Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This judge understands freedom of speech

William Ayers will speak Wednesday 7-9 p.m. at the University of Wyoming Sports Complex.

The ruling came down this afternoon from Federal Judge William Downes in Casper. It's an especially poignant moment for these reasons (as outlined in the Casper Star-Trib):

While William Downes was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, William Ayers was bombing U.S. government buildings as co-founder of a militant anti-war group called the Weather Underground.

Downes, now a U.S. district judge, made special note of those contrasting backgrounds when he ruled Tuesday against the University of Wyoming's decision to ban Ayers from speaking on campus.

"This court is of age to remember the Weather Underground. When his group was bombing the U.S. Capitol in 1971, I was serving in the uniform of my country," Downes said. "Even to this day, when I hear that name, I can scarcely swallow the bile of my contempt for it. But Mr. Ayers is a citizen of the United States who wishes to speak, and he need not offer any more justification than that."

Downes delivered his ruling Tuesday afternoon in his federal courtroom in Casper, after hearing more than five hours of testimony Monday. The judge, finding that UW had violated Ayers' First Amendment rights, issued an injunction sought by Ayers and UW student Meg Lanker forcing UW to allow Ayers to speak Wednesday at the UniWyo Sports Complex on campus in Laramie.

Ayers is now scheduled to speak from 7-9 p.m. in the sports complex, Lanker said after the ruling. That speech bumps his scheduled appearance at the Laramie Civic Center from the schedule.

"I'm in shock, I'm floating, I'm on cloud nine, I'm excited," Lanker said. "This went better than I expected. I was expecting to win, but I wasn't expecting to win so well, I guess -- to win and get everything that we wanted."

A couple things to note here. The federal courthouse in Casper is named after draft dodger and war criminal Dick Cheney of Casper. While Judge Downes was a Marine fighting in Vietnam and Bill Ayers felt strongly enough about the war to do something about it, Cheney was looking out for his own self and his own political career, enjoying one of his five draft deferments.

Dick Cheney went to law school but has never been a judge. I can't imagine him making such as unbiased decision about Constitutional rights. He certainly did not when he was V.P. of these United States.

UW student and free speech advocate Meg Lanker is a Navy veteran. David Lane, rabble-rousing free-speech attorney from Denver, declared conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. However, Craig Silverman in Denver, the guy who faced Lane in court more than once, said this about him in a 2009 Denver Post article: "Nobody that I know of goes to trial more than he does. He is a combat veteran."

Intriguing dichotomy here, eh? Young people who cared enough to get involved with their country's present and future, whether in the military or in antiwar activities or in the courtroom, are still engaged in the day-to-day workings of their country.

I hope there are protesters at UW tomorrow night. I may not agree with them, but they'll be spending their evening away from the TV set and out in the rain or snow, speaking (or maybe shouting) their deeply-held thoughts about the situation.

Bring it on...


Anonymous said...

Like the post a lot, but the federal courthouse in Casper (at First and Wolcott) is named after Ewing T. Kerr. The Dick Cheney Federal Buidling (at B and Center) is an administrative agency building.

Michael Shay said...

My mistake. Just spent three days in Casper showing out-of-towners the hot spots, including the Dick Cheney Federal Building. If I had known the Cheney Building was a beehive of government bureaucrats such as myself, I would have been much nicer.