"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, 1837We 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.
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)
"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."
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