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Copyright (c) 2005 Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey
Rutgers Law Review

NOTE: Protesting the President: Free Speech Zones and the First Amendment

Fall, 2005

Rutgers Law Review

58 Rutgers L. Rev. 245


Michael J. Hampson*


I. Introduction
The right of the people to criticize the government is a fundamental tenet of American democracy. 1 As Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once wrote, the United States has "a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials." 2 Indeed, a powerful tradition of political dissent has evolved over the course of American history. 3

The government's reaction to the recent terrorist attacks on the American homeland, however, has impacted the rights of individuals wishing to publicly criticize the government. 4 One example of how the government has redacted civil liberties since September 11, 2001, is the United States Secret Service's practice of placing political protesters into "free speech zones" at presidential appearances. 5 The Secret Service has adopted a procedure of removing political protesters from the site where the President is making a public appearance, and instead confining the protesters in enclosed areas that are out-of-sight of the President and the news media. 6 At the same time, members of the public expressing support for the government have been permitted to remain close to the President. 7

This note argues that the practice of moving political protesters into free speech zones at presidential appearances is an unconstitutional restriction on free expression. Such a procedure violates the protesters' First Amendment rights because it is not narrowly tailored ...
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