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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Justin Price, Jim Mageau and the First Amendment

Trump may be gone, but we still have to deal with local Trumpnuts

By Will Collette

By Nick Anderson
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”- First Amendment of the US Constitution

Jim Mageau, Charlestown’s most vocal Trumplican, has been writing letters to the editor again. That’s good news or bad news depending on whether you are amused by his rants or disgusted by them.

On December 23rd, he wrote a letter complaining about people who were comparing Donald Trump to Hitler. Since Trump’s January 6 failed beerhall putsch, that letter stands refuted by actual events that horrified the nation and tightened Trump’s image as a fascist.

On January 19, Mageau wrote another letter this time trying to justify local state Rep. Justin Price’s participation in the January 6 coup attempt by asserting that Price was simply exercising his First Amendment rights.

One of Price's last tweets complaining that his
accountant quit, apparently over Price's
January 6 actions

Mageau says The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees freedom of speech!” which it does, but not unconditionally.

In fact, none of the rights protected under the First Amendment are absolute.

Religious freedom does not give you the right to practice polygamy, as the Mormons found out. Nor does it give you the right to practice human sacrifice or any other normally unlawful act.

Freedom of the press is no shield against knowingly and malicious publishing libelous or slanderous statements.

Freedom of speech does not give you the right to “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, or to incite a riot or insurrection.

Freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances does not cover trespass, destruction of property, beating police officers to death or within an inch of their lives nor does it cover stealing or destroying government or personal property. It does not cover terrorism.

Price's Twitter account has been taken down. In his letter to the editor,
Jim Mageau revealed that he also has been booted from Twitter and
is now posting on AOL
I spent more than half of my life working with community organizations. That work frequently involved planning political protests.

Part of the planning always involved discussing the line between First Amendment-protected actions and those where you may be subject to arrest. Leaders and staff needed to know where that line was so we could enforce it on our members and protect it from inappropriate police intervention.

But sometimes, groups I helped decided they needed to cross the line and engage in non-violent protests that broke the law - some form of civil disobedience like a blockade or deliberately trespassing.

The folks who beat the Invenergy power plant project that threatened Burrillville (and Charlestown) often used civil disobedience as part of their resistance. Several of them were arrested.

Anti-apartheid protesters waiting to be arrested at the South African
embassy. Stevie Wonder was in this day's group. Cathy was not.
Another good example was the almost daily protests at the South African Embassy in Washington, DC during the fight against apartheid. A pre-selected group would deliberately walk up to the door of the embassy to present petitions knowing that they would be subject to arrest. My wife Cathy was arrested doing this not once but twice.

Every time we planned an act of civil disobedience, we knew there were consequences and prepared to deal with them.

Now here’s gullible old Rep. Justin Price (R-Richmond, Exeter, etc.) who travels down to Washington to take part in the January 6 protest.

Price knows what protests and civil disobedience are and, as a law-maker, had already registered his opinion of them. On March 1, 2017, he introduced H-5690. Price’s bill would have relieved a motorist of civil liability if that motorist runs down a protester who is blocking traffic. Seriously – read the bill. Fortunately, that bill did not pass.

Trump mob tries to beat DC Metro Police officer
Mike Fannone to death
On January 6, 2021, Price took part in a “protest” at the Capitol that was, by all accounts, a riot.

He claims – though I don’t believe him – that he did not actually go into the Capitol building. However, he got close enough to make the false claim he saw Antifa and Black Lives Matter people instigate the attack on the Capitol..

Even if Price is telling the truth about not actually going inside the Capitol, he did commit criminal trespass. I know that area very well – I worked in the United Methodist Building across the street from the Capitol  for 9 years.

Prohibited areas around the Capitol
outlined in red. US Dept. of Justice
Even on a calm and normal day, there are severe restrictions on where you can go around the Capitol. On January 6, whole blocks around the Capitol were off limits, cordoned off with barricades and police lines. Price had to cross several of those lines to make his Twitter observations.

He broke the law.

Unless he’s already ditched his cellphone, its GPS tracker can show exactly where he was and how many police lines he crossed. And it can show whether or not he went inside the Capitol, though he would already have committed criminal trespass by the time he got there.

Jim Mageau is outraged that any RI elected officials would demand accountability for Price’s behavior, including his Twitter ravings about how it was all Antifa’s fault:

“Now here comes a mob of progressive Democrats demanding that he [Price] resign his seat as a state representative for exercising his freedom of speech. A right guaranteed under our Constitution that he swore an oath to defend as a U.S. Marine. THey [SIC] may be illieterate [SIC] or aybe [SIC] they lied, but the crackpots who are calling for Price to resign also raised their right hand and swore an oath to uphold the U.S Constitution when they were sworn in to the House of Representatives.”

Price and the other rioting Trumpnuts deliberately crossed the figurative as well as physical line and committed criminal trespass – at minimum. It was not non-violent civil disobedience.

He should step up and accept the consequences. At least no one is going to run him over with a car.

It can be a full-time job correcting Mageau’s garbled version of events but while I’m dealing with his January 19 letter, let's review some more Mageau nonsense.

For example, Mageau places the blame for the riot on DC Mayor Muriel Bowser who according to Mageau who failed to order adequate police security at the capital and around the city.” This of course is bullshit.

Mayor Bowser’s calls to mobilize the DC National Guard as well as Guard troops from Maryland and Virginia went unanswered because Trump loyalists in the Pentagon refused to grant that authority. It took Mike Pence, of all people, to belatedly issue the order.

Mageau claims there are “80 million other Trump supporters” besides Justin Price (and presumably Mageau). Not even Trump claims that number. Does that mean that 6 million of them failed to vote on November 3? I’d love to know the real number today as even the Q-Anon crazies are bailing on Trump.

Finally, Jim issues a challenge:

"show me where in P********t Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 does he call for or even suggest that his supporters engage in violence, civil disobedience or to attack the capital.”

The House of Representatives did just that in the Article of Impeachment that will be the basis of Trump’s impeachment trial:

On January 6, 2021, pursuant to the 12th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, the House of Representatives, and the Senate met at the United States Capitol for a Joint Session of Congress to count the votes of the Electoral College. In the months preceding the Joint Session, President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials. Shortly before the Joint Session commenced, President Trump, addressed a crowd at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. There, he reiterated false claims that "we won this election, and we won it by a landslide." He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: "if you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore." Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session's solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.

And then there was this Trump line: Now, it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going to walk down, we’re going to walk down.”

Except Trump, true to his conman history, did not walk with the mob he dispatched to attack the Capitol. He stayed in the White House to watch it on TV and cheer on the insurrectionists.