The city of Palo Alto, California, has long held that critical comments directed toward individual city council members, the mayor or police officers by name are improper and have stated so.
Yet city attorney Molly Stump tasked with defending city employees, its mayor and city council from unwanted litigation has remained silent and has refused to debate the rationale and logic behind its long held position of not allowing citizens to criticize our government officials unfettered and without bias.
The Constitution of the United States forms the bedrock of all state and city municipality ordinances. These ordinances, if disputed, should be made the subject of debate and remedy. It is another guarantee afforded to all citizens, foreign and domestic when discriminated against.
We simply do not understand why city council, its mayor and its staff of attorneys are fearful of any debate.
The First Amendment was designed for the purpose of debate. Accordingly, in the following opinion, former Supreme Court Justice Brandies identifies fearful individuals unwilling to debate as “cowards.”
“Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the process of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion”.
Time and time again, members of the community who have come before city council to redress their grievances have been met with intimidation and stiff opposition and often rebuked when criticizing their elected politicians or the police.
My observations have been that if these same individuals were to come before city council with praises and clapping and singing, they are always embraced without distinction. Those who come before city council with critical comments and speech are always made to feel that it’s only the happy talkers or speech that need apply.
Never in the history of the city of Palo Alto has the First Amendment been placed on the agenda. Maybe the time has come for all “cowards” to come forward and put to bed the city council’s reasons, within the confines of our Constitution, why we as citizens cannot criticize our public officials without chilling our speech or bullied.
History and alleged documented on-going pattern of First Amendment abuses by the Palo Alto Police Department.