Pamela Geller Sues Bill de Blasio for Forbidding New Yorkers to Protest during COVID-19
The petty tyrant Warren Wilhelm (that's Bill de Blasio's real name) who is currently mayor of New York City, not content with scapegoating Jews for the spread of the coronavirus, has now gone to war against the First Amendment. Fox News reported Wednesday that de Blasio and his NYPD commissioner, Dermot Shea, "stated outright this week that people are not permitted to gather for protests in public due to the coronavirus pandemic." Apparently, Mayor Wilhelm thinks he is in 1930s Berlin. But this will not stand. On Thursday, I filed suit against de Blasio and Shea for violating my First Amendment right to freedom of assembly.
De Blasio and Shea adopted their breathtaking authoritarian measure in full knowledge that they were violating the United States Constitution. "You're talking about some of the values we hold in the highest regard in this country and certainly in this city, the right for people to gather, the right to free speech and the right to protest," Shea said Monday. "But now comes the bad news, we're in a pandemic and executive orders have been issued, these are laws that have been passed down through executive order to keep people alive, while we greatly, greatly respect the right of people to protest, there should not be protests taking place in the middle of a pandemic by gathering outside and putting people at risk."
Shea's statements are in brazen violation of the First Amendment and reveal that Shea, and de Blasio as well, understands the Constitution about as much as he respects it. For his part, the mayor said: "People who want to make their voices heard, there are plenty of ways to do it without gathering in person." He called upon people to "use all the other tools you have to get your point across but avoid anything that might put other people in harm's way."
No. The Constitution does not carry any clause rescinding these rights if the powers that be decide that exercising them would put people in harm's way. These liberties are not granted by government to then be rescinded at the will and whims of government officials. These liberties are given by G-d and possessed by the people, and they are guaranteed against government interference by the Constitution.
In other words, the Constitution explicitly and definitively rules out the action de Blasio and Shea have taken. The complaint, which was filed yesterday by my attorneys, David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), is a beautiful thing. It states that "this case seeks to protect and vindicate fundamental liberties that citizens of the United States enjoy free from government interference." It notes that the Constitution guarantees a right to protest, including the freedom of speech, and that de Blasio and Shea, "through the adoption and enforcement of executive edicts, have suspended this fundamental right in the City of New York."
The complaint notes that "the right to freedom of speech is not a right to catharsis. It is a right to meaningfully protest and assemble in public in order to change public policy. The most effective way to exercise this right is to organize and participate in a large public protest." But de Blasio and Shea have infringed upon this freedom as well.
The stakes in this lawsuit are extremely high. In fact, they couldn't be higher. As the complaint notes, "John Adams warned that 'Liberty once lost is lost forever.' All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. Through this Complaint, Plaintiff Geller challenges Defendants' suspension of the First Amendment. There is no justification, pandemic or otherwise, for a government official to revoke this fundamental right of the people."
The purpose of the suit is to "protect and vindicate fundamental constitutional rights. It is a civil rights action brought under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. §1983, challenging Defendants' restriction on Plaintiff's right to engage in peaceful protests and protected speech in public forums in the City of New York."
I'm seeking a declaration that Defendants violated my clearly established constitutional rights as set forth in the complaint, as well as a declaration that the restriction that de Blasio and Shea have placed upon the First Amendment violates the United States Constitution and 42 USC §1983. I'm asking for a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the enforcement of this First Amendment violation and nominal damages for the past loss of my constitutional rights.
If we lose, it's no exaggeration to say the Constitution, and our freedom, is dead. We must win, and we will win.
Pamela Geller is the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI); publisher of The Geller Report; and author of the bestselling book FATWA: Hunted in America, as well as The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America and Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.