Illegal speech

Jeffrey Toobin writes a profile of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in this week’s New Yorker. Among the many aspects of the article I found interesting was the discussion of flag-burning. Stevens in 1989 dissented from the court’s decision that flag-burning was protected speech.

“The funny thing about that case is, the only consequence of it — nobody burns flags anymore,” Stevens told me. “It was an important symbolic form of protest at the time. But nobody does it anymore. As long as it’s legal, it’s not a big deal. You just don’t have flag burning.”

This reminds me of the March 4 protesters at UC Davis. They were not content with occupying the intersection of Anderson and Russell, where they were not being harassed by police. Instead they were determined to get on the freeway — clearly unsafe and illegal — where they could make more of a scene. As long as it’s legal, it’s not a big deal.