Next stop: Democracy zones?

By now you're familiar with the "free speech zones," fenced-off areas where protesters can protest far from the action, set up for party conventions and presidential tours (can you imagine renderings of whistle stop tours with cordoned-off opponents in the distance?).

The constitutionality of these contrivances was recently challenged.

Chris Kromm writes:

Four years ago, when President Bush came to Columbia, SC to whip up support for the Iraq war, Bursey -- a leader of the South Carolina Progressive Network -- inserted himself into the pro-Bush crowd with a sign saying "No more war for oil, don't invade Iraq."
For these unthinkable sentiments, Bursey was commanded to retreat to an Orwellian-named "free speech zone" or be charged with trespassing. As Bursey relates, "I told the police that I was in a free speech zone called the United States of America."
The charges were dismissed but the Secret Service used the "Threats to President" charge -- a first -- and convicted Bursey. His fine was $500. Come on. If there were really a threat to the president are we to believe that the offender would receive a nominal fine? This is a strictly punitive measure designed to curtail free speech; or: shut up. Bursey refused to pay but the Supreme Court upheld the decision by refusing to hear the case.

It's no exaggeration to say the Supreme Court's decision to let the conviction stand sets a dangerous precedent. A Secret Service official in South Carolina, Neal Dolan, admitted as much in Charleston last year when he declared that "If Bursey's prosecution holds, we have another dozen cases" across the country.

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