Free speech and assembly? Not for Sen. Tom Cotton

Sen. Tom Cotton, who wanted to call in troops to put down Black Lives Matter demonstrations, now wants to impeach Attorney General Merrick Garland if the Justice Department won’t arrest people peacefully demonstrating outside the homes of members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

He contends they should be prosecuted under a suspect law from 1950 making it illegal to picket or parade outside a judge’s home with the intent to influence a judge.

Arrest them first and then let them assert a First Amendment right to speech and assembly, Cotton says.

Happily, even a few Republicans think Cotton is off his rocker farther than normal on this one. From the NBC report:

“I think if they’re being peaceful and are staying off their property and are not disrupting neighborhoods or causing or inciting fear, it’s probably a legitimate expression of free speech,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., a former member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday.

“First Amendment rights are so, so special. … We should all be erring in favor of the First Amendment, in favor of freedom of speech, in favor of freedom of religion, in favor of the freedom of assembly,” she said. “Because if we start fearing our rights to speak and express our religious convictions, and if we fear assembly, the consequences of parsing those rights are extremely dangerous.”

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said he, too, believes peaceful protests — even outside the homes of justices — is protected speech.

“I’m a First Amendment guy, and I think that cuts both ways,” Braun said in an interview. “If they’re there and they’re doing it peacefully, you know, I’m for that ability on either side of the political spectrum.”

Cotton was presumably OK with Supreme Court rulings protecting the ugly protesters who make life miserable for employees and patients of medical clinics that provide abortion or family planning services.

And, again, the Daily Show nails the hypocrisy of those calling for civility in the matter (the demonstrations in Washington have been civil, by the way.)


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