From FIRE’s press release (and you can read the complaint here):
Today, the University of Texas Law & Religion Clinic and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression filed a lawsuit against the city of Houston, several Houston police officers and Discovery Green Conservancy after police officers arrested an animal rights advocate for refusing to give money to establish his First Amendment right to freedom of speech at Discovery Green, a public park described as the “crown jewel of downtown Houston public space.”
Management at Houston’s public Discovery Green Park was concerned that passersby might be “offended” by proponents’ message. The officers’ actions were a clear violation of advocates’ First Amendment rights to speak freely in a public park—a park where peaceful protests regularly take place….
During the summer of 2022, Dubash and Harsini went to Discovery Green several times to host a series of educational events. They held a television screen showing clips from a documentary about the abuse of animals, and spoke only to people who came into contact with them.
However, almost every time they demonstrated, park management and security asked them to leave, claiming that passersby might be “offended” by their message. And so they complied. But last time, Daraius stood his ground and calmly explained to park management and security, “You still have to abide by the First Amendment, because [the park] is owned by the government.”
The park management’s response? “Right. But we also choose, [and] We don’t think the content is appropriate.”
When two Houston police officers arrived, Daraius again calmly explained his First Amendment rights. Yet officers still arrested Daraius and handcuffed him to a chair in the park security office for more than two hours until he was taken to the county jail and charged with criminal trespass. The public prosecutor rejected the accusation….
The demonstrators showed “video clips… taken from the documentary Dominion”:
The film features overhead shots of cramped piggeries, pest-infested duck enclosures, close-ups of caged egg-laying chickens and electric prodding of livestock. In total, it involves the treatment of about twenty species of animals.
The specific content of the videos – which demonstrate legal, industry standard practices such as macerating male baby chicks (killing male chicks at birth that provide no economic value), or using farrowing or gestation crates (keeping pregnant pigs in small cages where they can only sit or stand, but not turn around) – causes some passersby to ask what is depicted.
(I’ve written about this broad topic in my Horrible speech article, mainly focused on restrictions on showing gruesome images of aborted fetuses, but also noting the connection to certain images of how animals are treated.) Some more allegations about the arrest incident:
[Park] Production Coordinator Floyd Willis… [told] Mr. Dubash: “I think the problem is more the content of the videos.”
The guard added: “The problem before was the content of the videos. We’ve talked about that before. And I mean, Brian has asked me several times to come talk to him… It’s what he shows. So that’s the only problem Discovery Green has.”
Willis reiterated that content ban to Mr. Dubash: “I, we’re good at it, if you want to talk to people, but we’re not comfortable with the TVs… the content on there.”
Willis revealed that Discovery Green Conservancy’s benchmark in managing a public park on behalf of the city is simply what it deems “appropriate.”
Willis acknowledged Mr. Dubash’s point that “you still have to adhere to the First Amendment because [the park] is owned by the government.”
But Willis ultimately said, “Right. But we also choose, we don’t think the content is appropriate.”
Surprisingly, neither security nor police stated that the speech was unprotected. And on half a dozen occasions, Mr. Dubash accurately noted that obscenity is limited to sexually explicit content….
[Later, o]The guard reiterated that the video was not allowed because “it is chickens being slaughtered.” …
Officer Douglas assured Mr. Dubash that he was aware of the First Amendment protections for free speech.
But he then stated that “if you show offensive material, he [i.e., Discovery Green management] doesn’t like it, you can’t be here. “…
Agent Douglas reiterated that the content was the problem, telling Mr. Dubash that his problem was “someone stabbing a goat or a cow in the neck to kill them. That seems insulting.” …