Is Street Preaching Inciting A Riot? Legal Issues | Jesse Morrell

Someone posted in the comments of this video that I was “inciting a riot.”

He said:

“You are inciting riots – Under federal law, a riot is a public disturbance involving an act of violence by one or more persons assembled in a group of at least three people. Inciting a riot applies to a person who organizes, encourages, or participates in a riot. It can apply to one who urges or instigates others to riot. According to 18 USCS § 2102 “to incite a riot”, or “to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot”, includes, but is not limited to, urging or instigating other persons to riot, but shall not be deemed to mean the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief, not involving advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such act or acts.””

I responded:

You are confusing “inciting a riot” with “a hecklers veto.” Inciting a riot means that you WANT people to riot, like a political speech calling people to go and riot. Such speech is not protected under free speech. But freely expressing your beliefs, not wanting anyone to get violent, though people respond in violence, is NOT inciting a riot. To the contrary, to say that a speaker has no free speech once a crowd responds violently to his message is a “hecklers veto” which the supreme court has ruled against as unconstitutional.

Here are some applicable court rulings:

I. Our freedom of speech may not be prohibited merely because it offends some listeners (Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 / Simon & Shuster v. New York State Crime Victims Bd, 502 U.S. 105 / N.Y. Ties v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254).

II. A city may not consider the listener’s reaction when permitting free speech activity (Forsyth County v. The Nationalist Movement, 505 U.S. 123).

III. Hecklers do not have veto power over a speaker’s right of free speech but Police must control a crowd rather than arrest the speaker in order to maintain order (Cox. v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536).

IV. We have the right to be protected by law enforcement if the crowd is offended by what we are preaching and becomes hostile (Hedges v. W.C.U.S.D. No. 118, et al. 9F.3d 1295).

Even what you quoted said that inciting a riot “shall not be deemed to mean the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief, not involving advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such act or acts.”

In other words, merely expressing your opinion like I am doing, not advocating anyone to act violently, is NOT inciting a riot and the inciting a riot law shall not be deemed to mean such.

SEE ALSO: 

Legal Rights of Street Preachers – How to Handle Police 

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