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Freedom of speech or offensive?

Armando Cutino, a volunteer with the LaRouche PAC, in Ortonville. Photo by Susan Bromley. (click for larger version)
June 29, 2011 - Ortonville- Many Americans will celebrate Independence Day Monday and the rights this country enjoys, but here in the village this past Monday, one of those freedoms, the freedom of speech, was debated.

Outside the post office, 55 Pond St., on village property between the street and the sidewalk, Tarrajna Dorsey and Armando Cutino stood next to a table laden with propaganda from the LaRouche Political Action Committee. Propped against the table was a roughly 3-foot high picture of President Barack Obama. The photo was doctored to include a toothbrush mustache, which Nazi leader Adolf Hitler made famous.

A vehicle pulled up outside the display.

"That is offensive!" said the driver, Jerri Decker. "I'm livid right now. The fact that they put that mustache on him, it makes me indignant."

Smiles and laughter from Dorsey andCutino, Redford residents who volunteer for the LaRouche PAC, drew further anger from Decker.

"Why are you laughing?" she asked. "My heart is racing. I'm angry and they are laughing... I think they need to remove the reference to Hitler, it is so unnecessary." "So we're not allowed freedom of speech?" asked Dorsey. "You are limiting our freedom of speech. You either believe in freedom of speech or you don't."

Decker, shaking her head in disgust, drove away.

Cutino at first declined to give his name or have his photo taken, but later consented after Dorsey explained what they were doing in the village.

"We are fundraising and building a citizen's movement around the policies we see necessary to save our economy from disintegration," she said. "We ask for contributions if people can, and offer contact information, and give out materials to give people an idea of what we are doing."

Those materials included information on H.R. 1489, a bill known as the "Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2011" and likened to reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, which was enacted as the Banking Act of 1933. According to a letter included in the information from Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, the statute safeguarded the American economy by legally separating commercial and investment banking. The Gramm Leach Bliley Act repealed the regulation in 1999.

Other literature directly attacks Obama, alleging he pushed through cancellation of weather forecasting devices and lied, resulting in the deaths of people in Joplin, Mo. and also that he violated the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Act in regards to U.S. involvement in Libya.

Dorsey said she and Cutino had given out the LaRouche PAC materials to about 30 people on Monday.

"People talking to us were fairly supportive," she said. "The people who disagree just drive by. We're not trying to provoke, we're just here to provide leadership to people looking for a solution."

As she spoke, Marion Hyatt, a Groveland Township resident, drove up and accepted literature from Dorsey.

"My opinion is there are good points and bad to both parties," Hyatt said. "We have to help the needy, but realize we can't take everything from people who work hard and strive. I'm interested in reading these materials. I can't say whether I agree yet or not."

Dorsey said she had signed up "a lot" of people who wanted more information, and had also taken monetary contributions from some. Asked why a Hitler mustache had been added to the Obama photo, she said it was because Obama's healthcare policy was directly modeled after Hitler's T-4 program.

"Since then, all of Obama's policies have been a continuation in that direction," Dorsey said. "I'm out here because I agree with the assessment that Obama's policies are Hitlerian. I see that people might be offended, but it doesn't mean it's not true. It's one thing to be offended, but another to say I can't say that because it offends you. We need more support from the American people."

As she paused, Cutino called to post office patrons, "Ready to get rid of Hitler?"

Lorraine and Edward James stopped to pick up information from Cutino and Dorsey.

"This sounds good to me," said Lorraine. "Anything to get rid of Obama, anything. People couldn't see what he was before he was elected...He deliberately set out to destroy America. It set me off when he said the U.S. was no longer a Christian nation."

Laura Douglas, like Decker, was offended when she saw the photo of Obama with a Hitler mustache added and went directly to the village offices. When she was told there was no ordinance regulating what the PAC volunteers were doing, she set up her own table. Less than 50 feet away, in the same grassy strip of land, as the PAC volunteers, Douglas sat with a sign telling passersby that the village has no ordinance regulating demonstrations and urging them to come to the village council meeting that evening.

"I think tomorrow I'll put up a table in support of gay marriage in front of the church," she said sarcastically. "I bet the ordinance will be changed just like that. I support freedom of speech, but where is the decorum? The ordinance should be reviewed with some parameters. We don't want 50 tables out here, and the Nazi mustache? Really? Comparing Obama to someone who was responsible for the murders of 6 million? They didn't have to say anything about content or register with the village or say where they would set up or for how long."

Village Manager Larry Brown walked by the LaRouche PAC table on Monday, but didn't see any reason to take action.

"I don't agree with what they are espousing, but I agree with their right to do so," he said. "If someone is being a nuisance, there would be a way to curtail their activity."

At the village council meeting June 27, Wayne Wills thanked God for the freedoms the United States has, including the freedom of speech, during a prayer that recognized the Independence Day holiday to be celebrated this week.

Shortly afterward, Douglas addressed the council and questioned how far freedom of speech extends.

"I don't want to see an aborted fetus (sign) on my way to get pizza, or gay marriage support outside a church, or assisted suicide (demonstrators) outside the funeral home," she said. "We need to know who is out there."

"We have the right to assemble and to free speech," Wills responded. "I will have the village manager look into this."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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