No Free Speech Violation For Activist Ejected from City Council Meeting for Using Nazi Salute

November 6, 2009

A friend of mine used to get upset whenever she heard the word “Nazi” used as a punchline. She had a good reason: joking about Nazis in a lighthearted way, she argued, subtly belittled the pure evil committed by Nazis in and around Germany during WWII.

Perhaps the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal would agree. Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit ruled that the use of a “Nazi salute” during a city council meeting justified the ejection of the offending audience member and did not violate constitutional protections of freedom of speech.

The case, Norse v. City of Santa Cruz, arose out of two incidents in 2002 and 2004 in which Robert Norse gave a Nazi salute in protest. In the 2004 incident, Robert Norse was clearly disruptive, parading around the council chambers.  The 2002 incident was a closer call: Norse briefly used the salute to protest the Mayor’s decision to cut off another speaker from speaking at the podium.

The 9th Circuit’s written opinion unfortunately did not include a video of either incident embedded in the opinion.  But I was able to find the clip from the 2002 incident on Youtube:


The clip makes one wonder: Norse has had not one, but two trips to the Ninth Circuit for incidents in which he used a Nazi salute at a Santa Cruz City Council meeting. How frequently did this guy go around giving Nazi salutes?

It turns out pretty frequently.

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