Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Arguing with the Amplified Dude

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) This Jan. 7, 2006 photo shows one of the preachers and a woman passerby shouting at each other. She said he was “going to hell” and was touting her church, while he was calling her minister a "slick nigger." She, however, was shouted down because the preacher had the advantage of using the amplifier. I never saw him offer her the microphone. When someone yells into the microphone, the amplifier becomes very loud and the entire corner is boisterous with people yelling and screaming. Quite a noisy--and interesting--scene indeed. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Here is a great paragraph from the 1949 U.S. Supreme Court decision KOVACS v. COOPER, which found that a municipal ban on the use of any sound system emitting "loud and raucous" noises on public streets did NOT violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. It was written by Justice Robert Jackson to explain his concurring opinion:
“I join the judgment sustaining the Trenton ordinance because I believe that operation of mechanical sound-amplifying devices conflicts with quiet enjoyment of home and park and with safe and legitimate use of street and market place, and that it is constitutionally subject to regulation or prohibition by the state or municipal authority. No violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by reason of infringement of free speech arises unless such regulation or prohibition undertakes to censor the contents of the broadcasting. Freedom of speech for Kovacs does not, in my view, include freedom to use sound amplifiers to drown out the natural speech of others.”
Have no fear of treading on first amendment rights, my dear D.C. City Council. There is a supreme precedent.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, let me say that I don't remember all that much 1st Amendment stuff from Law School but I certainly remember that the 1st Amendment is not absolute. Free speech has limits. The speech must be time and place appropriate. I would argue that the Saturday scream-fest is neither. Free speech can also be stopped if it is obscene. I would argue that calling someone's pastor a "slick nigger" is obscene (and potentially dangerous). Of course, none of this means squat because most people have become complacent with these guys. Most people expect to see these folk every Saturdays and simply tolerate it. Consequently, public officials have been complacent as well. To illustrate my point, picture this: In place of the preachers, picture the KKK, decked out on their funny little outfits, preaching their amp at the corner of 8th and H. The public outcry would be tremendous and I strongly suspect that that public officials would be a lot more responsive. My long-winded point is this. These guys are obscene, hateful, racist, loud and we should be outraged by their presence. This is one of those situations where loudly proclaiming our outrage may be beneficial. This blog is a great step toward that goal. Thanks for putting it up

10:05 AM  

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