An attorney for comedian John Merrifield said the city’s suit has no standing–and was filed by “embarrassed” administrators who fell for an obvious joke.
The Lafayette Consolidated Government can proceed with a lawsuit against the creator of fake “antifa” events on Facebook.
According to The Daily Advertiser, the Louisiana city can sue comedian John Merrifield for creating fake “antifa” events on Facebook. Lafayette, says the Advertiser, is attempting to recoup the money it spent preparing law enforcement to respond to a supposed influx of far-left protesters and troublemakers.
In his ruling, Judge Ed Broussard of the 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette said that Merrifield’s antifa satire posts are not protected by the First Amendment, because the two make-believe events “imply illegal activity or violence.”
Broussard cited a state law which prohibits false statements which have the potential to prompt an emergency response.
That same law, says the Advertiser, appears to be the one around which the City of Lafayette built its case against Merrifield.
“These hoaxes were made unlawful by this criminal statute,” Lafayette attorney Michael Adley said in court. “The First Amendment does not protect unlawful actions.”
An alleged Antifa supporter in Portland, OR. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Old White Truck. (CCA-BY-2.0).
“Free speech to cause a disruption is not protected,” Adley added.
However, Andrew Bizer—an attorney for Merrifield—says he plans to appeal Broussard’s ruling.
Bizer also said suggested that Lafayette did not expend significant resources attempting to contain a purported antifa outbreak—instead, Bizer has said the city’s lawsuit is a “political statement” filed by its “embarrassed” administrators.
Furthermore, Bizer says Lafayette did not perform anything akin to an “emergency response”—rather, the city simply increased security around sites where the antifa protests were allegedly going to take place.
Bizer also asserted that, even if Merrifield’s Facebook events are interpreted as real calls to action, they would still be protected by the First Amendment.
“The speech here was for peaceful protests, not a call for violent activities,” he said. “Even real antifa rallies are protected speech.”
Merrifield’s fake antifa events, observes KATC, appear to have been written with humorous descriptions. For instance, Merrifield created an event called “ANTIFA takes River Ranch.” The event description made references to supposed antifa “uniforms” and “membership cards.” It also urged attendees to bring “arms,” 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, the Lafayette Consolidated Government says that it received a “flood” of phone calls from concerned citizens who believed that black-clad, far-left protesters were planning to storm the city.
Lafayette says it wants Merrifield to pay for the money it spent on the subsequent police response. The city is asking for $75,000 in damages or less—a calculated move that would keep the case with Broussard, rather than federal court.
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