Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures  |  Adult
Boston  |  Portland  |  Providence
Flashbacks  |  Letters  |  Media -- Dont Quote Me  |  News Features  |  Talking Politics  |  The Editorial Page  |  This Just In

Informed opinion

The mayor starts peace with more speech
By HARVEY SILVERGLATE  |  January 19, 2006

Mayor Tom Menino, who caused a civil-liberties uproar last month when he proposed banning the sale of T-shirts emblazoned with STOP SNITCHIN’, appears to have learned a lesson in free speech. If only the same could be said of Chief Justice Robert A. Mulligan, of the Commonwealth’s Trial Court.

On January 10, Mulligan stepped in where the mayor had wisely begged off: he promulgated a rule banning the infamous T-shirts from the state’s courtrooms. Such a rule is likely unconstitutional. Instead of limiting the sartorial prohibition to any garment bearing a message that could reasonably be interpreted as a threat or that likely would disrupt court proceedings — which the Constitution’s First Amendment would clearly allow — the chief justice banned shirts delivering a perfectly lawful political message critical of the much-abused informant system.

Within a few days of Chief Justice Mulligan’s announcement, Boston’s mayor indicated that he got the message urged by Freedom Watch (“Shirting the Issue,” This Just In, December 9): to fight the “negative” T-shirt with a more positive counter-message. Apparently, Menino thought better of sending in the brownshirts to seize the “Stop Snitchin’” and other anti-informant shirts being sold (and widely bought) in Boston — a clearly unconstitutional suppression of speech that would have exposed the city to lawsuits galore. Instead, he simply jaw-boned shirt merchants for their voluntary cooperation. As a result, the Boston Globe was able to report on Sunday, the mayor basked in triumph as T-shirt designer and merchant Antonio Ennis, of Dorchester, began selling a new “Start Peace” substitute. The lesson — that the response to “bad speech” is “good speech” rather than excessively broad state-imposed censorship — seems to have gotten through to His Honor the Mayor but, curiously, not to His Honor the Chief Justice.

  • Media Moses
    What's behind Pastor Bruce Wall's nose for news?
  • No side bets
    The governor’s gaming legislation crapped out, but are casinos still alive in a compromise? Plus, a school-budget crisis could start a political firestorm.
  • $50 million worth of mistakes
    Legal claims are costing the city millions of dollars a year. Is it a random blip or a sign of a badly run government?
  • More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Tom Menino , Local Politics , Politics
  • Share:
  • RSS feed Rss
  • Email this article to a friend Email
  • Print this article Print

election special
Share this entry with Delicious

 See all articles by: HARVEY SILVERGLATE

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

Friday, October 10, 2008  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2008 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group