Free Speech Zones: Silencing the Political Dissident


  • Chris Demaske


Following Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush Administration began imposing every increasing limitations on civil rights. One example is the implementation of free speech zones, a practice in which political dissidents are cordoned off from the President during public appearances. While these zones originated in the 1980s, the use of them has grown considerably in the past few years. Critics argue that moving protesters to a remote location during Presidential events gives the impression that there is no dissent. This paper explores the constitutionality of free speech zones, ultimately demonstrating the shortcomings of the true threats doctrine, a legal framework for analysis in cases dealing with speech that may be threatening. This article suggests an alternative framework for analysis that would 1) better balance national security interests with speech protection for political dissidents and 2) clear up some of the doctrinal confusion in the application of the true threats doctrine in general.