Showing posts with label protest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label protest. Show all posts

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Student media combat criminalization of speech

The criminalization of journalism is the worry at the heart of the Julian Assange case, as a UK court mulls the possibility of his extradition to the United States to face Espionage Act charges, essentially for publishing truthful information that he lawfully obtained (more).

Today is Student Press Freedom Day, a day to recognize the important First Amendment rights and vital Fourth Estate function of journalists in schools, colleges, and universities. 

Speech on college campuses, if more in a protest vein than a journalistic vein, has seen lately a wave of efforts at criminalization. Charges might not be on the scale of the federal Espionage Act. But the deployment of criminal law in the suppression of speech is bad news at any level.

Student journalism came face to face with the criminalization of protest speech recently at Northwestern University.

The Intercept reported on February 5 that students at Northwestern University had embodied their pro-Palestinian protest in a parody of The Daily Northwestern newspaper. The parody was regarded by other students and members of the community as offensive and antisemitic.

The newspaper publisher—a nonprofit comprising alumni, faculty, staff, and students, and distinct by design from the student editorial board—complained to police. And when the perpetrators were identified, prosecutors charged them with "theft of advertising."

"The little-known statute appears to only exist in Illinois and California, where it was originally passed to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from distributing recruitment materials in newspapers, The Intercept reported. "The statute makes it illegal to insert an 'unauthorized advertisement in a newspaper or periodical.' The students, both of whom are Black, now face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine."

The Daily Northwestern published an editorial demanding that charges be dropped. The publishing entity and prosecutors capitulated, Seth Stern recounted for the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Stern lauded the student editors, and I agree. They didn't like their nameplate being appropriated by an offensive partisan protest. But that wasn't the point. Stern explained:

After all, newspapers are often the victims of the same kind of overreach the students are facing. Police in Marion, Kansas, raided the Marion County Record last August, purportedly to investigate whether reporters somehow committed identity theft by confirming a news tip on a government website. In October, authorities charged a reporter and publisher in Alabama with violating a grand jury secrecy law—plainly inapplicable to journalists—by reporting on a criminal investigation of a local school board. Six months before that, an Arizona state senator got a restraining order against a reporter for knocking on her door.

There’s more. A citizen journalist in Texas is hoping to go to the Supreme Court with her lawsuit over an arrest for violating an archaic law against soliciting “nonpublic information.” The City of Los Angeles last week sued a journalist for publishing information that the city itself gave him. And the mayor of Calumet City, Illinois, had citations issued to a journalist in October for asking public employees too many questions. The list, unfortunately, goes on and on.

There are cases in which I will go to bat for criminal law enforcement against protest activity. Protestors don't have a right to trespass on private property after being asked to leave peaceably, which seems to have happened at Brown University. And they don't have a right to cause damage or to put other people in harm's way.

First Amendment doctrine is not perfect, but it has plenty of experience drawing this line. What's worrisome about the latest incidents of speech criminalization is that we seem to have to be re-litigating some easy questions.

When I was an intern at the Student Press Law Center many moons ago, there were five statutes in the United States protecting student media freedom. Today there are 17. Read more about the steady but sure advance of student media freedom at the SPLC and how you can recognize student media freedom at Student Press Freedom Day.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Assange Defense Boston rallies at State House

The Boston Committee of Assange Defense rallied today at the Massachusetts State House.

At the rally today, I spoke about my experience with freedom-of-information law and read parts of a letter from U.S. law professors to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. The letter asks the U.S. Department of Justice to drop Espionage Act charges against Assange and abandon the request for his extradition from the UK. 

Freedom of the Press Foundation has more on the letter. My comments were based on, and the text of the letter can be found in, my February 16, 2024, post, "Me and Julian Assange."

The High Court in London heard arguments today that Assange should have a right to appeal to the courts over his extradition, which the British government has approved. Read more about today's proceeding from Jill Lawless at AP News. The case continues in the High Court tomorrow.  Protestors crowded on the street outside the London courthouse today.

Photos and videos by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

The sun shines at the Massachusetts State House.












The group sets up.











The crowd grows.












Committee organizer Susan McLucas introduces the cause.












Victor Wallace speaks.












A letter in support is read from U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).













A speaker decries government secrecy. The s***-word might have been used.













A woman speaks to the intolerable cruelty of U.S. federal prisons.












Committee organizer Paula Iasella says that Assange is hardly alone in aggressive national security accountability, citing John Young's Cryptome.














Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Police reform shines light on disciplinary records

CC0 Pixabay via picryl
A favorable reform to follow the police protest movement of recent years, stemming in particular from the killing of George Floyd, has been transparency around police disciplinary dispositions.

There is room for disagreement over what police reform should look like. I'm of the opinion that it costs society more to have police managing economic and social problems, such as homelessness and mental health, than it would cost to tackle those problems directly with appropriately trained personnel. I wouldn't "defund" police per se, but I would allocate public resources in efficient proportion to the problems they're supposed to remedy. We might not need as much prison infrastructure if we spent smarter on education, job training, and recreation.

Regardless of where one comes down on such questions, there is no down-side to transparency around police discipline. Police unions have cried privacy, a legitimate interest, especially in the early stages of allegation and investigation. But when official disciplinary action results, privacy should yield to accountability. 

Freedom-of-information (FOI) law is well experienced at balancing personnel-record access with personal-privacy exemption. Multistate FOI norms establish the flexible principle that a public official's power and authority presses down on the access side. Because police have state power to deprive persons of liberty and even life, privacy must yield to access more readily than it might for other public employees.

In September 2023, Stateline, citing the National Conference on State Legislatures, reported that "[b]etween May 2020 and April 2023, lawmakers in nearly every state and [D.C.] introduced almost 500 bills addressing police investigations and discipline, including providing access to disciplinary records." Sixty-five enacted bills then included transparency measures in California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York.

The Massachusetts effort has come to fruition in online publication of a remarkable data set. Legislation in 2020 created the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission. On the POST Commission website, one can download a database of 4,570 law enforcement disciplinary dispositions going back 30 years. There is a form to request correction of errors. The database, at the time of this writing last updated December 22, 2023, can be downloaded in a table by officer last name or by law enforcement agency, or in a CSV file of raw data.

The data are compelling. There are plenty of minor matters that can be taken at face value. For example, one Springfield police officer was ordered to "Retraining" for "Improper firearm usage or storage." I don't see that as impugning the officer, rather as an appropriately modest corrective and a positive for Springfield police. Many dispositions similarly suggest a minor matter and proportional response, for example, "Written Warning or Letter of Counseling" for "conduct unbecoming"/"Neglect of Duty."

Then there are serious matters. The data indicate termination of a police officer after multiple incidents in 2021, including "DRINKING ON DUTY, PRESCRIPTION PILL ABUSE, AND MARIJUANA USE," as well as "POSING IN A HITLER SALUTE." Again, it's a credit to the police department involved that the officer is no longer employed there. Imagine if such disciplinary matters were secreted in the interest of personal privacy, and there were not a terminal disposition.

The future of the POST Commission is to be determined. It's being buffeted by forces in both directions. Apropos of my observation above, transparency is not a cure-all and does not remedy the problem of police being charged with responsibility for social issues beyond the purview of criminal justice.

Lisa Thurau of the Cambridge-based Strategies for Youth told GBH in May 2023 that clarity is still needed around the role and authority of police in interacting with students in schools. Correspondingly, she worried whether the POST Commission, whose membership includes a chaplain and a social worker, is adequately funded to fulfill its broad mandate, which includes police training on deescalation.

Pushing the other way, the POST Commission was sued in 2022, GBH reported, by police unions and associations that alleged, ironically, secret rule-making in violation of state open meetings law. Certainly I agree that the commission should model compliance in rule-making. But I suspect that the union strategy is simply obstruction: strain commission resources and impede accountability however possible. Curious that the political left supports both police unions and police protestors.

WNYC has online a superb 50-state survey of police-disciplinary-record access law, classifying the states as "confidential," "limited," or "public." Massachusetts is among 15 states in the "limited" category. My home state of Rhode Island and my bar jurisdictions of Maryland and D.C. are among the 24 jurisdictions in the "confidential" category.

"Sunshine State" Florida is among 12 states in the "public" category. In a lawsuit by the Tallahassee Police Benevolent Association, the Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously in November 2023 that Marsy's Law, a privacy law enacted to protect crime victims, does not shield the identity of police officers in misconduct matters. (E.g., Tallahassee Democrat.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

War protests expose double standards in higher ed

Ted Eytan CC BY-SA 4.0
I've refrained from commenting on the Israel-Hamas war, specifically and especially on the eruption of conflict, mostly, fortunately, non-violent, in higher ed in the United States, in which my own interests in academic freedom and free speech are most immediately implicated.

Despite my reticence—I'm under water with exams and a textbook deadline, though I follow the war closely in the news and remain in contact with friends in Tel Aviv—I read something in The New York Times that hit the nail on the head, so I want to amplify it.

In "Why Campus Speech Is Vexing" for The Morning from the Times, David Leonhardt wrote today:

[U]niversity leaders do face a basic choice. Do they want to expand the list of restricted speech to include more statements that make conservatives, Jewish students and others feel unsafe? Or do they want to shrink the list and tell all students that they will need to feel uncomfortable at times?

What since-resigned UPenn President Liz Magill said to Congress—essentially that the First Amendment protects a call for the genocide of Jews in the political abstract, absent hallmarks of unprotected speech such as incitement to imminent violence, or the severity and pervasiveness that characterize harassment—however socially and politically tone deaf, was technically a correct statement of the law from the former professor of constitutional law and Stanford Law dean.

The problem that Leonhardt recognized is that the First Amendment is not the standard that university administrators and their henchpersons have been applying on campuses for decades. Rather, hate speech codes, anti-discrimination policies, anti-bullying rules, and related prohibitions have proliferated and been enforced vigorously, First Amendment notwithstanding. And the standard has been a double one, because enforcement has been variable based on viewpoint, protecting only favored classes of minority persons or condemning disfavored, read: politically incorrect, viewpoints.

The problem is only compounded for university faculty, who are supposed to be the standard bearers for free expression, but have our livelihood hanging in the balance. At renowned schools where misdoings garner headlines, faculty might have a fighting chance to protect themselves. But what I've seen at the universities where the rest of us work, in the trenches, faculty routinely are intimidated, disciplined, and terminated for not toeing the line. When it happens in flyover country or in the lowest tiers of rankings, no one bats an eye.

When I was accused of stepping out of line years ago at another institution, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education founder Harvey Silverglate gave the local paper a quote condemning me. He apparently responded to the paper's inquiry with the assumption that a typically liberal law prof had gone off the rails. He failed utterly to learn anything about the case before he opined on it. When a mutual friend reached out to tell him that "he got it wrong," FIRE adjusted its public position thenceforth. But Silverglate never retracted his remarks, nor ever said anything apologetic to me.

At the University of Massachusetts Law School, which ranks at #167 in the U.S. News ranking of U.S. law schools, I've been told that University of Massachusetts policy, which requires that all employees show "respect" for all other employees, is violated by calling out misfeasance. So when I see an opportunity through faculty governance to do things better for our students and our community, I keep my mouth shut.

Tenure means nothing in these fights. I wrote many years ago about that paper tiger. Big-name-school academics, who don't have to toil at the hamster-wheel-spinning labor of assessment data collection and interim-strategic-plan-benchmark-attainment reports, don't well understand how faculty governance roles, as distinct from teaching and research responsibilities, are weaponized against faculty in the schools of the trenches.

Just last week, I completed a survey on academic freedom by the University of Chicago NORC that asked about ideological intimidation of faculty. The check-all-that-apply list of contexts in which intimidation or suppression of viewpoints might happen named a range of research and teaching contexts, but, true to form, University of Chicago, said almost nothing about school and university service roles. I added the response in "Other."

Professor Keith E. Whittington recently published a characteristically compelling paper on faculty "intramural speech" and academic freedom. It doesn't cite my 2010 work, in which I coined the term "penumbral academic freedom." I was working in a flyover state then, so it's like the paper never existed. Or maybe, as an east-coast, Duke Law would-be mentor once gently advised me when I was toiling voicelessly in flyover country, I should accept that my writing just isn't very good.

Well, I digress. My aim here is principally to say: When Magill fell, and as Harvard President Claudine Gay flounders, I'm torn between a head-shaking sorrow for the supposed quintessential marketplace of ideas and a mite more than a modicum of schadenfreude.

Back to work. The provost's dusty bookshelf is crying out for another strategic plan, and these exams aren't going to grade themselves.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Students join labor demands for living wage at RISD

(UPDATE, April 18: Labor and RISD reached a tentative agreement, Wazlavek tweeted last night.)

The Rhode Island School of Design—famous alumni include Seth MacFarlane, BFA '95 (Family Guy, The Orville)—has lately been embroiled in a labor dispute.

I saw, and heard, protestors yesterday morning when I drove to the nearby Providence Amtrak station. They made plenty of noise, yet in an artsy, celebratory way. You really don't want to mess with creative types. With faculty support, students are demonstrating alongside custodians.

An attorney-alum of my torts and comparative law classes is working on the matter from the Teamsters side. Aaron Wazlavek (SSRN) has been on site this week.  (Video NSFW: adult language. That's just how labor rolls.)

According to arts independent Hyperallergic, "[c]urrently, the average wage of a RISD custodian, groundskeeper, or mover is $16.74 per hour. The lowest wage is $15.30. Teamsters Local 251 has fought for a $20 minimum wage ...."

The living wage for one adult with no children in Providence County, Rhode Island, is $17.42/hr., according to the MIT calculator.  The minimum wage in Rhode Island is $13/hr.

In March, New York University law students made headlines demanding a choice between credit hours and an hourly wage for work on law review. 

The New York students have a point. I've long been critical of unpaid internships. Nowadays, U.S. law schools require free labor in many guises. Call it "field placement," "externship," "pro bono"—even new lawyers are expected to "volunteer" before they can get paying jobs. It's all subversion of the simple principle that one should be paid for one's work. Corporations and employers delight in pushing American work-life balance in the wrong direction. The legal education system and accrediting American Bar Association are complicit.

The set rate for student labor—when we pay in real money; I just hired a research assistant for the fall—at UMass Law in south-coast Massachusetts is $15/hr. The living wage for one adult with no children in Bristol County, Massachusetts, is $17.88, according to the MIT calculator.

Latest reports suggest that RISD and labor will find a middle ground between $15 and $20. I hope it's at least halfway.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Horn-blowing law survives First Amendment challenge

Image by allispossible.org.uk CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr
A citation for unreasonable horn-blowing is not defective under the First Amendment, the Massachusetts Appeals Court held in February.

The appellant sought relief from a civil motor vehicle infraction carrying a $55 fine. The court set out the facts:

On October 16, 2017, police officers were working as part of a detail as a construction site was being set up at an intersection at the Middlesex Turnpike, "a busy public way in Burlington." This was "causing major traffic delays." [Appellant] pulled into the intersection, "grew impatient," honked his vehicle's horn, and yelled at the officers. "This startled construction workers." [Appellant] drove closer to one of the police officers, honked his vehicle's horn, and insulted the officer. The officer stopped [appellant] and issued him a citation for fifty-five dollars for unnecessarily honking his horn.

The pertinent Massachusetts statute declares: "No person operating a motor vehicle shall sound a bell, horn or other device, nor in any manner operate such motor vehicle so as to make a harsh, objectionable or unreasonable noise." The appellant challenged the statute as unconstitutionally vague and unconstitutionally overbroad facially and as applied.

In First Amendment vagueness analysis, the court explained, a statutory text may be informed by "reasonable construction." And this statute is informed, the court reasoned, by the administrative guidance of the Massachusetts Driver's Manual, a document publication of the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The manual specifies:

Use your horn to:

  • Warn pedestrians or other drivers of possible trouble
  • Avoid crashes

Do not use your horn to:

  • Show anger or complain about other drivers’ mistakes
  • Try to get a slower driver to move faster
  • Try to get other vehicles moving in a traffic jam

That guidance "comports with the common understanding of what uses of motor vehicle horns are objectionable," the court wrote, so "is not unconstitutionally vague."

The statute also was not substantially overbroad, facially or as applied, the court concluded.

The appellant looked to court decisions in Washington and Oregon striking laws against horn blowing as facially overbroad. But those laws were broader and swept into their prohibitions the use of horns for purposes unrelated to traffic, namely, expressive use in protests. The Massachusetts law pertains only in traffic scenarios.

The court rejected what it characterized as the appellant's after-the-fact effort to characterize his horn-blowing as a protest against police to articulate an as-applied overbreadth challenge. "Horn honking may be expressive when used as a form of protected protest," the court acknowledged. But that's not the same as appellant "honk[ing] his vehicle's horn out of impatience to show his anger at the police officer for creating a traffic jam."

Fine line, but I know it because I see it.

The case is Burlington Police Department v. Hagopian, No. 20-P-1371 (Mass. App. Ct. Feb. 22, 2022). Justice Joseph M. Ditkoff wrote the unanimous opinion of the panel.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Poland scholars explain turmoil in streets over court decision nearly outlawing abortion; what next?

Protesters take to the streets in Kraków on October 25. (Silar CC BY-SA 4.0)
Social stability in Poland has been increasingly shaky since populist politics has threatened the independence of the judiciary in recent years.  Professor Leah Wortham wrote about the issue and kindly spoke to my Comparative Law class one year ago (before Zoom was cool).

Recently tensions have reached a boiling point.  In October, the nation's constitutional court outlawed nearly all abortions (Guardian).  Protestors have taken to the streets in the largest numbers since the fall of communism, The Guardian reported, confronting riot police and right-wing gangs.

Friend and colleague Elizabeth Zechenter, an attorney, visiting scholar at Emory College, and president of the Jagiellonian Law Society, writes: "Poland is in upheaval, after the Constitutional Tribunal restricted even further one of the most strict anti-abortion laws in Europe.  I and several other Polish women academics have gotten together, and we created a webinar, trying to offer an analysis, legal, cultural, sociological, etc."

The scholars' webinar is available free on YouTube.  Below the inset is information about the program.  Please spread the word.

Women Strikes In Poland: What is Happening, and Why?

Since the fateful decision of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal (Trybunał Konstytucyjny or TK) on October 22, 2020—further restricting one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in Europe—Poland saw massive, spontaneous demonstrations and civic protests in most cities, small and big, and even villages. Protests have been continuing since the day of TK’s decision and show no signs of abating.

To explain what is happening, we have assembled a panel of academics and lawyers to clarify the current legal situation, to analyze the scope of new anti-abortion restrictions, to explain whether this new law may be challenged under any of the EU laws applicable to Poland, and what might be political implications of doing that, as well as offer a preliminary cultural, linguistic, anthropological, and sociological analysis of the recent events.

Contents

0:00:00-0:03:17 Introduction: Bios of Speakers, Disclaimers

Legal Panel

0:03:17-0:26:00 Elizabeth M. Zechenter, J.D., Ph.D., "October 2020 Abortion Decision by the Constitutional Tribunal: Analysis and Legal Implications"

0:26:00-0:46:00 Agnieszka Kubal, Ph.D., "Human Rights Implication of the Decision by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal from 22 October 2020"

0:46:00-0:59:00 Agnieszka Gaertner, J.D., LLM, "Abortion Under EU Law"

Panel: Culture and Language of Protest

0:59:00-1:31:00 Katarzyna Zechenter, Ph.D., "Uses of Language by the Protesters, the Polish Catholic Church, and the Ruling Political Party 'Law and Justice' (PiS)"

Panel: Sociological and Anthropological

1:31:00-1:49:00 Joanna Regulska, Ph.D., "Struggle for Women's Rights in Poland"

1:49:00-2:12:00 Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer, Ph.D., "Augmented Reality, Young Adults, and Civic Engagement"

Praise for the Webinar

"Wow! That was, without a doubt, one of the most informative, fascinating, engaging, and powerful webinars I have ever attended."

"All of us in your virtual audience 'voted with our feet' ... i.e., it is generally considered that 90 minutes is an audience's absolute maximum attention span for an online webinar, particularly since everyone these days is simply 'Zoomed-out' (over-Zoomed), in this era of COVID-19. But YOUR audience stayed with you for a marathon 2 hours and 45 minutes (and it felt like a sprint, not a marathon)!"

"A high tribute to you and your sister (not fellow!) panelists."

Disclaimers

The webinar was organized impromptu in response to numerous calls to analyze Poland's ongoing protests. The goal of the webinar was to provide a non-partisan review of the evolving situation and better understand the legal, cultural, and sociological underpinnings of the Constitutional Tribunal’s anti-abortion decision that resulted in such massive country-wide protests.

The opinions expressed in the seminar are those of the speakers alone who are not speaking as representatives of any institution; the main goal has been to advance understanding of the situation.

Given the urgency to offer at least a preliminary analysis (and in light of the continuously evolving situation), most speakers had less than 24 hours to prepare their remarks. We apologize for any imperfections.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Immunity shields tweeting legislators from libel suits, Elizabeth Warren from high school plaintiffs

High schoolers from Kentucky will not get their day in court against Elizabeth Warren.

The students' lawsuit, high profile in the political sphere, was resolved in the Sixth Circuit yesterday on mundane grounds that offer a reminder to torts students of a simple immunity rule.

Remember the fuss in January 2019 over that video of Catholic high school students on a field trip said to be taunting a Native American elder demonstrating at the Lincoln Memorial?

Remember when people used to stand really close together like that?

There were two dramatically different sides to the story about what was really happening there, and they were as far apart as young people joining in celebration of Native American heritage, on the one side, and "MAGA" has inspired privileged youth to racism, on the other side.  For a breakdown that gets closer to the truth, see, e.g., Vox, Jan. 24, 2019; Reason, Jan. 21, 2020.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) tweeted about the affair from the perspective that cast the students in the wrong.  Haaland wrote, "The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking."  And Warren: "Omaha elder and Vietnam War veteran Nathan Phillips endured hateful taunts with dignity and strength, then urged us all to do better."

The students sued the legislators for defamation, asserting that the darker interpretation of events was false.  On Thursday last week, the Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the lawsuit—which is not to opine one way or the other on the students' claim of falsity.

As the court observed, the Speech and Debate Clause has no application on Twitter.  But a much simpler analysis pertained.  Whilst tweeting, Haaland and Warren were acting within the scope of their employment with the U.S. Government.  And the Federal Tort Claims Act (para. (h)) does not waive federal sovereign immunity for defamation committed by its employees—even the elected kind.

The case is Does 1 through 10 v. Haaland, No. 2:19-cv-00117 (6th Cir. Sept. 3, 2020).  Circuit Judge Eric Clay authored the opinion for a panel that also comprised Judges White and Readler.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Oberlin case leaves no doubt, 'racist' accusation is capable of defamatory meaning; Koppel reports

An Ohio jury in June awarded $44m to a family-owned bakery that proved defamation by Oberlin College in a case of false accusations of racism by Oberlin students, supported by the college.  Now CBS Sunday Morning has excellent coverage from Ted Koppel.  How ever did Oberlin, a respected four-year institution of higher education committed to the liberal arts, jump on board with racism accusations without first checking the facts?  Unthinkable.


False accusations of racism or misogyny today are no less capable of defamatory meaning than accusations of child molestation or other crimes that shock the conscience.  There can no longer be any serious contention that such charges are immune from defamation liability because they are fair comment or because they do not necessarily expose a victim to hate, contempt, or ridicule in the community.

Forbes reported: "The jury initially assessed $11 million in compensatory damages and $33 million in punitive damages against Oberlin, for a total of $44 million, but the judge cut back the amount to $25 million because Ohio law has caps on damages. The judge then tacked on $6.5 million in attorney’s fees bringing the verdict back up to $31 million."

The case is Gibson Bros., Inc. v. Oberlin College, No. 17CV193761 (Ct. Common Pleas Lorain County, Ohio, Sept. 18. 2019).  The Ohio trial court publishes only the docket online.  Oberlin appealed (filed Oct. 8, 2019), and the Gibsons cross-appealed (filed Oct. 18, 2019).  CNN has the initial complaint (filed Nov. 17, 2017).

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Restless Algerian youth see Bouteflika resign

Algiers, from the Place des Martyrs
In January, I was in and out of sport shops on the main commercial drag, rue Didouche Mouradin, in Algiers, Algeria, when I noticed a group of rough-around-the-edges, Arabic-speaking young men who seemed to be in and out of the same shops.  I mentally upped my "security threat level," watching the guys a little more closely than I was looking at the merch.  At one point, we were all sandwiched in the same small store, to the point that it would be socially awkward not to acknowledge that we'd taken notice of one another.

Turned out we were in and out of the same shops only because we were all looking at the European football kits.  (Always on the lookout for discounted last-season ManC gear.)  Given the opportunity of tight environs, the guys in fact were eager to strike up a conversation and find out who the pale foreigner was.  They confirmed something I had seen repeatedly by that point in my travel in Algeria:  More than their elders, young people's English is good, they are up to speed on global politics, and they want to know why they don't have the same social and economic security and opportunity that they see young people enjoying in Europe, just across the Mediterranean.

A Bouteflika banner flies opposite Le Grande Post.
The fellows were eager to tell me what European football clubs they followed, and what towns they were from and how they lived their lives in Algeria.  They also were eager to tell me about Algerian politics—though hushed their voices when they said that the status quo needs to change, and the older generation's tight grip on leadership needs to give way.  Outside from the city streets, one could look up in any direction to see billboards and banners bearing the smiling face of Algeria's cult-of-personality president since 1999, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

When I came home and people asked about Algeria, I often said: it's teetering on the point of a major transition—which is going to happen one way or another, peacefully, or by popular uprising—because the young-adult cohort, now irreversibly integrated into the world by our globalized information technology, are not content with stalled development and socioeconomic marginalization.

Downtown Algiers, Le Grande Poste at middle left
Naturally as protestors took to the streets in recent weeks in Algiers, I've been thinking a lot about my fellow football supporters.  I see the flag-waving crowds filling the streets around the Old Post Office and wonder whether the guys are there, sporting their favorite kits behind their green-and-white flags.  Now Bouteflika has stepped down, and the government is effectively back in military hands.  The military has a mixed record, at once supporting popular demands for progressive leadership and having a limited patience with protests in the streets.

I hope my fellows are OK, and Algeria can deliver the opportunity that they deserve.  Maybe one day I'll see them in the stands at Santiago Bernabéu.

Me on the street at the celebration of the Berber new year