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Democracy Lite - The Crimlminalization of Dissent In the "Land of the Free" - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Democracy Lite - The Crimlminalization of Dissent In the "Land of the Free" [Sep. 2nd, 2008|05:15 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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"But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing." — Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837
We expect the jackboot of state power to come down hard during "important events" like the Olympics in countries like China, but not in democracies like Canada or the US (though, in truth, I remember a similar (though lesser) level of state-terrorism during a G-7 summit held in Toronto in 1988. My brother was threatened, not with arrest, but with a gun, by a cop who, presumably — since Tom was only walking by the site, not protesting anything — didn't care for his rather scruffy appearance.

Nevertheless, the scale and scope of pre-emptive arrests, illegal spying, the special "protest zones" and other tokens of a breakdown of democracy ought to scare hell out of every one of you who lives south of the 49th parallel. If you're an American who believes in the values of your Constitution and Bill of Rights, please read the following stories; from what I've been able to tell, they haven't been getting much play in the major (corporate — fancy that!) media. Your Republic is being stolen from you and only you can take it back.
  • I first became aware of the pre-emptive arrests via matociquala's journal, who provided a link to pecunium's entry about events which took place before and during last week's Democratic Nation Convention.
    "What bothers me started with news coverage of the Democratic Convention. Feature stories about people sleeping in, “the Freedom Cage.” That nomenclature was appalling. When I found out that was a sardonic renaming by those making use of it I wasn’t much happier, because the idea of a “free speech zone” is anathema to me.

    "I am an american citizen. In the boundaries of the United States there is no public place where I cannot speak my mind on matters political.

    "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.

    pecunium's full post can read here.

  • Same deal at the Republican National Convention.

    Peper-spray as Politics
    Marcus Washington, a producer from Tennessee who was documenting the antiwar protest, grimaced in pain after he was hit with pepper spray. (Photo: Jim Gehrz / Minneapolis Star Tribune)
    "In the months leading up to the Republican National Convention, the FBI-led Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force actively recruited people to infiltrate vegan groups and other leftist organizations and report back about their activities. On May 21, the Minneapolis City Pages ran a recruiting story called "Moles Wanted." Law enforcement sought to pre-empt lawful protest against the policies of the Bush administration during the convention.

    "Since Friday, local police and sheriffs, working with the FBI, conducted pre-emptive searches, seizures and arrests. Glenn Greenwald described the targeting of protesters by "teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with
    semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets." Journalists were detained at gunpoint and lawyers representing detainees were handcuffed at the scene."
    The full story can be read here.

  • Finally (if only!), it's not just political activists who are being targeted by the coercive power of the state. Union-busting is also in vogue.
    "Laurel, Mississippi — On August 25, immigration agents swooped down on Howard Industries, a Mississippi electrical equipment factory, taking 481 workers to a privately-run detention center in Jena, Louisiana. A hundred and six women were also arrested at the plant, and released wearing electronic monitoring devices on their ankles if they had children, or without them if they were pregnant. Eight workers were taken to Federal court in Hattiesburg, where they were charged with aggravated identity theft."
Click here for the full story.

If you think these crimes are no big deal, or that they don't affect you, forgive me for closing with a poem that deserves repeating, no matter how often it has been reprinted before.
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: paul_carlson
2008-09-03 01:24 am (UTC)
Would've been so much more spectacular if they could've trashed the whole downtown, like those anarchist protesters did for Seattle during the G8 summit a few years ago.

Not to mention, in Chicago in 1968.
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[User Picture]From: candypants_x
2008-09-04 03:18 pm (UTC)
I just spent seven weeks studying Bertolt Brecht.
The first thing that ever happened in my first lecture,
was that poem being read out by my lecturer.
It is so amazing. It speaks so much about the time they lived in,
and a time people still seem to live in in some places.
wow
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-09-05 07:38 pm (UTC)

Scratch "Some" for "Many" or Even "Most

I think every society in history — with the possible exception of hunter-gatherers, though they had other reasons for violence — has had inherent conflicts between haves and have-nots. And those with power are all-too-often prepared to use force to keep what they have.
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[User Picture]From: paul_carlson
2008-09-05 02:05 am (UTC)
Mind you, I'm not trying to be flippant.
I've been held at gunpoint by redneck cops. Once, decades ago, threatened with lynching in a small mountain town. (Due not to race but religion.)
So I have great sympathy for those unjustly run over by The Man.

That does not incline me to give a 'free pass' to mask-wearing, deliberately violent extremists, of any type. My uncle was a policeman for 30 years, and my son is interested in such a career. In my job as a trucker, I often interact with the California Highway Patrol.
To me, the police are not the enemy.

It's possible to apply Niemoller's warning to a host of situations -- some promoted by the 'politically correct' left and its burgeoning Nanny State policies.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-09-05 07:34 pm (UTC)

You Seem to Have Missed the Point

As a rule, the police are tools of the state. If the state treats protest as treason, the police will treat protesters as traitors.

The reason I am concerned is that, over the past decade or so, protest has become routinely treated as treason. As someone who believes in the old saw — I may disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it, (no quotes, since I don't think I have it exactly right) — I get a lot more concerned when the police are breaking heads and protesters are kept in special "protest zones", than when a few dozen (or even a few hundred) "anarchists" are breaking windows.

It frightens me how quick people are to give up their liberties if they don't feel they are directly involved.
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[User Picture]From: paul_carlson
2008-09-05 11:10 pm (UTC)

Re: You Seem to Have Missed the Point

over the past decade or so, protest has become routinely treated as treason.

Routinely?
Somehow I doubt that. Protests happen all the time, about a vast range of issues.
Here in the SF area, the papers routinely run want ads for paid full-time protester positions.

What makes me think your friends said not a word when similar restrictions were placed on 'pro life' protestors, keeping them a long distance from abortion clinic doors? Even when all they wanted to do was hand those women an illustrated pamphlet?

(Not saying I'd do that -- I'm fairly moderate on that issue -- just pointing out a massive double standard.)

Speaking of protests, I recently gave my Dad a history book about his own father's activities, early in the last century. It's David Selvin's A Terrible Anger, about the founding of the modern longshoreman's union. Believe me, I do understand the value, and the need, for certain risky protests. (And you think it's bad now -- it was a "private army" of Pinkertons who busted heads, back then.)
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