Occupy Shirt Justified Supreme Court Arrest
(CN) - Police had probable cause to arrest a Marine Corps veteran in the Supreme Court building for wearing a jacket that said "Occupy Everywhere," a federal judge ruled.
Fitzgerald Scott, a Marine Corps veteran, entered the Supreme Court building on Jan. 20, 2012, wearing a jacket painted with the words, "Occupy Everywhere." The Occupy movement had scheduled that day for an organized protest outside of the courthouse.
While Scott was looking at the exhibits on display, Deputy Chief Timothy Dolan approached him and told Scott that he could not wear the jacket in the building because it was comparable to a sign or demonstration.
Dolan told Scott he must either take off the jacket or leave the building. When Scott refused to do either, Dolan instructed another officer to place Scott under arrest for unlawful entry. Scott was released the same day, and charges against him were later dropped.
Scott then filed suit , arguing that the "United States is liable for the false arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Scott because Pfc. Freeman arrested Mr. Scott without probable cause."
U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson dismissed the action Tuesday, finding that the "Supreme Court Police had probable cause to arrest Scott for violating section 6135 because Scott's actions fell squarely within the plain language of the display clause: he was displaying a device (his jacket) in the building which had been adapted to bring public attention to the 'Occupy' movement." (Parentheses in original.)
Jackson noted that her ruling in this case is not based on "whether a court could ultimately find that the application of the display clause in this instance violated Scott's First Amendment rights, but whether the officers knowingly ignored settled, indisputable law when they made the determination on the scene to effect the arrest."
Scott has no First Amendment ground for his claims because "at the time of Scott's arrest, the application of section 6135 - and its predecessor 40 U.S.C. § 13k8 - to individuals in the Supreme Court building and plaza had been upheld as constitutional," the 14-page opinion states.
"The fact that long after Cohen [v. California], this statute had been upheld as constitutional on its face and as applied to individuals in similar situations defeats Scott's assertion that his arrest violated clear constitutional law," Jackson added.