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Friday, November 6, 2009

Court Ruling: Man Officially a Dick For Giving Nazi Salute at City Council Meeting

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 8:30 AM

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A legal case lasting longer than America's involvement in World War II has ostensibly culminated with the following conclusion: A man who felt the need to give the Nazi salute during government meetings deserved the Stalingrad treatment he got.

A Santa Cruz man named Robert Norse twice gave the Sieg Heil to members of that city's government, in 2002 and 2004. Following his '04 ejection, he sued the city for abrogating his First Amendment rights. That case made it all the way to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the city of Santa Cruz' claim that it was authorized to eject anyone who "disrupts the proceedings of the Council." Yet that case was remanded back to San Francisco District Court as the 9th was uncertain how to assess the "reasonableness" of giving Norse the heave-ho.

Well, the district court determined that it was plenty reasonable to toss Norse. And, in a ruling released this week, the 9th once again concurred. And this time they saw a video of Norse's behavior: "The [2004] videotape shows that Norse was engaged in a parade about the Council chambers, protesting the Council's action and his conduct was clearly disruptive," wrote Judge Mary M. Schroeder. "...The behavior that prompted Norse's [2002] ejection was his giving a Nazi salute in support of a disruptive member of the audience who had refused to leave the podium after the presiding officer ruled the speaker's time had expired ... the salute was obviously intended as a criticism or condemnation of the ruling."

So, if Norse's Hitlerian salute had, somehow, been tied to a valid point he was making, then Santa Cruz officials might be in hot water right now. But the Circuit Court sees it as part of Norse's disruptive behavior that earned him a trip out of the meeting. It seems that evoking Nazi mannerisms is, in itself, not disruptive. 

"A majority of us remanded this case years ago because, on the basis of the pleadings alone, Norse's ejection after the salute may have been on account of a viewpoint that was contrary to that of the Council," wrote the judge. "Now ... it is clear that the salute was in protest of the chair's enforcing the time limitations and in support of the disruption that had just occurred in the back of the meeting room. We agree with the district court that the ejection was not on account of any permissible expression of a point of view." 

In a partial dissent, meanwhile, Judge Wallace Tashima agreed that Norse's 2004 Nazi-saluting parade was clearly disruptive but his "fleeting, silent Nazi salute" in 2002 did not raise to that level.

The judges did not discuss what Santa Cruz policies could possibly warrant even a tacit comparison to the Third Reich. Perhaps that's left to us.

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H/T   |   Courthouse News

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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