Legend has it that Agran carries a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket.
He was the Mayor of the City Council in 1990 that passed a Free Speech Rights Ordinance which protected the right of citizens to speak, circulate petitions for signature, and distribute literature in public places so long as they don't obstruct access or threaten public safety.
During his quixotic campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1991 and 1992, Agran was systematically excluded from candidate forums and debates. He bravely stood up in the crowd at a debate in Nashua, New Hampshire, and demanded inclusion; two local cops were leading him out of the room when the outraged citizenry embarrassed the other candidates into inviting him onto the dais.
But that paled in comparison with what happened in the Bronx, when the same stunt resulted in a thumping by the NYPD, who busted him on charges of disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and resisting arrest.
Years ago, in discussing his motivation for standing up at those events, Agran told me, "I had become so frustrated that I concluded that this was not a legitimate process . . . I was reminded of Martin Luther King when he said that these laws [sanctioning racial segregation] do not deserve respect, these are not rules to be respected."
Years later, for reasons only a psychiatrist might be able to explain, the man who defended free speech at Berkeley, who went to jail to protest laws that do not deserve respect is now proposing them himself. One wonders what happened to the man who for the sake of principle was dragged out and beaten that night in the Bronx.