Howze was not insensitive to Grogan’s free-speech rights but was weighing those against safety issues, according to a transcript of the proceedings. Grogan’s recurring arrests elevated her concerns, the transcript shows.
“While trying to exercise free speech, the more . . . these things happen, the more you put yourself in jeopardy because we have to determine if this is a danger to the community,” Howze said in the transcript. She reminded Grogan that he could have been held in jail because of his pending cases, rather than released with the restriction to stay out of the District.
Grogan, she said, “appears to endanger hundreds of people, disrupting the inaugurationthroughout.”
The police charging document filed in court accuses Grogan of breaking several tree branches. A spokesman for the Capitol police said authorities did not deem Grogan a threat to the president. But Grogan, who has at least three pending cases in the District, was “jeopardizing his life and the life of others” if the tree branch broke, the arrest report says.
James E. Felman, a Tampa defense attorney and co-chair of the American Bar Association’s sentencing committee, said that if the tree branch “is your public safety argument for the stay-out-of-town order, it is really dubious. If the tree branch is your argument, order him not to climb trees over the heads of people.”
The order was stunning because it came as a case was pending — before conviction or resolution, said Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital.
“An order like that arguably could make more sense after the person has been convicted, and I am not saying I would agree with that even then for an entire city,” Spitzer said.
Protesters previously have faced restrictions on their movements before their case was resolved, District court records show.
In 2007, a Code Pink antiwar protester accused of shouting “war criminal” and waving blood-colored hands in the face of then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during a congressional hearing was ordered to stay away from Rice and also an area of the Capitol grounds, with boundaries defined in the order by specific street references, court records show.
Grogan said that he has no plans to violate his ban but that he was looking forward to the next sanctioned return to the District — his court hearing next month. He plans to arrive early.
“They can oppress my speech and keep me out of the city,” he said. “But what they can’t do when I am allowed back is to stop me from preaching on the steps of the courthouse.”