The Department of Justice has issued a statement of support of a SoCal community college student's 1st Amendment rights.
Last Fall, 27 year-old Kevin Shaw was passing out copies of the Constitution on the campus of Pierce College in LA's San Fernando Valley. When school administrators found out about it, they forced him to stop distributing the literature since he was not within the borders of the school's "free speech zone."
The university has set up a 616 square-foot isolated square the size of approximately 3 parking spaces, similar to the cordoned off smoking areas found in sports stadiums/arenas. The area is the only place at which school policy tolerates outright freedom of speech.
Furthermore, the zones can only be utilized within a set group of hours. Lack of compliance results in removal from the campus. This policy in particular is being cited as one which directly limits freedom of expression by placing restrictions on spontaneous speech.
It's entirely unfair. It’s arbitrarily applied to silence specific segments of the population..."
- Kevin Shaw
Taking a Stand
Shaw did not go quietly into the night. He filed a lawsuit against Pierce College of the Los Angeles Community College District for violating his First Amendment rights.
Enter the DOJ
To the surprise of all parties, the United States Department of Justice also had a stake in Shaw's claims, releasing a statement entirely in his favor.
A similar case at Georgia Gwinnett College had also brought about investigation by the DOJ, who ultimately described Pierce's policies as having "chilled freedom of expression."
The DOJ statement of support for Shaw comes in the wake of another surprise ruling concerning a different freedom of speech case, this one coming out of Cleveland.
12 individuals have had charges against them dropped for their participation in a demonstration which involved an American flag being burned. The event occurred outside the Republican National Convention last year.
The defendants moved to have the case dismissed on the grounds that they were acting in accordance with Constitutional law, a motion which was granted by Judge Charles L. Patton:
"The government may not prohibit the verbal or nonverbal expression of an idea merely because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable, even when our flag is involved."
-Judge Charles L. Patton
Patton invoked a 1989 US Supreme Court decision which declared flag-burning to be a legally protected act according to the 1st Amendment.
Sessions to the Forefront
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been taking a tough stand against increasing censoring of free speech on college campuses:
"We will enforce federal law, defend free speech and protect students’ free expression from whatever end of the political spectrum it may come." -Jeff Sessions
Sessions went on to reminisce about the university campus, which had once be known as “a place of robust debate,” was now “an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought, a shelter for fragile egos."
Read more over at the Los Angeles Times