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You have the right to remain silent

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Martin Niemöller (14 January 1892 – 6 March 1984)

I had noticed that the evenings were a little quieter in downtown Livermore lately. :-)

I did not know why.

Then, I received an email today from Livermore Downtown Inc., a wonderful organization that does a lot of fine work to balance the sometimes conflicting demands of local groups and merchants and to promote the historic and beautiful downtown of Livermore, California.

As a local small businessman, I appreciate your work.

According to the email, it turns out that Livermore had passed an Ordinance that “…would prohibit groups from gathering and demonstrating in the middle of our commercial district, disrupting the atmosphere of shopping and dining.  Unfortunately, the District Attorney’s office has determined that this ordinance is not constitutional and will not hold up in court.”

Ah, those pesky Constitutional Rights…! :-)

I have mentioned before that many California Democrats apparently do not understand the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights (thank you, James Madison!), even though it is only one sentence long (convoluted, but a single sentence). Many Republicans do not understand the 14th Amendment. The Second and Fourth Amendment (post-Patriot Act) have been under particular siege lately, so I was dismayed to hear of a local attack upon the First Amendment.

Coincidentally, a very good friend of mine, who is a gifted artist, recently told me that she enjoys reading my blog, but generally does not agree with some of the politics. I told her, “Good!” That is the nature of a representative democracy that embraces the rapidly-eroding individual rights that the Founding Fathers incorporated into our government.

Fortunately, for all of us, someone uploaded L-O-N-G videos of LIvermore street preaching to YouTube (sure, why not), so that you can form your own opinions. In the first, a long-winded young woman, who apparently knows her law, preaches in downtown Livermore. Her knowledge of law causes me to question her sincerity and true purpose in preaching on the street corner. Was it really to provoke an incident related to First Amendment Rights?

She has a copy of the noise ordinance with her. She seems more like a lawyer :-) or law student, than a sincere Christian preacher. She has a recorder with her and the whole interaction is videotaped by a camera man. Police somehow automatically associated her with the camera man. :-) I wonder why. The fact that ANYONE would bother to film for the length of time that the camera man did, “suggests” association.

One of the interesting aspects of Free Speech is its limitations. You may not yell “Fire!” in a theater. In addition to Free Speech, the First Amendment provides BOTH a freedom of religion and a freedom FROM religion – and the separation of church and state.

As for me, I would sometimes prefer a quiet moment sitting with friends outside of the Panama Red coffee shop. I think that I have a right to that. Personally, I do not like others, who do not know me, to assume things about me that they cannot possibly know, and speak publicly about their misconceptions. :-)

A gentleman in an orange sweatshirt was finally handcuffed in the first video. Crowds applauded his removal from the scene and told him that they’d “…pray for him.”

A word about Livermore Police – they are a hard-working dedicated group, as are most police in California, who perform a very difficult and often thankless job that many others would choose not to do. I have met a number of Livermore Police officers and have been impressed with their courtesy and professionalism. They are not the villains of the video.

The video seems, IMHO (In My Humble Opinion, and yes, I am still ALLOWED to have one!) to be a well-orchestrated example of theater that has almost nothing to do with a proclamation of faith. Just my impression….

In a second video, a person preaching on the street (joined by a second person, in addition to the “coincidental” camera person), seems to be baiting a crowd (NEVER A GOOD IDEA :-) for those of you with a serious interest in self-preservation :-) ).

I am reasonably certain that those who came downtown for a quiet night out (THEIR  right) were disappointed.

Personally, I got enough psychodrama when I worked for large corporations. :-) Some others have personalities that like to promote confrontations and to make enemies (one of my neighbors is like that), because that is how they learn. Sometimes, it is merely how they entertain themselves.

My personal opinion is that the strongly religious can do more good working with the sick and the poor than they can preaching loudly on the street. Just a thought….

Evelyn Beatrice Hall said:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Sometimes, it is not easy to defend the rights of people with whom we disagree, whether they be the makers of violent video games, or people who bring out some “primal urge” to use a stun gun (or, as in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a Vulcan neck pinch). :-)

However, twentieth century German history taught some of us that, if we do not defend those rights, who will speak out when they come for us?

-Bill at

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