The 1997 Inaugural Parade
It had warmed up to a comfortable degree after we had found some lunch and took our places along Pennsylvania Avenue. We knew that the parade would last longer then we could stay since we were scheduled to return to our in-laws in Gaithersburg to get ready for the DC Ball that evening. It was scheduled to have participants from every state in the Union. For us, the goal was to catch a glimpse of the First Family and the family of the Vice-President, preferably as they walked rather than rode by our position. Traditionally, the President would walk the last leg of his tour, and we were positioned at Pennsylvania and 6th St., so we knew our chances were slim.
We took our positions along a wall of one of the many government building on the route. It was a spot with a great vantage point over the parade route, but we had an unfortunate view of the anti-abortion protesters who had staked their claim right in front of us. Their six-foot-high placards of aborted fetuses were clearly visible by all who were in a quarter-mile radius of their position. Clearly, they intended to have an audience with those riding by, ensconced in the limosines. After the protesters engaged in several heated public discussions with waiting parade-goers, the DC police decided to post several blue-helmeted uniformed officers interposed between the protesters and the spectators. Their presence at the parade site, placards and all, was never questioned as long as there were no disturbances.
Does the right of free speech include an infringement of the right of a citizen NOT to be exposed to certain speech? In my case, no matter what my position on abortion is, I did not want to be exposed to the contents of the posters used by the protesters during the Inaugural Parade. My right to be free of their speech was infringed. I was unwilling to move to another spot on the parade route because there was none (my wife and I did attempt to move away from the unsightly pictures of aborted fetuses, but when we saw there was no acceptable parade-viewing position, we returned to our former positions in spite of the offending speech). How far can a person freedom of speech go? What actions would you have recommended for me?
Note: I have censored the image above to refrain from being guilty of the indiscretion I am levying against the protesters in the picture. As the author, I am exercising editorial responsibility.
A shot of
the author while waiting