A Fun Free Speech Opinion I Just Ran Across
Canney v. State (Fla. Ct. App. 1973), in which Robert Benjamin Canney was convicted of “resisting an officer with violence” when he was being arrested for “profane, vulgar or indecent language” (“bring the Goddamned war home” and “the Goddamn pigs”) at a 1970 anti-Vietnam war rally in St. Petersburg, Florida. Canney argued the arrest was unlawful, but the panel majority disagreed, on the grounds that the city ordinance did ban this speech, and had not been expressly invalidated at the time of the arrest (regardless of whether it was unconstitutional under then-recent First Amendment precedents). Chief Judge Robert Mann dissented, in a colorful opinion; here are some excerpts:
If in Stalin’s time, in the St. Petersburg which had by then become Leningrad (saints having fallen from grace in the Soviet Union), a citizen had been arrested for cursing the ‘goddam war’ and calling the visibly present police ‘goddam pigs,’ I could understand it. But Canney was arrested at a peace rally in St. Petersburg, Florida, and I cannot understand it.
The legality of Canney’s arrest for profa
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