Friday, September 7, 2007

Anti-War Press Conference Disrupted, 3 Arrested

Calling the announced press conference “a threat to the national security,” police officers in Washington, DC, arrested three organizers of the upcoming September 15 anti-war march, at one point using a mounted policeman to disperse some 20 journalists and other observers.

In addition to the frontal assault on constitutionally guaranteed rights of Americans, the charge – clearly audible on the YouTube video to the right—that the small press conference was “a national security threat” is a grave concern. The preposterous allegation should signal to all of us that this Administration will use Patriot Act entitlements to intimidate, harass, and attempt to silence even peaceful, lawful opponents.

This is not the first time that administration agents have arrested peaceful opponents using Patriot Act powers. From Wikipedia:

On March 9, 2007, a Justice Department audit found that the FBI had "improperly and, in some cases, illegally used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information" about United States citizens. [1]
On June 15, 2007, following an internal audit finding that FBI agents abused a Patriot Act power more than 1000 times, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ordered the agency to begin turning over thousands of pages of documents related to the
agency's national security letters program.[2]

Three persons were arrested at yesterday’s assault on America: Tina Richards, the mother of a Marine who did two tours of duty in Iraq; Adam Kokesh, a leader of the Iraq Veterans Against the War group; and lawyer Ian Thompson, who is an organizer for ANSWER in Los Angeles.

The conference was called to heighten public awareness of the ongoing fining and harassment of march organizers for the lawful activity of putting up anti-war posters in downtown Washington. Event speakers even demonstrated that the water-soluble, bio-degradable wheat paste used to mount the posters is in compliance with city and Park Service requirements.

Postering for permitted public events is legal in Washington when compliant with applicable regulations, and a time-honored tradition in the nation's capital. But agents of the Bush administration’s Department of the Interior (US Park Service) and the DC police, and possibly US Secret Service agents, are using arrests, fines, and free-speech suppression tactics to disrupt publicity for the September 15 event.

It remains to be seen what tactics will be applied at the September 15 event itself, but in light of yesterday's actions and as a veteran of many major demonstrations in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, I'll pray for the best but won't be surprised at anything. (Don't hold your breath looking for major network or cable coverage of the event, much less of any violations of Americans' constitutional rights. Most Americans still haven't seen media coverage of the massive protests against Bush at his first inaugural.)

Note Well: The US Constitution gives American citizens the freedoms of assembly and speech, and the right to peaceful protest and to demand redress from its government. Use them or lose them.