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SCOTUS Prefers Free Speech for Corporations, Not People

The free speech rights of American citizens are under attack all across America, but if you’re a corporation, you can have all the say you want.

(Photo: Newtown grafitti / Flickr)

The free speech rights of American citizens are under attack all across America, but if you’re a corporation, you can have all the say you want.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in U.S. v. Apel. The case centers around John Dennis Apel, an antiwar protester who was arrested on a California military base, even though he was in a spot that had been designated for public protests.

Apel went to the Supreme Court arguing that his First Amendment rights had been violated, after he was arrested for protesting in a designated protest area.

However, a majority of the justices argued that Apel’s case was not about a violation of his First Amendment rights.

Justice Scalia went as far as to say that, “You can raise it [the First Amendment], but we don’t have to listen to it.”

The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Because Apel was protesting on a military base, which is not protected under the First Amendment, he’s probably going to lose his case.

But Scalia’s refusal to address Apel’s First Amendment argument is a stark reminder that all across this country, if you’re an American citizen, your right to free speech is under attack.

The free speech rights of Americans were under attack in Oakland, California in October of 2011, when peaceful Occupy Oakland protestors were met with clouds of tear gas and blinding flash bang grenades from Oakland police officers.

Just a month earlier, NYPD officers pepper sprayed a crowd of Occupy Wall Street protestors despite a total lack of violence.

In August of 2012, peaceful protestors at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay were met by hyper-militarized police who looked like they belonged more on the streets of Baghdad than Tampa.

Four years earlier, at the RNC in Minneapolis, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was arrested and charged with “conspiracy to riot” even though she was just reporting.

And just this summer, non-violent protestors at the annual ALEC conference in Chicago were pushed, shoved, and arrested by Chicago police officers.

But while protestors are getting gassed in Oakland and hitting the pavement in Chicago, the free speech rights of corporations are being protected at all costs by police forces across America, and by the Conservative justices on the Supreme Court who gave us the disastrous Citizens United decision.

As long as right-wing corporatists continue to control the Supreme Court, we’ll continue to see protesters being gassed, assaulted, and arrested for no legitimate reason.

Go to, and help show Justice Scalia and his Conservative cohorts that money is not speech, corporations are not people, and that the First Amendment matters.