From The Rutherford Institute:
John Whitehead Appears on FOX News’ ‘Taking Liberties,’ 9:20 AM EST to Discuss Case of Man Arrested for Wearing Sign on Plaza in Front of Supreme Court
WASHINGTON, DC — John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, will appear on FOX News Channel’s “Taking Liberties” segment this morning at 9:20 am, EST, to discuss the case of a 45-year-old African-American man who was arrested in January 2011 while standing silently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building wearing a sign voicing his concerns about the government’s disparate treatment of African-Americans and Hispanics. The Rutherford Institute filed a free speech lawsuit in January 2012 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Harold Hodge, challenging the constitutionality of a federal law that makes it unlawful to display any flag, banner or device designed to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement while on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court. In asking that the Marshal of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Chief of Police for the District of Columbia be enjoined from enforcing 40 U.S.C. § 6135, Institute attorneys assert that the statute is vague, overbroad and invalid as applied to the kind of peaceful protest engaged in by Hodge.
On a cold, snowy day in January, Harold Hodge exercised his right to free speech by standing silently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court while wearing a sign expressing his views about the government’s treatment of minorities,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “If the First Amendment doesn’t protect this man’s right to stand approximately 100 feet from the doors of the Supreme Court and exercise his right to free speech—and silent speech, at that—it won’t protect anyone else’s rights.”
On January 28, 2011, Harold Hodge quietly and peacefully stood in the plaza area near the steps leading to the United States Supreme Court Building, wearing a 3’ X 2’ sign around his neck that proclaimed: “The U.S. Gov. Allows Police To Illegally Murder And Brutalize African Americans And Hispanic People.” The plaza is a place where the public is allowed to gather and converse and is in all relevant respects like a public square or park, places where citizens have by long-tradition been allowed to meet and express their views on matters of public interest and importance. However, after several minutes, Hodge was approached by a police officer who informed him that he was violating the law and issued him three warnings to leave the Supreme Court plaza. Hodge refused and was handcuffed and placed under arrest for violating 40 U.S.C. § 6135. Hodge was then taken to a holding cell within the Supreme Court building. Thereafter, he was transported to U.S. Capitol Police Headquarters where he was booked and given a citation. The charge was dismissed in September 2011 after Hodge complied with an agreement to stay away from the Supreme Court building and grounds for six months.
In asking the U.S. District Court to declare 40 U.S.C. § 6135 unconstitutionally vague and overbroad in violation of the First Amendment, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the plaza of the United States Supreme Court building is a public forum, indistinguishable in any relevant respect from the sidewalks bordering the Supreme Court grounds or from a public square or park. Institute attorneys are also seeking a declaration of Hodge’s First Amendment right to engage in peaceful, non-disruptive political speech on the plaza of the Supreme Court building.