statement.

2.) Parler’s Popularity Plummets As Data Reveals Little Appetite For Returning ‘Free Speech’ App

Parler, the self-styled “free speech” social media app popular with conservatives, made a less-than-triumphant return to Apple’s App Store in May after being forced offline in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, racking up one of its worst months in more than a year and attracting fewer than 4% of the users that flocked to it in the days before it was deplatformed in January.

Around 32,000 users downloaded Parler from Apple’s App Store for the first time since it returned to digital shelves on May 17, according to data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower provided to Forbes.

In terms of attracting new users, it is the platform’s worst month since April 2020, when it was downloaded a total of 8,800 times, excluding months it was removed from the App Store.

While the recent figures do not represent a full month, the first ten days of January saw around 870,000 new users install the app on Apple devices amid an influx of users seeking refuge from perceived conservative censorship on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

3.) Court Rulings Could Chill Video Recording Of Police

Video of George Floyd's death led to nationwide protests and the conviction of a police officer for his murder, but free speech experts worry that two recent court decisions could mean that no one records the next George Floyd — or that they may end up in jail if they do.

The Tenth Circuit ruled in March that Denver police officers are immune from a lawsuit alleging they detained a man and searched his tablet after he video recorded them arresting a suspect. Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal in May found in a similar suit that Boynton Beach police were justified when they arrested a mother recording her son's arrest.

Both decisions sidestepped the issue of whether citizens have a constitutional right to record the police in public, according to experts, who say the courts have generally affirmed such a right. But the rulings, which several of these experts called "outliers," further confuse an already unclear area of the law, and some attorneys worry they could discourage people from recording police misconduct or encourage officers to try and stop those who do press "record." And that could hamper recent efforts at police reform, which have largely been propelled by these videos.

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