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Judge Permits Gaetz, Greene Free Speech Lawsuit Against California Cities

Anastasia Boushee
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On Friday, a federal judge greenlit lawsuits from Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) against two cities in deep-blue California for canceling rallies in 2021.

The lawsuits against Anaheim and Riverside were initiated by Gaetz and Greene last year after multiple venues abruptly canceled reservations from the GOP firebrands — with Gaetz and Greene alleging that city officials had pressured the venues to cancel the America First rallies over leftist backlash. The Republican lawmakers have argued that the involvement of city officials in the decisions means that the cancelations violate free speech protections.

U.S. District Judge Hernan Vera, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, issued a 22-page opinion on Friday that will allow the lawsuits to move forward, noting in the document that Gaetz and Greene had “adequately” alleged that the Democrat-run cities’ actions were based on “viewpoint discrimination.


“Plaintiffs adequately allege that the Municipal Defendants delegated to their respective agents the authority to cancel the rally (and/or ratified the relevant conduct after the fact) and that the event cancellations were expressly predicated on viewpoint discrimination,” the opinion read, in part.

While this ruling is a procedural victory for the Republican lawmakers, it is not a complete win. Gaetz and Greene also argued in their complaint that leftist groups like the NAACP had illegally conspired with city officials in Anaheim and Riverside to cancel the America First rallies. Vera addressed the lawmakers’ claims in the opinion, rebuking them for a “complete lack of any alleged facts to support a ‘meeting of the minds’ as required for a conspiracy claim.”

“Here, the Complaint — even charitably construed with all reasonable inferences drawn in Plaintiffs’ favor — is utterly devoid of any specifics plausibly alleging such an agreement,” the judge added.

“The gravamen of Plaintiffs’ claims against the Nonprofit Defendants is, both legally and literally, a conspiracy theory that relies purely on conjecture,” Vera continued. “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.”


These lawsuits stem from incidents in 2021, where Gaetz and Greene were involved in scheduling rallies in Orange County and Riverside County — booking three different venues for the events. One by one, the venues canceled the America First rallies after receiving complaints from the far-left, demanding that conservatives should not even be allowed a platform to speak their opinions in the deep-blue cities. After the last venue canceled the America First rally less than 24 hours before it was scheduled to happen, Gaetz and Greene decided to hold a “peaceful protest against communism” outside of Riverside City Hall.