When it comes to civil liberties, the right of free speech is among the most important. Our democratic government depends upon political discourse and the open airing of differing political viewpoints.
The Ninth Circuit recently reaffirmed these important principles in the case of Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, which arose out of a 2004 demonstration in Oregon by anti-Bush protesters. The case is only in the initial pleading stages but the Ninth Circuit found that the protesters had stated a claim (and can proceed with their lawsuit) for viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.
The anti-Bush protesters sued Secret Service agents after the agents moved them farther away from the President than a group of pro-Bush demonstrators.
Such a maneuver can constitute impermissible viewpoint discrimination because it means the President will hear chants and ideas of supporters but not detractors.
The case also involved excessive force and pepper spray police brutality, as local police officers used pepper spray police brutality to get the anti-Bush protesters to move.
Although the Court found the police conduct at issue constituted pepper spray police brutality, in this case the protesters sued the wrong cops. The protesters went after the higher-ups in the police agencies for being the moving force behind the pepper spray police brutality but didn't put enough facts in the complaint to back up that conclusion.
A lower court will now decide whether to allow the protesters to amend their claim to fix the problem.