The annual muzzle awards took a bipartisan bent this year. The Democratic and Republican parties shared a muzzle from the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression for restricting free speech at last summer’s national conventions.
Both parties set up “free speech zones”—areas designated for protestors and controlled by government officials—to accommodate security concerns that were an outgrowth of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At both events, police clashed with and arrested people in the zones, including journalists covering the conventions; few of the arrests resulted in convictions.
“It is understandable that in this post-9/11 world many feel the need for heightened security at large events such as the national conventions,” says the center’s Web site. “Yet any efforts undertaken in pursuit of such security must fully recognize First Amendment freedoms.”
The center has been presenting muzzle awards since 1992 in observance of Jefferson’s admonition that free speech “cannot be limited without being lost.”
Eleven other individuals and groups received muzzle awards this year, including the following:
- The command authority of Camp Lejeune Marine Base, N.C., for forcing an employee, a Marine veteran, to remove vehicle decals, including “Remember the Cole, 12 Oct. 2000” in honor of his son and 16 others killed in the attack on the USS Cole.
- Virginia Circuit Court Judge Westbrook J. Parker for ordering the organizers of an unsuccessful petition that sought to remove four county supervisors from office to pay $80,000 of the supervisors’ attorneys’ fees.
- Administrators at two community colleges in Texas for suppressing “several types of humorous student expression regarding the use or presence of firearms, without any evidence of harmful effects.”