Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Free speech

So I new we would be walking into a problem when a call came in this morning about a group protesting at the Tracy Post Office on 9th Street.  An irate caller was complaining that someone had a poster of president Barrack Obama doctored to make him look like Adolph Hitler.

It turns out that a group of Lyndon LaRouche supporters were in town to drum up support for write-in candidate Summer Shields to face Nancy Pelosi for a seat in the 8th Congressional District.  This seemed odd to me as Tracy is in the 11th Congressional District.  They were merely looking for supporters to help in their campaign.  They were told “it was a good area”. 

The sign it self was poster-size print of President Obama’s official portrait.  A “Hitler moustache” had been drawn in.  A crudely drawn impeach comment had been drawn in with a marker. 

Do I find the caricature offensive and tasteless? It seems hard to believe someone would compare the Presidents financial policies to man who killed six million Jews and another six million ethnic minorities while plunging the world into a war that would leave hundreds of thousands dead or maimed.  But the campaign workers have the right to express their opinion about the president however they want, that is their constitutional right under the first amendments right of free speech. 

Just as they have the right their express their free speech I have the right to photograph them.  As they were intentionally trying to draw attention to themselves any right of privacy is thrown away.  You can’t put a sign like that in public and then say I can’t photograph them.  The two men manning the information table didn’t want to talk too much to the press and never asked me not to photograph them but such a request would have fallen on deaf ears anyway.  Step into the public like that and expect the consequences.

Did the photo cast the two men and their campaign in a negative light?  I don’t care, that is their problem for bringing a sign like that out into public view.  Free speech carries responsibilities and a price tag.  I was surprised later to see my photos picked up later that night by a Sacramento television station.  The caricature is a sore subject with many and the story has spread a little more.

The campaigners had told us they were going to be back at the post office today but driving by they were nowhere to be found.  I’m not sure whether they got enough signatures or they decided too much controversy and publicity.  Now I just have to wait for the next sign.

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