Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ACLU Defends 1st Amendment Rights Of Refuge Occupier Pete Santilli

The ACLU of Oregon has come to the defense of Pete Santilli, one of the 16 people indicted by federal prosecutors last week for organizing an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. “While many people might disagree with statements made by those involved in the Malheur takeover, Americans have a fundamental right to freedom of speech,” wrote Mat dos Santos, the legal director for the ACLU of Oregon, in statement posted to the group’s website Tuesday. Santilli is the host of an Internet radio show, which for weeks broadcasted hundreds of hours of live footage from the refuge and around Harney County. Santilli was arrested in Burns, Oregon on Jan. 26 along with militant leaders. Santilli’s lawyer has argued for his pretrial release and said repeatedly in court that Santilli is an independent journalist. But last week, U.S. District Chief Justice Michael Mosman affirmed a decision to keep Santilli in jail, ruling some of his statements posed a risk to the community, specifically law enforcement. In its statement, the ACLU said despite the fact that Santilli is “politically polarizing and, to many, downright offensive,” the radio host has protected First Amendment rights to make those statements. “We can all agree that we should not hold members of the media or protesters in jail without bail simply because they have shocking or abhorrent views,” dos Santos wrote. “These are principles that we must stand by, even when we disagree with the message of the speaker.”...more

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