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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Nazi Salute at Council Meeting Was Disruptive

(CN) - The 9th Circuit upheld Santa Cruz's ejection of a man from two city council meetings after he Nazi saluted the presiding officer. Judge Mary Schroeder called the ousted man's conduct "clearly disruptive."

The video showed Robert Norse parading around city council chambers, protesting the council's actions. And when Mayor Christopher Krohn told another speaker that her time at the podium was up, Norse gave a Nazi salute to the presiding officer.

"The salute was obviously intended as a criticism or condemnation of the ruling," Schroeder wrote.

A council member told the mayor about the gesture, as the mayor had been reading and did not see it.

Norse sued the city, its mayor and city council members, claiming they violated his First Amendment rights by booting him from the meetings for exercising his free-speech rights.

A three-judge panel initially upheld the ejection in a 2004 unpublished opinion, but a majority of judges remanded, saying there was no way to determine if the mayor's actions were reasonable.

On remand, the district court sided with the defendants, explaining that the Nazi salute supported other disruptive conduct.

The 9th Circuit agreed.

"[T]he salute had little to do with the message content of the speaker whose time had expired," Schroeder wrote. "Rather, it was a condemnation of the efforts of the Mayor to enforce the rules of the meeting."

Judge Wallace Tashima dissented in part, saying there was "no way" that a "fleeting, silent Nazi salute" could be considered disruptive.

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