left biblioblography: MY COUNTRY TIS OF THEE, SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY…

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

MY COUNTRY TIS OF THEE, SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY…

It’s First Amendment time again: we count our blessings, as they’re slowly, inexorably stripped away by a regime that has little regard for that piece of paper known as the Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of speech. Not unlimited freedom, mind you (far too many people get confused over this: freedom is never unconditional). Freedom is defined by boundaries. You are not able, for instance, to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or incite to riot, any more than the 2nd Amendment gives you free rein to go on a shooting spree.

But still: this entire country is a free speech zone. There are reasonable limits, to be sure (and for those of you who proclaim it so loudly, witness: if some unspeakable pervert came up and started making obscene propositions to your child, I think you’d be a little more reserved about unrestricted speech).

I am a left-wing, godless liberal. But there are a few things that are sacred to me: I am no mad dog patriot, who rails at the slightest criticism of my country. If is deserved, then let it be so. What’s my motto? NO FREE PASSES.

I was at a blog, and became a little more incensed than is my wont, as some fellows started talking about how ‘lefties’ tend to suppress free speech. Hey, if you get shouted down at a rally, or heckled while speaking, that hardly equates to having duct tape slapped over your mouth. It’s rude, but you got outvoted.


This, however, really just pisses me right the f*** off.

“Free speech zones (also known as First Amendment Zones and Free speech cages) are areas set aside in public places for political activists to exercise their right of free speech in the United States. Although such zones were first instituted by the Clinton administration,[1] they gained more attention after the WTO Meeting of 1999 and have been used vigorously by the George W. Bush administration. Civil libertarians claim that Free Speech Zones are used as a form of censorship and public relations management to conceal the existence of popular opposition from the mass public and elected officials. [2] There is much controversy surrounding the creation of these areas — the mere existence of such zones is offensive to some people, who maintain that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution makes the entire country an unrestricted free speech zone. [3]. The Department of Homeland Security "has even gone so far as to tell local police departments to regard critics of the War on Terrorism as potential terrorists themselves." [4][5]

History

Free speech zones were used aggressively in Boston at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, after a bid to keep protestors out of downtown Boston was abandoned due to harsh media criticism of its dictatorial implications. The free speech zones organized by the democratic leadership were boxed in by concrete walls, invisible to the Fleet center where the convention is held and criticized harshly as a 'protest pen' or 'Bostons camp X-Ray'.[6]

Free speech zones were used aggressively in New York at the 2004 Republican National Convention, after a bid to keep protestors out of the whole city was abandoned due to harsh media criticism of its dictatorial implications.

Prominent examples of recent free speech zones are those set up by the Secret Service, who scout locations where the president is scheduled to speak, or pass through. Officials will target those who carry anti-Bush signs and escort them to the free speech zones prior to and during the event. Reporters are often barred by local officials from displaying these protestors on camera or speaking to them within the zone. Protestors who refuse to go to the free speech zone are often arrested and charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.[7][8] A seldom-used federal law making it unlawful to "willfully and knowingly to enter or remain in ... any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting" has also been invoked. [9][10]

Legality

The Supreme Court has ruled that picketing and marching in public areas has some degree of protection under the First Amendment, but less than that afforded to pure speech due to the physical externalities it creates. Regulations for such activities, however, may not target the content of the expression.

Notable incidents

"These [Free Speech] zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event. When Bush came to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, 'The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us.' The local police, at the Secret Service's behest, set up a 'designated free-speech zone' on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush's speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, though folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president's path... Police detective John Ianachione testified that the Secret Service told local police to confine 'people that were there making a statement pretty much against the president and his views'"[11]

At another incident in South Carolina, Brett Bursey was singled out as the one person in a crowd of thousands with a sign protesting George Bush's arrival. When he refused an order to go to the free speech zone half-a-mile away, he was arrested and charged with trespassing by the South Carolina police. "Bursey said that he asked the policeman if 'it was the content of my sign, and he said, 'Yes, sir, it's the content of your sign that's the problem.'" However, those tresspassing charges were dropped. Instead, Bursey was indicted by the federal government for violation of a federal law that allows the Secret Service to restrict access to areas visited by the president. Bursey faced up to six months in prison and a US$5,000 fine. [12] However, after a trial, Bursey was convicted of the offense of trespassing, but the judge deemed the offense to be relatively minor and ordered a fine of $500 be assessed, which Bursey appealed, and lost. [13]

Criticisms

The Bush administration has been critized by columnist James Bovard of The American Conservative for requiring protestors to stay within a designated area, while allowing supporters access to more areas.[14] According to the Chicago Tribune, the American Civil Liberties Union has asked a federal court in Washington D.C. to prevent the Secret Service from keeping anti-Bush protesters distant from presidential appearances while allowing supporters to display their messages upclose, where they are likely to be seen by the news media.[15] Regarding free speech zones, U. S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock has commented that "One cannot conceive of what other design elements could be put into a space to create a more symbolic affront to the role of free expression." [16]

The preliminary plan for the 2004 Democratic National Convention was criticized by the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU of Massachusetts as being insufficient to handle the size of the expected protest. According to the Boston Globe, "The zone would hold as few as 400 of the several thousand protesters who are expected in Boston in late July." [17]

So, mind you this: is all under a Christian, conservative, right-fucking-wing administration. He’s the president? He’s just a man. He can’t take his lumps; he shouldn’t have taken the job. He can’t take criticism? Sorry, that’s in the freakin’ job description. It’s also obviously an underhanded attempt to equate protest with terrorism (hell, I figured THAT out without even reading the entry).

And who’s fighting it? The dreaded ACLU, of whom these fucktards make all sorts of ridiculous claims. Let’s never mind that the ACLU has fought for mormons, for kids praying on school buses, for people’s rights: oh no, they’re a bunch of degenerate commies intent on destroying America. What utter dreck. What complete folderol. They fight for EVERYONE, regardless of religion, race, creed, color, you name it.

Because this IS the land of liberty. Because there ISN’T an exclusion clause that subtracts selected people (read: those we don’t approve of) from rights given to them. You’re a US citizen? You have rights. Whether you’re Fred Phelps, the KKK, the Nazi party, a muslim, a jew, an atheist, a christian.

Exclusion is the enemy of liberty.

“Those who would sacrifice their liberty for security, deserve neither.” – Benjamin Franklin.

“My country, right or wrong. Right to keep right, wrong to make right.” – unknown.

And one more:

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself - Thomas Paine, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, December 23, 1791”

And I’m done.

Till the next post, then.

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5 comments:

Vile Blasphemer said...

Well said.

Krystalline Apostate said...

VB:
Thanks. This bugs me more than just a little, as you may have guessed. ;)

Future Geek said...

Good job. I'm linking to this tommorrow.

say no to christ said...

OK, I will have to finish catching up on reading your blog tomorrow. Slow down a little and let me catch up. lol

say no to christ said...

Thanks for this post. We can always count on you to brinng up such important issues.

It is sad how underhanded the Bush admin. is.