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Judge allows Florida and Georgia representatives to sue California cities over rally cancellations


Florida – Republican Representatives Matt Gaetz, of Florida, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, have been granted permission by a federal judge to proceed with their lawsuit against two Californian cities. The lawsuit claims that the cancellation of their political events in 2021 by local authorities amounted to a violation of their First Amendment rights. This decision by the judge opens a new front in the political battles leading up to the presidential campaign, providing a potential rallying point for Republican criticisms of Democratic strategies and the Biden administration.

Judge Criticizes Baseless Claims Against Civic Groups

U.S. District Judge Hernan Vera, appointed by President Biden, delivered a sharp critique in his 22-page opinion, dismissing Greene and Gaetz’s accusations against various liberal advocacy groups, including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and LULAC. The representatives had alleged that these groups conspired with the cities to prevent their rallies, but the judge described their lawsuit as being “utterly devoid of any specifics plausibly alleging such an agreement.” He labeled their claims as a “conspiracy theory that relies purely on conjecture.”

Judge Vera further highlighted the irony in the representatives’ actions, noting that they were attempting to do exactly what they accused the civic groups of doing—using legal mechanisms to punish political adversaries. “[H]aling nine civil rights groups into federal court for speaking out against an event … should shock in equal measure civic members from across the political spectrum,” Vera wrote. This comment underlines the contentious nature of the lawsuit and its broader implications for political discourse in the United States.

Events Leading to the Lawsuit

The origins of this lawsuit trace back to July when Greene and Gaetz filed for damages and sought a court injunction to prevent similar event cancellations in the future. Their efforts to organize rallies were thwarted when venues in Riverside and then in Anaheim were abruptly withdrawn, allegedly due to pressure from city officials and political backlash from local civic groups.

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The cities’ actions, as per Judge Vera’s findings, seem to constitute “viewpoint discrimination,” providing Greene and Gaetz with a plausible case against the municipalities. However, the judge firmly dismissed any claims against the civic groups, stating that their lobbying to cancel the events constituted protected First Amendment activity.

Notably, the legal team for Gaetz and Greene includes John Eastman, a controversial figure who played a significant role in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in office after the 2020 election. Eastman himself is facing legal challenges, including a potential disbarment.

This lawsuit has simmered for months in the Central District of California’s federal courthouse and now emerges as a notable case amid rising political tensions in the U.S. The outcome of this legal battle could have significant repercussions for how political events are conducted and how free speech is interpreted in different contexts across the country. Judge Vera’s decision to allow the case against the cities to proceed, while protecting the rights of civic groups to protest politically contentious events, sets a precedent that could influence future legal and political strategies as the 2024 presidential election draws nearer.

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