LAS VEGAS, Nev. — A free-speech flap has developed over whether Mayor
Oscar Goodman should have stopped a critic from using a City Council forum to
refer to showgirls that accompany the mayor at promotional functions as
The man, who identified himself as Al Hessen, was then kicked out of the Dec.
20 council meeting after shouting from the audience and directing a derogatory
remark about the Holocaust at the mayor, who is Jewish.
An American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada official acknowledged that
disruptive people can be removed from meetings, but called it important to
support citizens' rights to public comment.
"I think the council deserves better (than Hessen's speech). I think the
institution deserves better," Gary Peck, ACLU executive director in Las Vegas,
told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a Dec. 29 report. "But offensiveness is
not the basis for censoring people during public comment sections of the
People are allowed three minutes at the end of each Las Vegas City Council
meeting to address the elected body on any topic.
A video of the meeting shows Hessen identifying himself as a Navy veteran and
a city resident, and launching into a criticism of Goodman's appearance with
showgirls at a news conference promoting the Las Vegas New Year's Eve
Hessen referred to "Mayor Goodman and his bimbo babes," before Goodman
"You can say whatever you want about me, but don't malign those ladies, OK?
Now sit down," the mayor said.
Hessen protested that he had a First Amendment right to speak. Goodman cut
off the microphone and asked a city marshal to usher Hessen to a seat.
Moments later, Hessen shouted something from the audience and Goodman asked
marshals to remove Hessen from the room.
Hessen stood up, pointed at Goodman, and said, "If your parents had been
incinerated in Auschwitz or Treblinka, you wouldn't be around to abuse the
homeless. How do you like that?"
Audience members gasped, but Goodman calmly repeated his request to have
Hessen removed, and did not respond.
The Review-Journal said it could not reach Hessen this week. Goodman