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  1. #1
    TXCharlie's Avatar
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    Question Could You Arrest the Westoro Idiots in Your State?

    Most people here know I'm only a former Texas Reserve Police Officer, but I believe strongly that the Westboro Baptist Church idiots could definitely be arrested in Texas for Disorderly Conduct, for Disrupting a Meeting or Procession, possibly even Harassment.

    Of course, we have a new law against Picketing a Funeral, but it is very watered down - It only establishes a 1000 ft buffer zone from the church (which does not protect the procession, and as far as I can tell, the Westboro idiots have so far obeyed 1000 ft buffer zones anyway, so that law has no effect, really).

    For the life of me though, I don't know why they have not been arrested every time they picket a Texas funeral on the OLD laws. I will explain:

    The Supreme Court ruling by its own admission is fairly narrow, and invited further laws to be considered on the matter, since it was a civil case whose facts were not ideal for a positive ruling,

    For example, it did not address whether or not the protesters can be arrested for subjecting the family to written or verbal abuse and obscenity, since the family never even saw the picketers and could not read their signs, but our current Disorderly Conduct, Disrupting a meeting or procession, and Harassment laws do address those issues I think, if the family were to hear the chants and read the signs.

    It seems like Disorderly Conduct is a slam-dunk, because it covers "abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language in a public place, and the language by its very utterance tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace". Since it only requires the offense to be knowingly abusive, it doesn't require any intent to harm the family. Westboro's hateful accusations are certainly provoking, abusive and hurtful, so it is a breach of the peace in my mind. They definitely committed the abuse knowingly, since they have been notified many times in TV interviews, shouts and letters that they are causing emotional distress to family members, who are a captive audience while the funeral is in progress.

    Then look at Disrupting a Meeting or Procession - On its face, it is obvious that any family member or friend in the funeral procession would be severely disturbed by the picketers, which I would call disruption. It requires "with intent to prevent or disrupt a lawful meeting, procession, or gathering, ... interferes with the meeting, procession, or gathering by ,,, verbal utterance". Well, yes they reportedly did make verbal utterances, but in this case I don't think the family heard it over the PGR's motorcycles, which makes it a bad case to take to the Supreme Court. If the family had heard the picketers and they were asked to leave and didn't, that might imply intent, seems to me, as do their TV interviews. Either that, or they are insane because they can't tell right from wrong.

    The last law which may apply is Harassment. It requires electronic or written communication, but last time I checked, picket signs are written. It requires only a comment that is "obscene", which can be just a description of a sexual act. In the Supreme Court decision, note that at least one sign depicted two men engaged in sex, and the other placards certainly set the context of that pictograph. I would let the DA, Judge, and Jury decide whether that is a written "description of a sexual act", but even though it's a bit of a stretch, it could certainly be an additional charge for the arrest even though it may not fly as a primary charge.

    The parents of the soldier have rights that need to be protected too, which after all, is the purpose of all criminal laws.

    The Supreme Court all but admitted the fact that if the family in the funeral are a captive audience and not public figures, both would normally tilt the balance toward the family's rights not to be verbally abused, and away from the picketer's 1st Amendment rights - After all, the funeral attendees cannot leave the scene unless they cancel the funeral, which no one expects them to do.

    However, the Supreme Court said that they were prevented from applying the Captive Audience rule only because the family did not actually see what the protester's signs said even though they were 200 feet away at one point, because people, perhaps the Patriot Guard Riders, were blocking the view. They only found out what the signs said when they saw the TV news reports that night. The Supreme Court opinion, as I read it, left the door wide open to criminal conviction, should the facts of the case support a Captive Audience at the time that the protest was happening.

    The Supreme Court also mentioned that In KKK demonstrations, Black Panther rallies and the like, the audience is not captive, and free to leave the area if they are offended, after all. They seemed to imply that's the main reason that the speech is protected, no matter how much the spectators are offended. But it still seems to me that the Disorderly Conduct law might apply, depending on whether the KKK or Black Panthers were shouting abusive language, or waving obscene signs that could be defined as Harassment, but from what I've seen, their conduct isn't abusive like Westboro's signs are.

    The offenses I mentioned probably wouldn't result in jail time, but as I see it, they are certainly arrestable offenses like this in Texas, and it can certainly be argued that an arrest was necessary as opposed to a ticket, warning, or delayed arrest warrant, so that a possible source of violence can be defused by removing one party from the area.

    The arrests would at least separate the parties from each other for a few hours, which might wind up protecting the protesters more than the family if someone snaps. Often, separating the parties temporarily is all a police officer can hope to do.

    Am I missing something here, even in Texas? I think they've already been to Texas a few times, with no resulting arrests. I suspect it's just fear of litigation more than a question of justification, since after all, most of the Westboro picketers are lawyers from what I hear. That means they take turns defending each other in court at no charge, which puts them at a definite financial advantage over the city.

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  2. #2
    MacLean's Avatar
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    I've observed a tendency to try and criminalize being an asshole in some of the southern states.

    I think it's a constitutional disaster waiting to happen. Every time one of us tries to push the limits, the courts whack us back five steps.

    There is already a solution to the Westboro Baptists, and they are called the Patriot Guard. If you feel the burning need to "do something" either get on a bike or donate.
    I'm your huckleberry...

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  3. #3
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    If you read the whole decision by the USSC you would see why you would get whacked once the case goes to trial. Agree with Mac on this one.

    http://bluelinelawyer.com/2011/03/06...sson-for-leos/

  4. #4
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    As far as I understand it, "abusive, obscene, vulgar" and "indecent" language are protected speech. That's the "downside" to all these freedoms we have, it allows people to be assholes.

    We have an "obscene language" ordinance in my city, and it has almost the exact same language as your disorderly conduct law. A partner of mine wrote someone for obscene language for screaming the "F" word up and down the street one night. The citation was dismissed at the initial hearing by the pros. atty due to 1st amendment issues.


    I do agree with Mac. What they're doing isn't illegal. It just makes them a bunch of assholes.
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  5. #5
    TXCharlie's Avatar
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    Yeah I guess it would be a huge gamble to arrest them and risk a false arrest lawsuit...

    The Supreme Court just seemed to be inviting a "Captive Audience" case, because they kept giving reasons why this wasn't one...

    Plus, they implied that there was case history that said a "Captive Audience" could tilt it away from being protected speach - so it almost sounded to me like if the procession had seen the placards as they passed by, that could be significant.

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  6. #6
    TXCharlie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmur5074 View Post
    We have an "obscene language" ordinance in my city, and it has almost the exact same language as your disorderly conduct law. A partner of mine wrote someone for obscene language for screaming the "F" word up and down the street one night. The citation was dismissed at the initial hearing by the pros. atty due to 1st amendment issues.
    Oh, I've seen DC applied sucessfully several times, once in a Domestic - It gave the officers I was doing a ride-along with a good reason to arrest him and separate them for the night.

    Since the neighbor was in her yard and heard all the cussing, the officer asked her if she was offended and if so, she could file a Disorderly Conduct Complaint so we could arrest him. She couldn't sign the paper fast enough. Not sure whatever happened to that case.

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  7. #7
    MacLean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXCharlie View Post
    Oh, I've seen DC applied sucessfully several times, once in a Domestic - It gave the officers I was doing a ride-along with a good reason to arrest him and separate them for the night.

    Since the neighbor was in her yard and heard all the cussing, the officer asked her if she was offended and if so, she could file a Disorderly Conduct Complaint so we could arrest him. She couldn't sign the paper fast enough. Not sure whatever happened to that case.
    That's exactly what I was talking about.

    If you need to start making up reasons to arrest someone, you lose.

    It may offend your delicate sensibilities, but I can stand in my yard and yell the F word all day long.

    You can raise the noise issue after dark.
    I'm your huckleberry...

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  8. #8
    jmur5074's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLean View Post
    That's exactly what I was talking about.

    If you need to start making up reasons to arrest someone, you lose.

    It may offend your delicate sensibilities, but I can stand in my yard and yell the F word all day long.

    You can raise the noise issue after dark.

    But when addressing it as a night time/noise complaint type issue, is the fact that they're making exessively loud noise the issue, or the noise they're making?

    If I stand out in my yard at midnight screaming "kittens" at the top of my lungs, I'd say that's the same as screaming the "F" word in my yard at midnight.

    We're on the same page that, in that case, it's the noise that's illegal, not the speech, right?
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

    "The Wicked Flee When No Man Pursueth: But The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion".

    We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

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  9. #9
    Ballbuster374 is offline Rookie
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    i got to personally see two secret service agents DESTROY a westboro idiot!!! it was at the 2008 National fallen firefightersw memorial service in bethesda MD. they were all there pickiting all of my fallen brothers. I was there as a member of the pipe band. it was hot and the kilt and uniform was sweltering. i walked over to the water cooler, to get a drink. the secret service was there as was then pres bush speaking about public safety LODD. off to my left i see two secret service agents in full sprint running toward me, almost shitting my kilt trying to figure out what i had done, they run past my fearfull quivering behind, and twenty yards to my right tackle and take the f**k down this westboro baptist picketter. as i am watching i see elbows and knees and then an all blacked out suburban pulls up and then its allllll gone!!! it was great. turns out, he had sprinted past the uniformed agents who were searching everyone, yelled "bomb" and then got dealt with. i truly thought they were gonna take me out!!!! guess thats what a major hangover and bagpiping will do to ya!

  10. #10
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    In Colorado we had to keep an eye on these weenies what with Ft. Carson being so close. We watched everything to ensure that everyone was safe and that no one was disobeying the law. I don't like them, I don't agree with them and, in my opinion only, they are trying to get someone to break the law so they can generate money through suits. The biggest opponent to the WBBC is the Patriot Guard. Support them and you are helping to stop the WBBC.
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  11. #11
    lewisipso's Avatar
    lewisipso is offline Injustice/Indifference/In God we trust
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    SUBPART C. OFFENSES AFFECTING THE

    GENERAL PEACE AND ORDER

    §103. Disturbing the peace

    A. Disturbing the peace is the doing of any of the following in such manner as would foreseeably disturb or alarm the public:

    (1) Engaging in a fistic encounter; or

    (2) Addressing any offensive, derisive, or annoying words to any other person who is lawfully in any street, or other public place; or call him by any offensive or derisive name, or make any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with the intent to deride, offend, or annoy him, or to prevent him from pursuing his lawful business, occupation, or duty; or

    (3) Appearing in an intoxicated condition; or

    (4) Engaging in any act in a violent and tumultuous manner by any three or more persons; or

    (5) Holding of an unlawful assembly; or

    (6) Interruption of any lawful assembly of people; or

    (7) Intentionally engaging in any act or any utterance, gesture, or display designed to disrupt a funeral, funeral home viewing, funeral procession, wake, memorial service, or burial of a deceased person.

    (8) Intentionally blocking, impeding, inhibiting, or in any other manner obstructing or interfering with access into or from any building or parking lot of a building in which a funeral, wake, memorial service, or burial is being conducted, or any burial plot or the parking lot of the cemetery in which a funeral, wake, memorial service, or burial is being conducted.

    B.(1) Whoever commits the crime of disturbing the peace shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than ninety days, or both.

    (2) Whoever commits the crime of disturbing the peace as provided in Paragraphs (A)(7) and (8) of this Section shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.

    Amended by Acts 1960, No. 70, §1; Acts 1963, No. 93, §1; Acts 1968, No. 647, §1; Acts 1979, No. 222, §1; Acts 2006, No. 805, §1.
    Do not war for peace. If you must war, war for justice. For without justice there is no peace. -me

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmur5074 View Post
    But when addressing it as a night time/noise complaint type issue, is the fact that they're making exessively loud noise the issue, or the noise they're making?

    If I stand out in my yard at midnight screaming "kittens" at the top of my lungs, I'd say that's the same as screaming the "F" word in my yard at midnight.

    We're on the same page that, in that case, it's the noise that's illegal, not the speech, right?
    Righto.
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  13. #13
    MacLean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lewisipso View Post
    SUBPART C. OFFENSES AFFECTING THE

    GENERAL PEACE AND ORDER

    §103. Disturbing the peace
    Yup, I know about the code.

    Criminalizing being an asshole is probably not constitutional.
    I'm your huckleberry...

    Quemadmoeum gladis nemeinum occidit, occidentus telum est!

    You can be the weapon, and the gun in your hand is a tool - or the gun is a weapon and you are the tool.


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    but every girl I found was either one way or the other...



  14. #14
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    Then it should be addressed for being in the code in the first place. Until it is I still invite all funerals to be held here. I'll work them for free.
    Do not war for peace. If you must war, war for justice. For without justice there is no peace. -me

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  15. #15
    berserk is offline The reason they do psych evals
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLean View Post
    Yup, I know about the code.

    Criminalizing being an asshole is probably not constitutional.
    I dunno, ideally every law comes down to criminalize being an asshole. It's just that there is a balance to be struck so that the laws don't become worse than the assholes.

    With the code lew mentioned, I don't really see any problem as long as it's content neutral. The way the law is written, it would be just as illegal to disrupt a funeral by screaming "We're sorry for your loss," or "Support the troops" as it would to scream "God hates fags."

    The only difference is that people who would want to say the first two options are less likely to be assholes about it, and so they're less likely to violate the law. The law can't regulate the message, but it can regulate the delivery of the message so that it doesn't interfere with other people's rights.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXCharlie View Post
    Yeah I guess it would be a huge gamble to arrest them and risk a false arrest lawsuit...
    Maybe I'm misunderstanding why you mentioned a false arrest lawsuit. But if LE arrests someone based on a law that may or may not be constitutional, even if it is ruled unconstitutional at a later time, wouldn't they be protected from a lawsuit?
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  17. #17
    MacLean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 213th View Post
    Maybe I'm misunderstanding why you mentioned a false arrest lawsuit. But if LE arrests someone based on a law that may or may not be constitutional, even if it is ruled unconstitutional at a later time, wouldn't they be protected from a lawsuit?
    Making an arrest for a charge you know won't stick or is flat unconstitutional could expose you to a violation of civil rights lawsuit.

    The days of "you won't beat the ride" are over.
    I'm your huckleberry...

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    You can be the weapon, and the gun in your hand is a tool - or the gun is a weapon and you are the tool.


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    Great debate! I'm glad my blog post on Blue Line Lawyer added to the mix. The US was founded on the freedoms inherent in the First Amendment so the USSC is appropriately protective of the rights protected by it.

    I'm curious to see how the state and federal laws will stand up to scrutiny.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLean View Post
    It may offend your delicate sensibilities, but I can stand in my yard and yell the F word all day long.

    Maybe there, but here that word had better be Frankfurter if two or more individuals not to include LE are within earshot or it'd be a MM Disorderly Conduct or M4 after a warning to cease.
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  20. #20
    jmur5074's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pudge View Post
    Maybe there, but here that word had better be Frankfurter if two or more individuals not to include LE are within earshot or it'd be a MM Disorderly Conduct or M4 after a warning to cease.
    Has that been charged anytime recently? And was it contested?
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