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Banishment of serial protester challenged

A civil-rights litigation team is challenging a District of Columbia judge’s decision to bar a serial protester from Washington until his trial after he climbed  a tree and shouted pro-life slogans during Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Even the Washington Post said it’s not realistic to rid the district of what critics call a loud-mouth protester.

The paper’s editorial board said if Rives Grogan’s “actions at the inauguration posed a threat to public safety, as the judge reasonably concluded, she could have prohibited him from climbing trees over the heads of others.”

“But exiling loudmouths, exhibitionists and ideologues from the district is neither constitutional nor practicable. After all, Congress is located in the city, and it’s here to stay.”

The challenge is being launched the Rutherford Institute on behalf of Grogan, who has protested sometimes in a spectacular fashion.

Most recently, he was arrested after he climbed 40 feet up a tree near the Capitol reflecting pool during Obama’s inauguration to protest the government’s policies on abortion.

He also recently was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly shouting from the U.S. House of Representatives gallery in protest of abortion.

But it was the decision by Magistrate Judge Karen Howze to bar him from the district that raised eyebrows and a defense.

“It’s the citizen’s right to confront the government and demand that it alter its policies, but first, citizens have to be seen and heard, and only under extraordinary circumstances should free speech ever be restricted,” and Rutherford President John W. Whitehead.

“Unfortunately, politicians have gone to great lengths to evade their constitutional duty to truly make themselves available to their constituents. This, in turn, gives rise to so-called uncivil behavior where concerned citizens such as Rives Grogan show up at a controlled event and shout, heckle, and create a disturbance or engage in civil disobedience, which Martin Luther King Jr. did to great effect.”

Grogan, 47, a Christian preacher and pro-life activist from Los Angeles, last October ran onto the field during a playoff game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants while holding an “Abortion is Sin” sign.

Also, in November, he reportedly was forcibly removed from a campaign rally in Lima, Ohio, at which Obama was speaking after he made an outburst during the president’s remarks.

In December, he was charged for speaking out from the U.S. Senate gallery during a lunch recess.

Most recently, in the U.S. House, he allegedly “began shouting about abortion killing children, banning assault weapons and the need for Jesus and the Bible in the schools,” Rutherford said.

Then on inauguration day, Grogan was arrested when he came down from a tree where he had spent some five hours.

Post editors were concerned by the precedent.

The editorial board said it’s easy to think of people “we might like to see exiled.”

“Drunk drivers, to start with; dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets; pickpockets; possibly even politicians. But in the United States, where the Constitution confers certain rights and privileges of citizenship – including the right to domestic travel, according to the Supreme Court – it is all but unheard of for courts to banish individuals from entire states and localities.”

The paper found the judge’s ruling “bizarre.”

“What’s next – a federal judge ruling the entire Atlantic seaboard off-limits?”

The Post noted prosecutors asked the judge to ban Grogan from the Capitol grounds, House and Senate office buildings, Library of Congress and Supreme Court.

“Fair enough,” the board wrote. “But Judge Howze went a giant step further. As a condition of his release pending trial, she ordered Mr. Grogan, who lives in Los Angeles, banished from the District in its entirety.”

The paper described Howze’s actions as “a spectacular case of judicial overreach.”