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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, July 19, 2021

#FREESPEECH in the News July 19, 2020

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

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. Man Who Harassed Officers Was Exercising Free Speech, Judge Rules

An appellate judge on Thursday dismissed disorderly conduct charges against a man who stood outside a police garage in Wisconsin and insulted off-duty officers, saying he was exercising his free speech rights.

According to court documents, Aaron Oleston, now 41, stood outside the police station garage in Janesville for two days in August 2018 and hurled profanity-laced insults at officers as they came and went, calling them Nazis, terrorists and thugs. He stood next to an officer’s car and videotaped him as he tried to leave. He also stuck his camera in front of another officer’s car as that officer tried to leave.

A jury in 2019 found Oleston guilty of five counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct and acquitted him on one count of obstructing an officer. He argued on appeal that his actions were protected under the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee.

2. Two Hanford planning commissioners resign after free speech controversy

Although the city of Hanford’s attempts to silence an outspoken planning commission member may be interpreted as a violation of his free speech, the city attorney Ty Mizote said Jason Kemp Van Ee was reprimanded for inaccurate and possibly biased statements on social media.

Jason Kemp Van Ee decided to resign without taking legal action. Though he had reached out to a First Amendment lawyer he did not explain why he did not pursue litigation.

In sympathy, Roger Snow also resigned from the planning commission which is regarded by some as the city’s most important commission.

3. 'Uncensorable' Freedom Phone raises a host of security questions

A new "free speech and privacy first" phone unveiled this week is raising red flags, with one report suggesting it's just a rebranding of a budget Chinese phone.

The $500 Freedom Phone was launched Wednesday by Erik Finman, a self-proclaimed "bitcoin millionaire," as an alternative to popular devices from Google, Apple and other Big Tech companies. The website for the Freedom Phone is void of the usual technical specs but says the gadget works with all major US carriers and is supported by an "uncensored" app store.

The phone apparently runs FreedomOS, an operating system that Finman said in a tweet was "our own blend of AOSP, LineageOS, GrapheneOS, and our personal development as well." The three operating systems are based on Google's Android OS, which powers almost nine out of 10 smartphones in the world.

Though people might understandably be drawn to a phone that prioritizes privacy and free speech, multiple reports have raised security concerns and questioned whether the Freedom Phone is being upfront with customers.

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