Reps. Gaetz, Green Sue California Cities Over Canceled Rallies

In 2021, political rallies hosted by U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) had been scheduled to take place in, among other places, the California cities of Anaheim and Riverdale. Local officials in those municipalities, however, opted to cancel the events, sparking allegations from both GOP lawmakers that their First Amendment rights had been violated in the process.

Although Gaetz and Greene filed a lawsuit against both cities, their effort faced legal hurdles that were addressed in a ruling by U.S. District Judge Hernan Vera late last week. 

In addition to seeking compensation for emotional distress, the lawsuit aimed to facilitate an injunction on city leaders “coercing private venues from entering into facilities use contracts with Plaintiffs for future political rallies.”

The judge sided with the lawmakers on a fundamental aspect of their lawsuit, concluding that they had presented sufficient evidence to support their claim against officials in both cities.

Gaetz issued a statement shortly after the 22-page opinion was released on Friday, touting the decision as vindication of his complaints against Anaheim and Riverdale.

“This ruling allows the plaintiffs to proceed against the California liberal city governments who attempted to violate the First Amendment by constraining free speech,” he said.

Of course, Vera’s decision did include some details that did not play to the plaintiffs’ favor. For example, he determined that a number of leftist organizations that put pressure on the local governments to cancel the rallies could not be sued over allegations that they were complicit in a conspiracy to deprive Gaetz and Greene of their free speech rights. 

“The gravamen of Plaintiff’s claims against the Nonprofit Defendants is, both legally and literally, a conspiracy theory that relies purely on conjecture,” the judge concluded. “And without an unlawful conspiracy, all that is left to aver against the Nonprofit Defendants are the unremarkable allegations that they exercised their own First Amendment rights to lobby for the cancellation of the event. That is protected.”

Furthermore, Vera determined that there were “numerous fatal deficiencies” in the plaintiffs’ lawsuit as written, explaining: “Chief among them is the complete lack of any alleged facts to support a ‘meeting of the minds’ as required for a conspiracy claim.”

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