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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, January 24, 2022

#FREESPEECH in the News Jan. 24, 2022

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

#FREESPEECH in the News Jan. 24, 2022

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.) Federal judge sides with UF professors in free speech dispute

A federal judge has sided with three University of Florida political science professors, giving them a preliminary win in their fight to provide expert witness testimony in a lawsuit challenging a new state election law that starts in less than two weeks.

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted them a preliminary injunction on Friday in a 74-page order in which he cites the removal of a tower at the University of Hong Kong known as the "Pillar of Shame" commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

"In many ways, the Pillar’s demise was emblematic of the demise of academic freedom in Hong Kong," Walker said, tying it to the impact of UF's conflict of interest policy on the academic freedom of its own faculty.

2.) China’s threat to ‘punish’ Olympic athletes for free speech ‘very concerning’, Australia says

Potential restrictions on athletes’ speech at the Beijing Winter Olympics are “very concerning”, Australia’s sports minister, Richard Colbeck, has said after China warned of “punishment” for political comments at next month’s Games. Colbeck said the Australian government opposed China’s advisory, and maintained athletes had the right to free speech on the Olympic stage.

“The International Olympics Committee has made it clear that all athletes have the right to political opinions and the freedom to express them including through social media and media interviews,” Colbeck said in comments to the Sydney Morning Herald. Yang Shu, the deputy director of international relations for the Beijing organising committee, told a press conference on Tuesday that “dedicated departments” would investigate athletes’ comments at the Games.

“Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit I’m sure will be protected,” Yang said. “Any behaviour or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.”

3.) Buckhead City Committee sues Atlanta and mayor for allegedly violating free-speech rights with code citations

The Buckhead City Committee has sued the City of Atlanta and Mayor Andre Dickens for allegedly trying to suppress cityhood advocates’ free-speech rights by selectively issuing code violations for signs and parking at its headquarters.

“This suit challenges a variety of improper actions taken by the City of Atlanta in an attempt to silence the Buckhead City Committee,” said E. Adam Webb, an attorney for the BCC. “It is no secret that City of Atlanta leaders do not want Buckhead citizens to have a vote on their future. They must not, however, be allowed to use illegal and unconstitutional methods to control the marketplace of ideas.”

Filed Jan. 20 in federal court, the lawsuit seeks court injunctions preventing further City actions as well as “monetary damages.”

The City had no immediate comment, with spokesperson Michael Smith saying the City had not been served with any complaint. The lawsuit is based on a recent complaint-spurred controversy about the legality of a large sign on the BCC’s headquarters at 3002 Peachtree Road early this month, as well as a Jan. 13 appearance by an inspector who allegedly demanded that the parking lot have clearly marked spaces and area for a van for people with disabilities.

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