A lawyer for comedian John Merrifield said the city’s lawsuit was bogus – and was filed by “embarrassed” administrators who fell for an obvious joke.
Lafayette’s consolidated government can file a lawsuit against the creator of fake “Antifa” events on Facebook.
According to The Daily Advertiser, the city of Louisiana can sue comedian John Merrifield for creating fake “Antifa” events on Facebook. Lafayette, says the advertiser, is trying to get back the money it spent preparing law enforcement to respond to an alleged influx of far-left protesters and troublemakers.
In his ruling, Judge Ed Broussard of Lafayette’s 15th Judicial District said that Merrifield’s anti-fascist satirical posts were not protected by the first amendment because the two alleged events “imply illegal activity or violence”.
Broussard cited a state law prohibiting false statements that have the potential to trigger an emergency response.
The same law, says the advertiser, appears to be what the town of Lafayette built against Merrifield.
“These jokes were made illegal by this criminal law,” Lafayette attorney Michael Adley said in court. “The first change does not protect illegal activity.”
A suspected Antifa supporter in Portland, OR. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr / User: Old White Truck. (CCA-BY-2.0).
“The freedom of speech that causes disruption is not protected,” Adley added.
However, Andrew Bizer – a Merrifield attorney – plans to appeal Broussard’s verdict.
Bizer also said that Lafayette had not devoted significant resources to contain an alleged anti-fascist outbreak. Instead, Bizer said the city’s lawsuit was a “political statement” filed by its “embarrassed” administrators.
According to Bizer, Lafayette did nothing like an “emergency response”. Instead, the city has merely increased security in places where the anti-fascist protests are supposed to take place.
Bizer also claimed that Merrifield’s Facebook events, even if interpreted as genuine calls to action, would still be protected by the first change.
“The speech here was for peaceful protest, not a call for violent activity,” he said. “Even real anti-fascist rallies are protected language.”
According to the KATC, Merrifield’s fake anti-fascist events appear to have been written with humorous descriptions. For example, Merrifield has launched an event called “ANTIFA Takes River Ranch”. In the description of the event, reference was made to alleged Antifa uniforms and membership cards. It also asked participants to bring “arms” and then said that “legs are optional”.
Perhaps more tellingly, Merrifield and Bizer both stated that the events were created through a Facebook page called “cajUUUN Memes”.
But even if Bizer’s event was clearly satire, Lafayette’s consolidated government said it had received a “flood” of phone calls from concerned citizens who believed that black-clad radical left-wing protesters were planning to storm the city.
Lafayette wants Merrifield to pay the money he spent on the subsequent police response. The city is demanding $ 75,000 or less in damages – a calculated move that would keep the case up with Broussard, not federal court.
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