Zack Reed and Jeff Johnson's flash mob ordinance made news earlier this year — both with city council actually passing a law that was impossible to enforce and largely unnecessary, and with Mayor Jackson vetoing the ordinance after outcries from the ACLU, among others, who pointed out that it was both illegal and stupid.
Well, Councilman Reed is not done yet. Today, he and Councilman Johnson have an op-ed in the USA Today explaining how they will continue their fight to criminalize... well, something.
In Cleveland, we're working to stop criminal flash mobs by focusing on the people who organize these disruptive "new tech" mobs, and those who participate in a mob's criminal activities. Some question our approach as a threat to free speech. We disagree.
As proven many times, the right to free speech is not absolute. When the purpose of an individual's speech creates an immediate threat of harm, or advocates criminal actions, it is subject to legal limitations.
We believe any approach must take into account that using social media to gather a mob is tantamount to inciting a riot. This approach does not find fault with the use of social media to express an opinion, but rather considers the organizer's words as proof of criminal intent.
Our approach will protect citizens' free speech while protecting them from becoming victims of crime. There is no difference today in organizing a criminal flash mob via a smartphone vs., as in the past, an individual who stood in front of a mob, bullhorn in hand, urging criminal action. Technology has made it easier to commit certain crimes, but we cannot allow it to provide protection for criminals in ways our Bill of Rights never intended.
If you're curious, Zack Reed was spotted "proudly" reading his op-ed this morning while chilling at Yours Truly in Shaker. City Council's pr, who ghostwrote the piece, seems happy with how it turned out too, even though the opinions are "not necessarily" his own.