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The Lake News Online
  • LAke view: Rights under siege

  • I think most of us can agree for the last 15 year our rights have been under attack in this country. Now it seems that some of our rights are being attacked right here in our community. I am speaking of the new disorderly conduct ordinance that was passed in Lake Ozark. This ordinance was passed with a 5-0 vote by the city al...
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  • I think most of us can agree for the last 15 year our rights have been under attack in this country. Now it seems that some of our rights are being attacked right here in our community. I am speaking of the new disorderly conduct ordinance that was passed in Lake Ozark. This ordinance was passed with a 5-0 vote by the city alderman, with only one questioning if this new ordinance would violate Constitutional Law. Mr. Gibbons (an attorney for the city) assured this new ordinance did not violate any law.
    Mr. Gibbons stated not all words — including fighting words — are protected under the Constitution. This is true, but this is not a whole answer to the ordinance according to the draft that was made by Mr. Gibbons. Under the new ordinance it states:
    Uses abusive, offensive, indecent profane or vulgar language and the language tends to disturb the peace of another person, invoking or inciting violence in another person, or causes alarm or annoyance in another person.
    Makes an offensive gesture or display and the gesture or display tends to disturb the peace of another person, invoke or incite violence by another person.
    Insults, taunts, challenges or threatens another person in a public place that tends to disturb the peace of another person, invoke or incite violence.
    Under legal definition of Constitutional Law it states.
    Fighting words: Fighting words are words that "by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite and immediate breach of the peace" or have a "direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person to whom, individually, the remark is addressed" ( Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire) where as subversive advocacy exhorts large numbers of people to engage in lawless conduct, fighting words are the directed at provoking a specific individual. Generally, only the most inflammatory and derisive epithets will be characterized as fight words.
    Fight words also should be distinguished from speech that is merely offensive. Crude or insensitive language may be heard in a variety of contexts — at work, on T.V., even at home. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that speech that merely offends or hurts the feelings of, another person — is protected by the First Amendment. The court has also underscored the responsibility of the receivers to ignore offensive speech. Receivers can move away or divert their eyes from and offensive speaker, program, image, or message. In one case, the Court ruled that a young man had the right to wear, in a state courthouse, a jacket with the slogan “F*** the Draft” emblazoned across the back, because persons at the courthouse could avert their eyes if offended (Cohen vs. California). "One man's vulgarity," the Court said, "is another's lyric," and the words chosen in this case conveyed a stronger message than would a sublimated variation such as — Resist the Draft.
    Page 2 of 2 - It's troubling that an attorney for the city drafted a ordinance that is unconstitutional. I understand Mr. Gibbons is not a Constitutional lawyer, but I would think a lawyer would do more research before putting it in front of the city's alderman for a vote.
    Our First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.
    Most of this ordinance is already law. Fighting in a public place, use of a firearm or other dangerous weapons in a threatening manner, blocking the flow of traffic, disturbing lawful assemblies or meeting. I don't understand wasting time drafting half a ordinance that is already law. I think this time could have been better used on more pressing issues.
    The Chief of Police, Mr. Maples, said that "We have people coming out of bars, possibly in front of children, who are cussing other individuals out." Mr. Maples also said "It would help assist officers and help maintain order."
    I would like to remind Mr. Maples of the atmosphere that draws people to this lake, like the bars. I have lived here for 20 years and in now way deluded in what draws people to this lake. Yes, people drink, get loud, cuss, and have a good time here.
    I would ask Mr. Maples are you really going to waste your departments time enforcing a ordinance that will most likely bring lawsuits from individuals and the ACLU. How many man hours will be wasted? You complained last year that the department had to pay overtime for officers working the Magic Dragon car show, which in fact brings in 10,000 people in a weekend with tons of revenue that supports local businesses.
    There had been talk of not having the car show because the department does not want to pay overtime, but then you said the officers get comp-time, which is not overtime. Are you looking to bankrupt the city of Lake Ozarks? I would have to say that the priorities of Lake Ozark Police Dept. are a little off.
    Some of us find it comical that you cry foul and say our government is taking our freedoms, then you turn around and do just that. Where I come from we call those people hypocrites.
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