The Right of the People, Even At the Airport

Abby Zimet

Tobey's booking shot at the airport

Arguing that "bizarre does not equal disruptive," a judge has ruled in favor of a Virginia man who sued TSA officials who handcuffed, arrested and interrogated him about his "affiliation with, or knowledge of, any terrorist organizations" after he stripped down at airport security to reveal the core of the Fourth Amendment written on his chest. A dissenting judge argued that Aaron Tobey’s "antics" created "a diversion that nefarious actors could have exploited to dangerous effect." Hogwash, said Judge Roger Gregory, who quoted Ben Franklin in ruling that, "It is crystal clear that the First Amendment protects peaceful nondisruptive speech in an airport, and that such speech cannot be suppressed solely because the government disagrees with it." The case can now proceed to trial.

"Here, Mr. Tobey engaged in a silent, peaceful protest using the text of our Constitution—he was well within the ambit of First Amendment protections. And while it is tempting to hold that First Amendment rights should acquiesce to national security in this instance, our Forefather Benjamin Franklin warned against such a temptation by opining that those ‘who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ We take heed of his warning and are therefore unwilling to relinquish our First Amendment protections—even in an airport."

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