For all their whining about the "police state" and the city's failure to respect their "First Amendment rights," Occupy Oakland activists have managed to flout the law with regular impunity. Somehow demonstrators have managed to turn Frank Ogawa Plaza into a tent stew and shut down parts of the city in a so-called general strike Nov. 2, and still they think they're victims who have been deprived of their free speech rights.
But if they want to see what it's really like to fight City Hall, they should talk to Walter Hoye. Hoye's offense was to walk up to people with a sign that said, "Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help." For that he was arrested twice in 2008 and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
The difference here is that Hoye wasn't peddling some amorphous grievances that might be addressed with higher taxes and more government. Hoye's sin -- pardon the expression -- is that he opposed abortion.
Please note: Police did not arrest Hoye for blocking access to reproductive health clinics. It's always wrong for one group, in the name of free speech, to infringe on the rights of others. And it's a federal crime for anyone to injure, intimidate or interfere with women seeking reproductive health care services. The penalty can be as high as six months in prison and a $10,000 fine for a first-time nonviolent offense.
But that's not tough enough for Oakland. In 2007, the City Council passed an ordinance that created a "bubble" around reproductive health clinics. In the bubble, it's an offense to approach a woman entering a clinic without her consent. The measure actually banned "counseling."
Oakland passed the "bubble" bill, argued Hoye's attorney Katie Short of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, because the City Council had a problem: Hoye wasn't violating any existing laws, so it created a new one.
Later, Oakland tweaked the ordinance to make it appear evenhanded. Problem: Oakland police required Hoye to wait for consent before he could talk to Family Planning Specialists patients. There was no such requirement for pro-abortion rights volunteers -- escorts who don orange vests and stand between anti-abortion activists and clinic patients. A three-judge federal panel that included the famously liberal Judge Stephen Reinhardt ruled that Oakland did not apply the law in a neutral manner.