free speech

109 petitions

Update posted 3 weeks ago

Petition to

Stand up for Daniel Marquez, an 11-year-old Child Whose Civil Rights Were Violated

Please join Friends of Daniel in demanding justice for Daniel Marquez, and standing up for the constitutional rights of free speech and due process for all Americans. On May 28, 2022 Daniel, 10 years old at the time, was arrested at his Florida home by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, led by Carmine Marceno. Within three hours of the arrest Marceno, who has a history of falsely and publicly accusing children in this way, posted Daniel’s name, mugshot, and a “perp walk” video publicly vilifying this young boy on the department’s Facebook page. After his arrest, Daniel was incarcerated for nearly two weeks in juvenile detention, then placed under house arrest without any charges having been filed. Why did this happen? Daniel is an honor roll student; he was a Boy Scout; he has no history of behavioral problems. In short, he is a normal kid. The Sheriff justified his actions based on private text messages Daniel had sent the previous day to a 10-year-old friend, which were inappropriate but clearly intended as a joke. In the first text, Daniel wrote that he had “scammed” $1,000,000,000,000 from another child (Daniel described this as “a bazillion” dollars). In the recording of Daniel’s arrest, before he was put in handcuffs and taken from his family, you can hear the deputy laugh while reading Daniel’s text messages—because the arresting officer understood that 10-year-old Daniel was sharing a private joke with his 10-year-old friend. On July 15, 2022, the head of legal for a civil liberties organization asked the DOJ to investigate Sheriff Marceno for "violations of the Constitutional and civil rights of a ten-year-old child" citing among other things the creation and distribution by Marceno's office of this TikTok video after Daniel’s arrest and edited to the AC/DC song “Shoot to Thrill” in what she described as "a cynical attempt to frame a ten-year-old child in the eyes of the public as having made a threat, when that is not true." She explained that Marceno's office deceptively edited Daniel's text messages in the TikTok to falsely connect a separate text about "water day"—a school event that Daniel was excited to attend with his friend—to an image of rifles. “Daniel never did that, and it’s shocking, frankly, that law enforcement would manufacture evidence against a 10-year-old child and circulate it,” she said. Marceno admitted in an interview in June 2022 that his office edited Daniel's text messages for the TikTok video, saying: "So, it might be double in this image. Because it was edited." Why Daniel's Case is Important This case is important because what happened to Daniel could happen to any of our kids. By standing up for Daniel’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and due process, we are standing up for the civil rights and liberties of all Americans. As parents, many of us worry about our children saying something inappropriate or offensive, even if they don't fully understand what they are saying. Kids make mistakes and it is our job to teach and discipline them—not to let elected officials demonize them, or destroy their future if they say something inappropriate or offensive in a private conversation. At age 10 children are, by definition, immature and lacking in judgment and understanding of how their words will be interpreted. This can be dangerous in the age of the internet and smart phones—where one mistake can follow a child for the rest of their lives. Until the time of his arrest and public vilification by Sheriff Marceno, Daniel enjoyed the anonymity and privacy that our justice system typically protects in the interest of children. Now, his name, mug shot, and other images depicting him as the worst type of criminal have been circulated throughout the internet, along with patently false accusations against him. Those printed words and viral images will follow him forever. Carmine Marceno's public doxxing and demonization of Daniel as a 10-year-old child is all the more disturbing given his own history of ethical lapses. In 2018, Marceno was accused of taking advantage of his position in the Lee County Sheriff's Office to enter into a relationship with a crime victim, and then pressuring her to have an abortion when she became pregnant with his child. In a formal complaint filed with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the woman alleged that Marceno threatened her during her pregnancy, and that she and her family started receiving terrifying calls during the dispute, including one in which an unknown female caller told her she needed to "have her throat slit and face slashed." In 2019, there were calls for Marceno to resign after it was discovered that he had engaged in intentional distortions of two job-related polygraph tests, and that he had secured a job with the Collier County Sheriff's Office despite an interview report that found his use of illegal steroids automatically disqualified him from further job consideration pursuant to the department's strict drug policy. In addition, a job interview report found that Marceno engaged in multiple juvenile acts of theft: stealing food from a grocery store where he worked around age 16, and shoplifting candy as a 10-year-old boy. Please take a few minutes to watch this short video documentary if you want to learn more about Daniel's case: Why Daniel Urgently Needs Our Help This case has been a difficult ongoing struggle for Daniel and his family, and right now is a pivotal moment. Since he is a child Daniel was not eligible for a jury trial. On August 3, 2023, now 11-year-old Daniel Marquez appeared in the Lee County courthouse in Ft. Myers, Florida and was placed on probation for an undisclosed period of time. The conditions imposed by the elected judge, who is reported to be a political ally of Marceno, are harsh and indefinite—meaning they could last until he is 18 years old. Daniel is confined to his home from 6pm until 6am every day, and subject to other measures that are typically imposed on convicted felons including monthly drug tests. The net effect of the judge’s actions will be to turn Daniel into a pariah. They are not corrective; they are punitive. Immediately, the clock started ticking on a narrow 30-day window for Daniel to file an appeal or the judge’s decision will stand. The experienced attorney Daniel’s father wants to use has an excellent track record, and believes the path to vindicating Daniel is straightforward. He expressed confidence that justice will prevail. Time is short, and the new leader of an organization that had promised last year to fund Daniel’s legal expenses informed his father that they can't afford to provide any additional support. In the coming weeks, Daniel's attorney needs to file an appeal and take action to restore his constitutional rights. Winning this case will establish an important legal precedent to help protect our own civil rights and liberties. What happened to Daniel could happen to any family. That is why a group of us who care about Daniel—and about protecting the civil rights and liberties of all Americans—organized this petition. Please also click here to donate to a *Spotfund campaign to help fund Daniel’s legal expenses. Learn more about this case and how you can get involved at Thank you for your support and interest in Daniel's story. With gratitude, A friend of Daniel

Friends of Daniel
40,772 supporters
Update posted 1 month ago

Petition to Honorable Aimee Guidera, Governor Glenn Youngkin, Victoria LaCivita, Ellen Campbell

Save Free Speech at Virginia Military Institute - stop attacking cadets & their newspaper

UPDATE: YOUR VOICE IS BEING HEARD ! Alumni Free Speech Alliance Calls for VMI to implement the calls to action on this petition! In a letter to the VMI Board of Visitors (BOV), Secretary of Education and Attorney-General of Virginia, the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) leadership, joined by Virginia AFSA Affiliates: The Jefferson Council, The Generals Redoubt. Madison Cabinet for Free Speech, and The Cadet Foundation  expressed their deep concerns about what appear to be clear and deliberate acts by the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) administration, and some members of its Board of Visitors while calling for implementation of the actions requested in our petition. There are reports Maj. Gen. Wins plans to call in cadets on the newspaper staff. This is raising addition concerns after the account provided by a former editor of the newspaper to FIRE and others, contained in the AFSA letter, detail an encounter with Maj. Gen. Wins, Col. Wyatt, and VMI Commandant, Col. Adrian Bogart in 2022 the former cadet described as “hostile and designed to intimidate him” into publishing an OP-ED the administration wrote condemning the newspaper, its writers and alumni supporting READ THE LETTER HERE and scroll the way to the end for the update with additional details. There are many reasons you should support this petition and challenge VMI's actions to restrict or otherwise control the cadet's student newspaper. If you have any hesitation, AT THE MINUMUM, view the video below to see what VMI did to its own cadets and alumni; how Board of Visitors and Executive Committee member Mr. Gottwald stood up to disapprove of VMI's actions; and how VMI intends to avoid transparency and an objective investigation. WATCH THIS IMPORTANT VIDEO OF MR. GOTTWALD AT THE MEETING: The facts below show a chain of events culminating in VMI apparently working with various media outlets against their own cadets and explains the BOV and administration's "walking quorum" plan, seen in the video, to keep inquiry of these serious matters from the public. Summary of the Issue: The VMI administration, and some members of its BOV have, are apparently working to: 1) restrict freedom of speech and viewpoint diversity at VMI by seeking to control, influence, and/or shut down their student newspaper, one of the oldest independent college newspapers in Virginia; 2) publicly discredit and/or punish their own cadets for "speaking truth to power" and allowing all viewpoints to be heard by working with and/or influencing the media to question their integrity and discredit reporting that does not fit the administration's agenda; and 3) conceal their potentially unethical and/or unlawful activities by deliberately planning to avoid public visibility of their actions. The actions this petition requests: 1. The VMI BOV give The Cadet independent student newspaper all support necessary, including approval of the permit drafted by cadets in coordination with the Student Press Law Center, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), and the cadets' legal representatives to restore the traditional privileges afforded to cadets and formally recognize The Cadet without the administration's controls and restrictions on its independence. Not doing so is, in itself, may be a form of retaliation and/or repression of the cadets' First Amendment rights and risks continued adverse action by the administration. 2. The VMI BOV perform its statutory duties and conduct a public, fair, thorough, open, transparent, impartial, and equitable review/investigation into the actions by VMI to question the integrity of its cadets and alumni over the journalism awards won by the cadet's independent student newspaper, The Cadet, and hold those responsible accountable if that review/investigation substantiates the statements in this petition or other inappropriate and/or illegal actions. The investigation to be organized and conducted by BOV members acceptable to the cadets and former cadets impacted, as the aggrieved parties.  Facts justifying the actions requested in the petition: The Cadet is one of the oldest independent college newspapers in Virginia. On Saturday, May 6, 2023,The Cadet became the first, and currently only, student newspaper in the Virginia Press Association's (VPA) 75-year history to win VPA's top award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service. The VPA's judge's comments honored the cadets for their "fair, objective and courageous coverage of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program at VMI" stating, in part, "The Cadet insisted that the implementation of the DEI program from Virginia’s governor be conducted in an open and transparent manner and consider the voices and views of all stakeholders – alumni, cadets, parents, faculty, and staff." and "Simply put, these young people put their academic and professional careers on the line for what they believed.” In a separate categories, The Cadet won multiple awards, including First Place for investigative reporting of the Cadet Counseling Center at VMI. WATCH THE INSPIRING VIDEO OF THE JUDGE'S FULL COMMENTS AND THE AWARDS PRESENTATION: On May 8, 2023, although the VMI Dean termed the awards "wonderful accomplishments" and promised to look into announcing the awards at the upcoming Institute Awards Ceremony, the VMI Director of Communications, acting in his official capacity and under full authority of the VMI Superintendent, initiated contact with the VPA and brought into question the integrity of VMI cadets, alumni, and challenged the VPA's professional integrity, its recognition of the cadets, and The Cadet, with awards for their coverage of DEI and mental health issues at VMI. On May 15, 2023,The VPA Board met and determined no action was required on the challenge to the awards. On May 16, 2023, at VMI's May 2023 graduation, the Governor of Virginia publicly honored these cadets and VMI. WATCH THE VIDEO: On May 18, 2023,disregarding the VPA Board's decision and recognition by the governor, the VMI Communications Director redoubled his attack on the cadets, through the media, and directly with the VPA, resulting in a formal VPA investigation.  VMI deliberately initiated many of these events and, had not the Director of Communications engaged with, and responded to, the media in the way he did, so as to continue discrediting the awards, the awardees, VPA, and alumni involved, there would have been no controversy. VMI's perpetuation of misinformation ultimately resulted in the VPA’s formal independent investigation and associated negative media coverage. These are all documented in the limited email correspondence from the Director of Communications VMI released under FOIA to date. While the final VPA report exonerated the cadets, and supported their awards, the damage to the reputations and business of those involved is already done and those responsible must be held accountable. The Virginia General Assembly previously and unanimously recognized The Cadet as the student-produced, and alumni supported, medium of news and information published by VMI cadets and that the cadets have complete editorial control of its contents under The Cadet Foundation. It appears that VMI rejects the Governor, the General Assembly, and its policies by deliberately providing selective, false and/or misleading information with the specific objective to intimidate cadets to self-censor or to directly limit cadet free speech, if not shut down or control The Cadet completely. The VMI administration withheld information from the Institute's own BOV, including the Director of Communications involvement in starting and perpetuating the controversy and when those efforts failed, and the final VPA report exonerated the cadets, VMI did not similarly distribute the favorable investigation report - even to the BOV. Video from the July 13, 2023 BOV Executive Session shows the current BOV President, with full support of and agreement by the VMI Superintendent and the Communications Director intends to use a “walking quorum” to conduct discussions on VMI’s actions so as to avoid their discussions being a “meeting”, open to the public, IAW §2.2-3701. When Executive Committee member, Teddy Gottwald, challenged VMI's actions during that Executive Session, the Superintendent and Communications Director provided false and/or misleading statements that concealed VMI's involvement attacking The Cadet. When they were challenged, the BOV president stopped discussion with the "walking quorum" plan to conduct secret talks out of the public view as can be seen in the video of Mr. Gottwald at the BOV meeting posted at the top of this petition. Members of the public seeking records on VMI’s actions in this matter under the FOIA are met with high costs (set by the Communications Director) to fill them and other obstacles. This makes access to the records unaffordable to most, especially those with lower or fixed income, while VMI freely offered and gave  extensive records to selected media to advance VMI’s agenda against its own cadets and alumni. VMI appears to use their ability to charge under § 2.2-3704 of the FOIA as a means to hinder transparency. Still other records are withheld by invoking various FOIA exemptions only the BOV or an independent investigator can surpass. VMI appears to be doing all it can to hide, conceal, and/or make access to records unaffordable, and/or otherwise prevent the public from knowing of their actions. VMI's current walking quorum strategy, and passing the investigation from the BOV to VMI's superintendent, who, himself is the subject of questions in the matter, demonstrates a continued effort to conceal the facts. Some of these also avoids creating records discoverable under FOIA while ensuring the administration can tell “their story” and not be challenged by those they accuse and injure. In one example, the Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting, written by the Communications Director, acting as the BOV Secretary, mention little of what actually happened in the meeting or the true nature of the controversy. Had private citizens not recorded the meeting on their own, none of what transpired would be known. Only an independent inquiry can reveal the truth. We value VMI’s contributions to the Commonwealth and our nation and fully support its mission, BUT its actions with regard to The Cadet cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. VMI' apparent move to continue repressing freedom of expression and the student newspaper, while deliberately acting to conceal their actions from discovery, visibility, and accountability. This is inconsistent with VMI’s Code of Honor. Such a dangerous precedent cannot be allowed. An objective investigation is the ONLY WAY for the truth to come out and is essential to protect cadets’ freedom of speech from retaliation, reprisals, and overt or covert acts or intimidation. Everyone should have the opportunity to freely inquire and challenge their public bodies. Students should not be attacked for speaking truth to power. Freedom of expression and speech for all students is clearly at risk if this is allowed to stand.

The Cadet Foundation
2,412 supporters