California Venues Shut Down ‘America First’ Rally, Raising First Amendment Concerns
The city of Anaheim, California, canceled an “America First” rally to be led by Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Majorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on Saturday, raising concerns that it is violating the First Amendment.
A city spokesman cited “values” as the reason for canceling the rally, which violates the long-established constitutional principle that the government must be content-neutral with regard to any regulations applied to speech and assembly.
“A planned America First rally at a private venue in our city is cancelled,” Mike Lyster, spokesman for the city of Anaheim said on Twitter. “The city of Anaheim shared public safety concerns with the operator, and those concerns are shared by the operator.”
“As a city we respect free speech but also have a duty to call out speech that does note reflect our city and its values,” Lyster said.
Instead, Gaetz and Greene held a smaller protest in front of Riverside City Hall.
The American Civil Liberties Union notes (emphasis removed):
Two fundamental principles come into play whenever a court must decide a case involving freedom of expression. The first is “content neutrality”– the government cannot limit expression just because any listener, or even the majority of a community, is offended by its content.
“The second principle is that expression may be restricted only if it will clearly cause direct and imminent harm to an important societal interest. The classic example is falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater and causing a stampede. Even then, the speech may be silenced or punished only if there is no other way to avert the harm.
“They may try to shutdown our venues, but we will take this fight to them in the courts, in the halls of Congress and if necessary, in the streets,” Gaetz said in the CBS report.