Don’t you just hate when Las Vegas is featured on those “worst in the country” lists? Well, brace yourselves, because one local agency recently received a similar type of “honor” for its blatant disregard of the First Amendment.
On April 13, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, a nonprofit organization with ties to the prestigious University of Virginia, included the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on its annual list of “Muzzle Award” recipients. Given out every year to individuals and government agencies who censor speech in ways both upsetting and ridiculous, the Muzzles are like the public policy equivalent of acting’s most famous non-award, the Razzies.
So why, exactly, does Metro merit this recognition? It’s all about Elvis, naturally.
The ACLU of Nevada’s ongoing fight to let musicians, Elvis impersonators, and other street performers exercise their First Amendment rights on the Las Vegas Strip caught the attention of the Thomas Jefferson Center, who were as shocked as the rest of us that local law enforcement would consistently harass performers on what has been clearly established as a public sidewalk.
Negotiations in the case are ongoing, and we hope that Metro will ultimately recognize and protect the First Amendment on the Strip. In the meantime, the Muzzle Awards, which received mention in publications as large as the Washington Post, are a sad reminder that sometimes what happens in Vegas…is regarded with grim bemusement by everyone else.