Michigan city finds annoyance exception in First Amendment

The city of Brighton, Michigan have discovered an exception to free speech in the First Amendment.  People can exercise their right to assemble and speak — just as long as no one gets annoyed by it.  What a breakthrough!

Ticking someone off could get you a ticket in one Michigan city. The Brighton City Council on Thursday approved an ordinance allowing police in the Livingston County community to ticket and fine anyone who is annoying in public “by word of mouth, sign or motions.”

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus of Howell reports the measure is modeled on a similar ordinance in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak.

I’m certain that this was what the founding fathers of this nation had in mind.  After all, they never annoyed authorities or Loyalists with their demands for independence and freedom.

Devil’s Advocate at Copious Dissent remarks:

First of all, 99% of the complaints are going to be Unconstitutional. Political speech is almost always “annoying.” If it weren’t annoying to some people, there would be an overall consensus on the issue, and there would be no reason to express one’s political views about the topic.

Second, now financial resources for the police and prosecutors are going to be wasted on malcontents who are hypersensitive to being annoyed. I could think of 1000 other better ways for law enforcement to serve the people.

Michigan finds itself in such financial distress that its Congressional contingent has successfully harangued the White House into multi-billion-dollar loans to private enterprise.  I find that extremely annoying.  Do we get to issue citations to the entire state of Michigan now?  Considering the economic mess the state government has created in that state, what they need is more annoying speech, not less, especially if it annoys the current power structure.

Freedom of speech means tolerating that speech we find annoying.  In fact, freedom of speech means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t protect annoying speech.  Pleasant and unremarkable speech needs no protection from government, after all.  Unless the speech and signs violate some other law, perhaps by blocking entrances to buildings or impeding traffic, then those annoyed can easily avoid it — or rebut it with their own free speech.