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by My Name is Legion
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 2003 at 1:19 PM
As Bush spreads lies throughout the land, dissenters are corralled into “Free Speech Zones” –- is this America?
Free Speech Zones
Date Monday, September 08 @ 19:26:46
By By Mick Youther
Did you see the coverage of Prime Minister Tony Blair arriving to testify at the Royal Courts of Justice last week? The street was a mob scene with police, security vans, motorcycles, and protesters. The protesters greeted Blair by chanting “Shame on You.” and banners accusing him of using “weapons of mass deception.” “Bliar” T-shirts and Pinocchio-style noses were the fashion of the day for the protesters collecting signatures demanding Blair's resignation. All and all, it was rude, rowdy, disgusting display of British democracy in action. America doesn’t have to worry about that kind of ugly scene anymore.
• “Anyone with an anti-Bush sign is relegated into what is euphemistically called a Free Speech or Demonstration Zone -- a swath of land usually off the main thoroughfare and chained off so as to make it virtually impossible for the targets of the protest to read the signs or hear the chants.”
--Robyn E. Blumner, St. Petersburg Times, 10/13/02
• “We were not allowed anywhere near any kind of position where the president, or the media which follows him, would see or hear us…. The effort being made to hide political opposition in this country is more than cowardly. It's un-American.”
--Peter Buckley, candidate for Congress in Oregon
• “You may have seen the item yesterday about demonstrators against President Bush being herded inside a fence at Neville Island for his Labor Day visit. Police called this enclosure the designated free-speech area, though anyone who had signs praising the president was evidently OK to line the island's main street for the motorcade.”
--Brian O'Neill Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 5, 2002
• “We're not prejudiced against who you're protesting for or against. We don't designate a protest area based on the message.”
--Jean Mitchell, Secret Service spokeswoman
• “I asked him if it was the content of my sign, and he said, ‘Yes, sir, it's the content of your sign that's the problem.’ And so it's just become a matter of procedure that the Secret Service is clearing the area of anybody that would have a message that would be contrary to George Bush's policies.”
--Brett Bursey,activist arrested for holding a "No War for Oil" sign outside a Free Speech Zone
One of the more disturbing aspects of all this is the willingness of local authorities to follow the Bush Administration’s lead and harass peaceful protesters. They give excuses, “We’re just doing our job,” or the more infamous -- “We are just following orders.” Neither excuse is acceptable.
• “When I asked the officer why we were not allowed on the sidewalk like the people walking to the picnic and residents holding pro-Bush signs, he simply said, ‘Orders.’”
--Regis T. Sabol, New Deal Publications
• “When we asked why [we would be arrested if we did not move to a cordoned-off area out of sight of the crowds] we never got a clear answer; something like being a threat to national security, or something to that effect. He was just ‘doing his job.’”
--Dorothy Wolden, Northland Chapter of Grandmothers for Peace, 8/29/03
We cannot allow Bush & Co. to spread their campaign of lies across America while we stand quietly behind the dumpster on the other side of the building. They can visit our communities, but that doesn’t mean they own them. Maintaining security is one thing, but a sign that says “Bush is a Liar” is no more dangerous than one that says “Bush in ’04.”
We need to let our local elected officials know, in advance, that our local authorities had better not take part in any Gestapo tactics orchestrated by Federal agents. Their job is to protect and defend the Constitution, not suppress peaceful protests against Bush & Co.
Demand that your representatives in Congress pass legislation that will put an end to “Free Speech Zones.” When it comes to peaceful assembly and protest, America is the Free Speech Zone.
• “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
--Constitution of the United States, The Bill of Rights, Article I
• “Terrorism cannot take away your freedom. That's impossible. It is only George W. Bush and his government that can, and in doing so, he is making sure the terrorists have won."
--Wade Inganamort, PrisonPlanet.com
• "We need to do more than be passive observers of history, because the decisions being made right now are our future....”
--High school sophomore Sol Kelley-Jones, representing Students for an Informed Response
Mick Youther is an Instructor in the Department of Phsyiology at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL.
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