California Man Denied Permit to Protest With Rifle Sues City of Menlo Park

Michael Zeleny, a free-speech and Second Amendment activist has sued the City of Menlo Park, California, and a number of city and state officials for denial of his civil rights under the First, Second and Fourteenth Amendments. The reason: he was denied a permit to protest while carrying an unloaded AK-47 rifle.

From padailypost.com:

Zeleny has an ongoing dispute against Min Zhu, the founder of Cisco WebEx and a former Chinese banking official. He was previously deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Zeleny applied to the city last year for a special event permit to demonstrate outside of a venture capital firm Zhu was formerly associated with, New Enterprise Associates at 2855 Sand Hill Road, next to the Rosewood Hotel.

But the city denied the permit because it involved the display of a gun.

Open carry is, of course, illegal on the left coast, but Zeleny argued that his protests were different.

Zeleny’s suit contends that his protests are an entertainment ‘event” that he’s filming, and therefore he is eligible for an exemption in the concealed carry law that’s used by the movie industry for performers using guns on camera.

“The city asserts that Zeleny is required to have a permit from the city for his events in order to qualify for state law exemptions to the firearm carry ban,” the lawsuit states. “Yet, the city refuses to grant Zeleny a permit for his entertainment events, even though he is willing to comply with lawful time, place, and manner restrictions. Indeed, the city refuses even to advise Zeleny what the requirements are for seeking a permit.

“Instead, the city has made clear that it will not grant Zeleny a permit because it considers his message offensive, and that if he continues his protests, the city will prosecute him for violating California’s obscenity laws and its open and/or concealed carry statutes,” the lawsuit said.

The idea that the carry of firearms is a form of strong, symbolic, protected political speech, isn’t new. If burning a flag is protected political speech, it’s hard to see how open carry of firearms is not, especially in the context of a political protest.

At the time, (Police Chief Dave) Bertini and the city’s special counsel, Greg Rubens, told Zeleny that he’s free to demonstrate without a permit on a public sidewalk without guns.

Zeleny appealed to City Council, which sided with Bertini and Rubens on Aug. 29, 2017.

Councilman Peter Ohtaki said at that August hearing he was concerned that the guns would be distracting to drivers just coming off of Interstate 280 and could cause an accident.

“You never know these days when someone is standing outside with a gun what they are going to do,” said Councilwoman Catherine Carlton.

In 2014, in an article published in the New York Times, Patrick Blanchfield came to the reluctant conclusion that openly carrying a firearm may, in fact, be considered political speech. While Blanchfield dislikes the idea that carrying weapons can be protected under the First Amendment, he concludes . . .

…if I stand outside an event featuring the president of the United States with a loaded handgun and a sign invoking Thomas Jefferson’s injunction that the “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” I’m in the clear.

Blanchfield theorizes about how this may be negative, without mentioning any of the reasons why it can also be positive.

In California, free speech is under assault, with “progressive” activists taking the position that oppositional speech — anything with which they disagree — is hate speech. It’s the default position taken by autocrats everywhere. Speech that the authorities don’t like is banned.

It’s especially telling that the Menlo Part authorities will not inform Mr. Zelany of the requirements he’d have to meet to obtain a permit for his protest. While he may be stretching the intent of what he’s doing, the linkage of First and Second Amendment rights in this case is clear.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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comments

  1. avatar Mark N. says:

    Where does the obscenity part come in? Was he planning on being naked too?

    1. avatar Private Joker says:

      This is my rifle, *this* is my gun!

      1. avatar Prudiikal says:

        lol

      2. avatar Austin says:

        Cocks AND Glocks!

        1. avatar anonymoose says:

          Attach dildo-bayonets as a counter-protest to the “Cocks not Glocks” sloots.

  2. avatar john nm says:

    I believe he has a case and maybe in any state except California, he would get a fair hearing.

  3. avatar Joe R. says:

    It’s getting WOM over here.

    Whole OP’s disappearing.

    1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      Word of mouth?

  4. avatar nativeson says:

    The Supreme Court has held that free speech can take many forms. As the author notes, burning an American flag is protected speech and it would be just as distracting to drivers coming off a freeway as a man holding a firearm. Unfortunately, we’re talking about California where the state courts are controlled by anti-2A progressives and the ultra-liberal 9th Circuit would side with the anti-gunners on appeal. If relief comes, it will come years from now if and when the case reaches the Supreme Court.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “If relief comes, it will come years from now if and when the case reaches the Supreme Court.”

      Kennedy has made noises he may retire, but he hired a fresh set of clerks for next term, so we may have to wait for relief.

      In the meantime, come’on, stroke, heart attack, or other sudden natural death for the Leftists associate justices!

  5. avatar VerendusAudeo says:

    Let’s be perfectly honest here. His argument is akin to filming yourself having sex with a prostitute and then claiming you were just making perfectly legal pornography. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t legally work that way.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      Ya, but if you’re doing what you love, it ain’t really ‘work’ now, is it.

    2. avatar Kow excrement says:

      What’s the difference? Irregardless of whether or not you’re actively enjoying the deed, someone is having sex for money. How can you even prove someone wasn’t making “amateur ” porn while filming a romp with an escort? In any jurisdiction that actually applied “beyond reasonable doubt “, a conviction for prostitution/solicitation in such an instance would be nearly impossible to achieve in an honest manner.

    3. avatar Hannibal says:

      If you go through all the business permitting processes and intend to sell the footage it can still work, even if your true motivation was the act itself.

      I see no reason to do this stunt with an unloaded gun EXCEPT as a challenge, knowing they’ll refuse it. And that’s a pretty good reason.

  6. avatar Aaron M. Walker says:

    We can only hope that Kalifornia is invaded by Liberal eating aliens from another planet.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      California has already been invaded by aliens, and they run the place.

      1. avatar Bob in Calif says:

        Ya got that right.

  7. avatar Maxi says:

    Well, it is nice that people use different rights as arguments for the others and sad that commiefornia denies more and more of them.
    The big plan is set: get one or even 2 good judges in the supreme court and then sue cali for even existing.

  8. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

    “Councilman Peter Ohtaki said at that August hearing he was concerned that the guns would be distracting to drivers just coming off of Interstate 280 and could cause an accident.”

    He’s allegedly concerned that people will think this is a spree shooting underway. I see.

    Does Menlo Park have any speed traps manned by motorcycle cops with radar guns? I bet they do. Like here, the cops probably park out of sight, then step *into* the street to aim their handheld radar gun at motorists a block away. From that distancr, that always looks like a man with a firearm who’s about to unload on traffic, especially if I’m in a less familiar part of town where I don’t already know the speed traps.

    So if Menlo Park does this, too, then the issue isn’t really concern about motorists being distracted or even frightened. The issue is whether that prospect is outweighed by the revenue these officers bring in. It is. Traffic cops aren’t there to ensure safe traveling. They’re just tax collectors for the welfare state.

    In the context of this man’s proposed protest, the issue is not whether the prospect of concerned/frightened motorists is outweighed by this man’s right to protest in this manner, as the Councilman lied. In a just society, civil rights trump crass money grabs. So we know this isn’t about motorists’ concerns. This is entirely this city’s unconstitutional censorship of this man’s free speech based on content, not public safety.

  9. avatar anonymoose says:

    Needing a “permit” to protest kinda defeats the purpose of protesting. Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, and all that.

    1. avatar ironicatbest says:

      That’s just what I thought too, Evidently Constitutional Rights don’t apply

  10. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    Goog luck sir. I will donate to your cause.

  11. avatar Salty Bear says:

    “You never know these days when someone is standing outside with a gun what they are going to do.”

    And yet when only government has guns, we know exactly what they’re going to do with that power. That’s why we want our rights. Someday we need to start insisting on them. If we could all unite somehow and decide we weren’t going to obey any gun laws, we would be unstoppable.

  12. avatar Anymouse says:

    Nobody has a right to make an “entertainment event” of public streets. Permitting for a film is a cumbersome process. He is still allowed to have a protest without the waivers an entertainment event would allow. He’s asserting neither protesting with a gun is free speech under the 1st nor that open carry should be allowed under the 2nd. In the end, not really gun related.

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