Friday, August 15, 2008

By their "free speech zones" shall ye know them

Amy Goodman writes:

The bulwark against tyranny is dissent. Open opposition, the right to challenge those in power, is a mainstay of any healthy democracy. The Democratic and Republican conventions will test the commitment of the two dominant U.S. political parties to the cherished tradition of dissent. Things are not looking good.

Denver's CBS4 News just reported that the city is planning on jailing arrested Democratic convention protesters at a warehouse with barbed-wire-topped cages and signs warning of the threat of stun gun use. Meanwhile, a federal judge has ruled that a designated protest area is legal, despite claims that protesters will be too far from the Democratic delegates to be heard.

The full spectrum of police and military will also be on hand at the Democratic convention in Denver, many of these units coordinated by a "fusion center." These centers are springing up around the country as an outgrowth of the post-9/11 national-security system. Erin Rosa of the online Colorado Independent recently published a report on the Denver fusion center, which will be sharing information with the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the U.S. Northern Command. The center is set up to gather and distribute "intelligence" about "suspicious activities," which, Rosa points out, "can include taking pictures or taking notes. The definition is very broad." […]

Former FBI agent Mike German is now a national-security-policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He said, "It's unclear who is actually in charge and whose rules apply to the information that's being collected and shared and distributed through these fusion centers." Maryland State Police were recently exposed infiltrating groups like the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty. German explains how police expand "beyond normal law-enforcement functions, and start becoming intelligence collectors against protest groups. The reports that we obtained ... make clear that there was no indication of any sort of criminal activity. And yet, that investigation went on for 14 months, and these reports were uploaded into a federal database. ... When all these agencies are authorized to go out and start collecting this information and putting it in areas where it's accessible by the intelligence community, it's a very dangerous proposition for our democracy."

(Emphasis added.)

Where to start? How about this: What the hell is the U.S. Northern Command?

Well, it's the military component of Homeland Security's domestic intelligence program:

U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) was established Oct. 1, 2002 to provide command and control of Department of Defense (DoD) homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities. USNORTHCOM defends America's homeland — protecting our people, national power, and freedom of action.

USNORTHCOM’s specific mission:

USNORTHCOM anticipates and conducts Homeland Defense and Civil Support operations within the assigned area of responsibility to defend, protect, and secure the United States and its interests

So: Peaceful political demonstrations on American soil are now something that potentially threaten "our people, national power, and freedom of action." Because nothing says "protecting America's freedom of action" like herding, let's say, the Colorado Bikers for Peace behind a barbed-wire fence and tasering them. And then adding their names to a terror watch list for which there is virtually no oversight or appeal.

Hillary's people are a little incensed that she almost didn't get ballot time at the convention; perhaps they should consider themselves fortunate they're not being ushered to "the warehouse" in the name of national security

And I remind you that this is the Democratic convention, the gathering of the people who theoretically still retain some sentimental regard for diversity, dissent, and free speech.

We have only look at the government response to the 2000 and 2004 Republican conventions to imagine how dissent will be greeted in the Twin Cities next month. Goodman notes:

Documents obtained by I-Witness Video, a group that documents police abuses and demonstrations, revealed that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency were receiving intelligence about the protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. […]

In the Twin Cities on the evening Obama was giving his Democratic acceptance speech in June, the St. Paul Police Department arrested a 50-year-old man peacefully handing out leaflets promoting a Sept. 1 march on the Republican National Convention. After mass arrests at the RNC in Philadelphia in 2000 and roughly 1,800 arrests in New York City in 2004, ACLU Minnesota predicts hundreds will be arrested in St. Paul, and is organizing and training 75 lawyers to defend them.


credit savvy said...

Live tyranny

credit repair

Britt said...

Some presumption here. While the DNC set up their free speech zones a month in advance, the man in charge of security for the RNC is bucking two decades of erosion of our 1st Amendment rights. Ever since the 1988 DNC in Atlanta, the protest zone has been a part of major political conventions and summits. The WTO riots in Seattle is the only time such unconstitutional behavior has been given the slightest justification.

Anyway, it seems that the cops in St. P will be taking a better approach.