MARIETTA, GA — “Why does God let the homeless starve?” The sign, written simply on old cardboard, was the subject of a call to the police. Free speech was not truly free for one homeless man in historic Marietta Square several years ago.
I happened to be standing by, bored and looking for action on the Square. It was a Sunday, and I had the day off from work. An opportunity to step in, and govern, presented itself.
Almost no one will step up for an elderly homeless man, much less for his right to free speech. But, this core civil right is what makes the difference between society and tyranny. So I struck a pose on one knee, to balance my camera and focus in, and shouted…
“‘Homeless man arrested for free speech on Marietta Square!’ I can see the headline, and the ACLU lawsuit, right now!”
Two Marietta PD officers glanced back, saw a camera being aimed their way, then quickly put away the handcuffs, and left the scene. The officers were so fast that a picture could not be taken of them with the cuffs out. My only goal was to free that man, immediately. Jail is not the proper place for the homeless.
The homeless man recounted his brief story: the sign, held aloft on a Sunday had prompted children at a nearby lunch spot to start repeating the question to their parents. None of these offended (and very well-heeled) customers wanted to be asked about the poor not being able to eat, especially while eating at a trendy little outdoor table at an expensive cafe, and especially after leaving church. Hence, the calls to the police. The man who was starving for a meal was eventually given a free lunch.
The man did not want any pictures taken; he simply wanted to eat and then leave as fast as he could make happen.
By flexing media rights, one person with a camera can preserve the freedoms of many other people.
#FlexYourRights #MediaRights #FilmThePolice
– Amy Barnes, political activist and civil rights advocate