Category "Free Speech Zones"

Tight Constraints on Pentagon’s ‘Freedom Walk’

September 14th, 2005 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

Tight Constraints on Pentagon’s Freedom Walk
Event Remembering 9/11, Troops to Be Kept ‘Sterile,’ Limited to Preregistered
By Petula Dvorak
The Washington Post

September 9th, 2005

Organizers of the Pentagon’s 9/11 memorial Freedom Walk on Sunday are taking extraordinary measures to control participation in the march and concert, with the route fenced off and lined with police and the event closed to anyone who does not register online by 4:30 p.m. today.

The march, sponsored by the Department of Defense, will wend its way from the Pentagon to the Mall along a route that has not been specified but will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing to keep it closed and “sterile,” said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense.
The U.S. Park Police will have its entire Washington force of several hundred on duty and along the route, on foot, horseback and motorcycles and monitoring from above by helicopter. Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave, said Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford.

The event, the America Supports You Freedom Walk, is billed as a memorial to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and a show of support for those serving in the military, topped off with a concert by country singer Clint Black, known for his pro-troops anthem, “Iraq and Roll.” Organizers said they expect 3,000 to 10,000 participants.

Barber said that organizers would rather not have such stringent measures on their event but that police had requested them.

Pettiford said officers would patrol to keep interlopers out because the Pentagon restricted the event in its permit application. “That is what their permit called for, so we have those fences to keep the public out.”

Once the National Park Service approves the permit, it is normal for police to do what they can to adhere to the organizers’ requests. “It’s a permitted event. That means [organizers] are allowed to say who is in and who’s out,” said Sgt. Scott Fear, a Park Police spokesman. He declined to say how many officers were in the Park Police, which had a Washington detail of about 400 two years ago.

What’s unusual for an event on the Mall is the combination of fences, required preregistration and the threat of arrest.

Park Police officials said security and safety were concerns, especially because Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld will participate in some of the day’s events. They said they have approved a permit for a small group of protesters that plans to stand along Independence Avenue.

Barber at first said this week that event organizers would rather not be so strict but that they were complying with police orders. But yesterday she said Park Police offered two options: Screen participants at the Mall, as police did for the Fourth of July fireworks and concert, where bags would be searched and restricted items such as alcohol, weapons, animals or glass bottles would be seized; or screen them at the Pentagon and, by restricting access throughout the march, “make sure the same people who were screened at the Pentagon are the same people going to the concert,” she said.

Barber added: “We didn’t want a bottleneck at the concert. We didn’t want people to miss the concert while waiting to be screened. So we decided to do the screening at the Pentagon. That means the entire route has to be kept closed.”

Some military supporters have welcomed the event as a way to counter the antiwar movement and back the troops abroad. Antiwar groups say they are convinced that the event was orchestrated to boost the war effort and link the war to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — and to undercut an antiwar protest planned for Sept. 24.

One restricted group will be the media, whose members will not be allowed to walk along the march route. Reporters and cameras are restricted to three enclosed areas along the route but are not permitted to walk alongside participants walking from the Pentagon, across the Memorial Bridge to the Mall.

The Washington Post and other corporate entities initially signed on as co-sponsors. But critics from within the newspaper and from the antiwar movement said partnering with the Pentagon raised questions about objectivity, and three weeks ago The Post pulled its co-sponsorship.

Other media co-sponsors — WTOP radio, WJLA-TV and NewsChannel 8 — support the effort with advertising.

Opponents of the Freedom Walk took issue with the way the Pentagon is staging the event. When the walk first was publicized, participants were required to submit their names, ages, e-mail addresses and home addresses. After some groups accused the Pentagon of using the registration as a recruiting tool for the military, the requirements were changed.

Barber said the government now asks for a full name, age group, T-shirt size and e-mail address (each registered walker will get a T-shirt). Walkers have until 4:30 p.m. today to register, which must be done online ( ).

Officials at the Pentagon, where 184 people died in the attack, decided to open the attack site and memorial chapel to the public tomorrow for the first time.

Visitors will be welcome from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and can see the stone that marks the crash site of American Airlines Flight 77 and the memorial chapel built there.

There is no need to register to visit the memorial chapel tomorrow.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest

April 17th, 2005 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest
By Jim Dwyer
The New York Times

April 12th, 2005

Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

“We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed,” the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. “I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own.”
Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during the Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.

During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention.

For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors.

Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while going to pick up sushi.

Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop’s lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake.

Seven months after the convention at Madison Square Garden, criminal charges have fallen against all but a handful of people arrested that week. Of the 1,670 cases that have run their full course, 91 percent ended with the charges dismissed or with a verdict of not guilty after trial. Many were dropped without any finding of wrongdoing, but also without any serious inquiry into the circumstances of the arrests, with the Manhattan district attorney’s office agreeing that the cases should be “adjourned in contemplation of dismissal.”

So far, 162 defendants have either pleaded guilty or were convicted after trial, and videotapes that bolstered the prosecution’s case played a role in at least some of those cases, although prosecutors could not provide details.

Besides offering little support or actually undercutting the prosecution of most of the people arrested, the videotapes also highlight another substantial piece of the historical record: the Police Department’s tactics in controlling the demonstrations, parades and rallies of hundreds of thousands of people were largely free of explicit violence.

Throughout the convention week and afterward, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that the police issued clear warnings about blocking streets or sidewalks, and that officers moved to arrest only those who defied them. In the view of many activists - and of many people who maintain that they were passers-by and were swept into dragnets indiscriminately thrown over large groups - the police strategy appeared to be designed to sweep them off the streets on technical grounds as a show of force.

“The police develop a narrative, the defendant has a different story, and the question becomes, how do you resolve it?” said Eileen Clancy, a member of I-Witness Video, a project that assembled hundreds of videotapes shot during the convention by volunteers for use by defense lawyers.

Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, said that videotapes often do not show the full sequence of events, and that the public should not rush to criticize officers simply because their recollections of events are not consistent with a single videotape. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is reviewing the testimony of Officer Wohl at the request of Lewis B. Oliver Jr., the lawyer who represented Mr. Kyne in his arrest at the library.

The Police Department maintains that much of the videotape that has surfaced since the convention captured what Mr. Browne called the department’s professional handling of the protests and parades. “My guess is that people who saw the police restraint admired it,” he said.

Video is a useful source of evidence, but not an easy one to manage, because of the difficulties in finding a fleeting image in hundreds of hours of tape. Moreover, many of the tapes lack index and time markings, so cuts in the tape are not immediately apparent.

That was a problem in the case of Mr. Dunlop, who learned that his tape had been altered only after Ms. Clancy found another version of the same tape. Mr. Dunlop had been accused of pushing his bicycle into a line of police officers on the Lower East Side and of resisting arrest, but the deleted parts of the tape show him calmly approaching the police line, and later submitting to arrest without apparent incident.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney, Barbara Thompson, said the material had been cut by a technician in the prosecutor’s office. “It was our mistake,” she said. “The assistant district attorney wanted to include that portion” because she initially believed that it supported the charges against Mr. Dunlop. Later, however, the arresting officer, who does not appear on the video, was no longer sure of the specifics in the complaint against Mr. Dunlop.

In what appeared to be the most violent incident at the convention protests, video shot by news reporters captured the beating of a man on a motorcycle - a police officer in plainclothes - and led to the arrest of one of those involved, Jamal Holiday. After eight months in jail, he pleaded guilty last month to attempted assault, a low-level felony that will be further reduced if he completes probation. His lawyer, Elsie Chandler of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, said that videos had led to his arrest, but also provided support for his claim that he did not realize the man on the motorcycle was a police officer, reducing the severity of the offense.

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said that despite many civilians with cameras who were nearby when the officer was attacked, none of the material was turned over to police trying to identify the assailants. Footage from a freelance journalist led police to Mr. Holiday, he said.

In the bulk of the 400 cases that were dismissed based on videotapes, most involved arrests at three places - 16th Street near Union Square, 17th Street near Union Square and on Fulton Street - where police officers and civilians taped the gatherings, said Martin R. Stolar, the president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Those tapes showed that the demonstrators had followed the instructions of senior officers to walk down those streets, only to have another official order their arrests.

Ms. Thompson of the district attorney’s office said, “We looked at videos from a variety of sources, and in a number of cases, we have moved to dismiss.”

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

N.D. Delegation Wants Fargo List Investigation

April 3rd, 2005 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

N.D. Delegation Wants Fargo List Investigation
By Mary Jo Almquist
The Forum

March 31st, 2005

North Dakota’s congressional delegation wants to get to the bottom of a list that barred more than 40 people from President Bush’s speech last month in Fargo.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy said Wednesday his concern stems from a similar incident in Denver, where three people were removed from Bush’s March 21 town hall meeting on Social Security.
Pomeroy said the Denver incident raises disturbing questions given what also happened in Fargo. He said he’ll evaluate what must be done to launch an inquiry.

“We need to find out whether this was part of the official planning,” he said.

Sen. Kent Conrad and Sen. Byron Dorgan echoed the concern.

“We believe the black lists ought to be investigated,” Dorgan and Conrad said in a joint statement. “Holding public events in public buildings and developing black lists to keep members of the public out is wrong.”

In Colorado, Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat, already has asked for more information on the matter there.

Udall’s press secretary, Lawrence Pacheco, told The Forum that Udall wrote a letter of inquiry to the Secret Service, hoping to clarify the events leading up to and occurring on the day of the Bush event.

The Secret Service has said it had nothing to do with removing Alec Young, Karen Bauer and Leslie Weise from Bush’s speech in Denver.

Udall’s office has not yet received a formal response to its inquiry, Pacheco said.

Young, Bauer and Weise were apparently rejected from the Denver event for having bumper stickers that read: “No More Blood For Oil.” The self-proclaimed “Denver Three” are considering filing a lawsuit, according to the Associated Press.

All are members of Denver Progressives, a political activist group.

But the Bush administration made no apologies for the Denver situation on Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to a similar event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that those who may disrupt an event would be asked to leave.

Still, he attributed the Denver incident to the work of a volunteer, much like what the White House said took place in Fargo on Feb. 3.

“My understanding is that it was a volunteer involved in that matter (Denver). My sense is that the volunteer thought that these individuals, these three individuals were coming to the event to disrupt it. And those individuals - I think if you look at some of the early news reports even said something to that effect,” McClellan said.

“Now, we welcome a diversity of views at events, but if people are coming to the event to disrupt it, that’s another matter. If they want to disrupt the event, then I think that, obviously, they’re going to be asked to leave the event. There is plenty of opportunity for them to express their views outside of events; there are protest areas.”

Thirty three of the 42 people whose names appeared on Fargo’s do-not-admit list also were traced to a local progressive group, Democracy For America.

The list, leaked to The Forum a day before Bush arrived in Fargo, contained the names of people not to be given tickets to the Social Security speech at the Bison Sports Arena on the North Dakota State University campus.

Volunteers who distributed free tickets were given copies of the list and were told to alert a representative from the governor’s office if someone from the list tried to get a ticket.

The governor’s office and state Republican Party denied involvement, but indicated the list came from the White House advance team. That explanation came a day after the White House blamed the list on “an overzealous volunteer.”

At the time, White House spokesman Jim Morrell confirmed the volunteer could “very well be” someone from the advance team, but didn’t know specifically who it was.

The White House wasn’t aware the list was being created and regretted that it happened, said Morrell, who added that the White House was taking steps to ensure nothing like this happened again.

But Pomeroy, who said he didn’t act sooner on the Fargo do-not-admit list because he thought it was an isolated incident, said someone is not telling the truth.

Pomeroy said he’s not suggesting federal laws have been broken, but said he’s troubled that this now appears to be standard operating procedure.

“I had been inclined to view the North Dakota incident as a fluke not to be repeated,” he said. “The fact that this happened in Denver shows they didn’t learn any lessons.”

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Constitutionality of ‘Free Speech Zones’

September 18th, 2004 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

The Constitutionality of Police-Imposed ‘Free-Speech Zones’
By Julie Hilden
August 4, 2004

FindLaw / Special to

(FindLaw) — Last week, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) ended. But the First Amendment issues that were raised there did not. Indeed, they are likely to continue on indefinitely — recurring at the upcoming Republican National Convention (RNC), and similar public events raising intense security concerns.

Protesters at the DNC were confined to a fenced-in area — a wire enclosure topped by razor wire outside Boston’s FleetCenter, where the Convention was held. They charged that their First Amendment rights were violated by this confinement.
Were they correct? Certainly, the involvement by police in enforcing the enclosure established the “state action” necessary to establish a First Amendment violation. (Because the First Amendment does not apply to private actors, only government action can trigger its protections, and lead to a constitutional challenge.)

But on the other hand, one could argue that the protesters still did get to exercise their free speech rights to some extent — and that, even if their rights were infringed upon, that infringement was necessitated by security concerns.

In this column, I will explain why the DNC protesters’ confinement was a free speech violation under fundamental principles of First Amendment doctrine. I will also suggest that these same principles ought to govern the treatment of protesters at the RNC and similar events.

The ‘captive audience’ concept

To begin, an important component of First Amendment doctrine is the rule that “time, place, and manner” restrictions are generally permissible. How does this principle apply to the DNC protesters?

It suggests that police had some latitude to tell the protesters where and when they could protest — just as a City has the latitude when giving out parade permits, to decide whether or not to give those who are applying for permission the exact parade route they are seeking.

Another important First Amendment rule is that you don’t have a right to a “captive audience”. Thus, the protesters did not necessarily have a right to be seated in the Convention Center itself — nor did they have a right to push their message constantly on conventioneers who did not want to hear it.

Occasionally, the Supreme Court has recognized a right to preach even to a captive audience. For instance, in Cohen v. California, the Court upheld a man’s right to wear a jacket emblazoned with the “F” word in a courthouse, a classic situation where the audience is more or less captive. But generally, there is no such right.

For these reasons, one might think the protesters’ confinement did not violate the First Amendment. But other First Amendment principles make clear that it did.

Measures the defeat First Amendment rights

The protesters did not have a right to a captive audience, or a right to protest anywhere they wanted to. But they did have the right to speak and protest. And that implies that they had the right to at least have a good chance to be heard by their desired audience — the conventioneers. Yet they argued that this chance was denied them: They said that, given the combination of the penning and the placement of the protest pens, they could not easily be seen protesting by delegates and others on their way to the Convention.

If that is true, it raises a serious First Amendment problem. Certainly, if the DNC protesters had only been able to speak their piece in a submarine on the bottom of the ocean, their rights would have been violated. And the protestors have said that their Convention placement had more or less the same effect.

Readers may object to this analysis, by arguing that protesters’ real audience is not the conventioneers, but the media and the audience that they broadcast to. They may also point out that the media can easily cover the protests, even in their enclosed location.

Still, not all protesters simply want as large an audience as possible. Some want to reach a particular audience — and to reach that audience in person. For example, consider a protester whose child has died in Iraq, and who feels Kerry should have strongly opposed the war there, and that Bush should not have initiated it. That protester may be traveling to both the DNC and the RNC — hoping to be seen by Kerry and Bush in particular, or at least by the convention delegates who are going to cast their votes for each.

Penning protesters: An impediment to dialogue

In addition, the fact that the protesters were penned also raises another serious First Amendment issue: The right to speak is also the right to participate in the dialogue that is a central part of our democracy. But pens cripple that possibility of dialogue.

Suppose a listener was interested in what a protester had to say — and wanted to speak to the protester further. Given the penning, it would be difficult to have a sustained conversation up close. Listeners should not be forced to join protesters in their pen in order to speak with them. Nor could a protester follow the listener into the Convention Hall, or even along the listener’s path there, to continue the conversation.

As we all know, preaching to the converted is hardly the way to win new converts. The protesters were there to change minds — not just to make a ruckus. Because the penning inhibited their power to persuade, it also inhibited their First Amendment rights.

The Fourth Amendment v. the First

But what about security concerns? Did these concerns justify situating protesters far from the conventioneers’ route, and penning them in? I will argue that the answer is no.

The purported security issue, with respect to protesters, partly arises from the wrongful assumption that protesters are likely to be terrorists — or otherwise to be violent. This claim, however, is one of the most anti-First Amendment charges that a government official can make.

Like the statement that protest is unpatriotic, the statement that protesters are likely to be terrorists, or likely to be otherwise violent, is damaging to our status as a free society. This assumption also collapses upon examination: Why would someone trying to change the system through protest be more likely than others to resort to violence to destroy the system?

Of course, some protesters have resorted to violence, but so many more have made nonviolence — even in the face of police violence — a tenet. The true domestic terrorists — the Tim McVeighs of the world — are far more likely to be found in the trucks rigged with bombs than in the pens set up for speech.

At the DNC, for instance, though it never materialized, there was an FBI report that circulated of a possible terrorist plan by a “fringe” protester to attack media vehicles. Moreover, if it had, you can bet that that terrorist-protester would not have been found in the protest pens, but outside them. You can also bet that the protest pens would not have prevented that terrorist-protester from acting.

And wouldn’t someone who wanted to commit violence tend to proceed incognito, or pretend to be a conventioneer, rather than identifying himself as a protester and proceeding into the “protest pen”? The person holding the placard is probably not the one we have to worry about.

The tradeoffs between the amendments

Finally, it’s important to remember that we have other measures to ensure that protesters and others do not carry weapons or other instruments of violence — and we would be foolish to use them on protesters alone. (Such selectivity in enforcement would itself also raise First Amendment problems.)

In New York, recently, federal judge Robert Sweet held that generalized searches of protesters’ bags — that is, searches absent a specific threat — cannot be conducted at the upcoming Republican National Convention. The basis for Judge Sweet’s ruling was the Fourth Amendment, which renders certain searches unconstitutional.

I believe Judge Sweet’s ruling was in error on this point, for two reasons. First, I think the genuine security threat attending the Convention is grave enough to justify bag searches. Second, I think that interpreting the Fourth Amendment to reach this far is not only a mistake in itself, but one that will inevitably diminish First Amendment rights.

After all, which is a worse intrusion: Having one’s bags examined for possible weaponry, or being placed in a cage where one’s cries of protest will mostly fall on deaf (or no) ears?

The reality is that in today’s climate, if protesters cannot be searched, they are going to be penned. In light of this reality, we need to consider how intrusive such searches really are. In my view, bag searches are only a modest intrusion on privacy — whereas the protester pens that will inevitably result if bags cannot be searched are a serious intrusion on liberty.

Also, in the unlikely event that a bag search leads to persecution based on political ideas as expressed in confiscated papers, a federal judge can at least partially remedy that wrong. But putting protesters far away from their potential audience effectively silences them — and for that, there is no effective remedy.

If rights are to be infringed in the “war on terrorism,” then First Amendment rights should be last on the list.

Julie Hilden, a FindLaw columnist, practiced First Amendment law at the D.C. law firm of Williams & Connolly from 1996-99. Hilden’s first novel, “3,” was published recently. Hilden’s Web site,, includes MP3 and text downloads of the novel’s first chapter.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Campus Abolishes Its Free-Speech Zone

September 18th, 2004 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

Campus Abolishes Its Free-Speech Zone
The Associated Press
First Amendment Center Online staff
May 9th, 2003

MACOMB, Ill. - Western Illinois University has abolished its policies regulating campus demonstrations after students and professors waged a silent protest against it.

University policy had required protesters to schedule public speeches and gatherings 48 hours in advance, and had restricted gatherings to an area outside the university union.
Establishing such a restrictive free-speech zone infringes on studentsí right to free speech and freedom of assembly, and “makes the rest of campus a censorship zone,” said Sara Goff, a graduate student who organized the protest.

Campuses should be “a marketplace of ideas, not a straitjacket on the intellectual minds of the future,” Goff said.

In their April 29 protest, about 30 students and professors marched through the campus in Macomb for two hours with gags in their mouths in the school colors of purple and gold.

WIU initially said it fully supported freedom of speech but had set “rational limits” to ensure gatherings weren’t disruptive. “They are free to express themselves, but you don’t run into a crowded theater and, for example, yell, ‘Fire,’” school spokesman John Maguire said.

Although the silent demonstration violated the school’s gathering policy, established in 1995, there were no arrests because the march was peaceful, WIU officials said.

The Peoria, Ill., Journal Star newspaper reported on May 6 that Western Illinois University President Al Goldfarb had rescinded the speech and assembly restrictions.

“There is no better place for free and open expression of ideas than a public university,” Goldfarb told the Journal Star. “Our entire university represents the ideal of freedom of expression. I do not believe that we would ever want to restrict free speech to a specific area on campus.”

In a news release before the silent protest, Goff was quoted as saying, “Free-speech zones, though concurrent with time, place and manner restrictions, are unconstitutional because they unreasonably prohibit free-speech acts.”

“The more restrictions that you place on free speech, the less likely it is to occur,” Goff said.


University of Maryland sued over free-speech zones ACLU says campus policy limiting speakers, leafleting to two locations infringes on students’ free expression. 03.07.03

Texas lawmakers consider curbing use of campus speech zones ‘This bill ensures that universities provide students with a chance to express their ideas without fear of being arrested or disciplined unfairly,’ says measure’s sponsor. 04.28.03

Lessons learned: setting speech free on campus By Ken Paulson Western Illinois University does the right thing in abolishing its ‘free-speech zone’ policy limiting student speech. 05.18.03

Free-speech zones - News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Pre-Emptive Interrogations: Chilling Political Speech

September 11th, 2004 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

The FBI’s Pre-Emptive Interrogations Of “Possible” Demonstrators: Chilling Political Speech
By Bob Barr

August 25th, 2004

The FBI, no longer content with working to maintain order at political events, is now preemptively identifying and interrogating (”interviewing”) possible demonstrators. It has summarized this strategy in a memo.

To make matters worse, the Department of Justice blessed the FBI strategy in its own memo - suggesting that no First Amendment concerns are raised by the interrogations.
As I will explain in this column, however, the truth is quite to the contrary: The strategy, as outlined in the memo, is a serious threat to free speech.

Back When Politics Was Fun, Protest Was Part of It
Throughout the Reagan and Clinton presidencies, and even to some extent during the Nixon years, politics was fun. At least, political protesting had its lighter moments. (Nothing was really fun during the dour Carter Administration, and George H.W. Bush’s presidency was, well, pretty boring except for the First Gulf War.)

Who can forget the great costumes and Nixon face masks that appeared at many political rallies and other events during the 1960s and early 1970s? Reagan and Clinton masks, the latter sometimes adorned with long, Pinocchio-type noses, added color and a bit of levity to political demonstrations throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s. There was, in a word, tolerance.

Reagan, with his constant good humor, almost always disarmed protesters with his wit. Conservatives wearing anti-Clinton T-shirts frequently showed up at Clinton rallies. The worst they might face from the then-president’s supporters were scowls.

This atmosphere didn’t mean security was absent; it was very present. In the 1960s through the end of Clinton’s second term in January 2001, everyone knew if you caused disruption, Secret Service agents would be on you in an instant, as they should be.

But during that period, you didn’t feel you were doing something criminal if you simply decided to show up at a rally with a protest T-shirt on, or lugging around a sloppy paperboard sign criticizing the president. You didn’t feel intimidated.

The Bush Administration: Squelching Disagreement and Dissent
Now, things are very different. The Administration and campaign of George W. Bush is squelching any possible hint of disagreement or protest at every political rally or gathering.

For example, people with T-shirts that hint at disagreement are not allowed anywhere near the events, nor even on the route traveled by the presidential motorcade. Think what they’d do to you if you showed up in a - shudder — mask.

But it’s gotten even worse than that.

The FBI’s Preemptive Interrogation Memorandum
As the New York Times has reported, in an October 2003 memorandum to law enforcement agencies, the FBI expressed great concern over the possibility that marches and rallies in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco might become “violent, destructive, or disruptive.”

The memo went on to urge law enforcement to monitor the Internet, because “protesters often use the Internet to . . . coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations.” It also urged law enforcement to watch out for protesters who use cell phones to “coordinate . . . or update colleagues.”

In the memo, law enforcement agencies at all levels of government are warned to be aware of “possible indicators of protest activity.” Moreover, even though the memo does not cite any evidence of violence likely to take place at “possible protests,” the Bureau’s memo concluded by telling law enforcement agencies to “report any potentially illegal acts to the” FBI (italics added).

The Department of Justice Memo Blessing the FBI Memo
Doubtless, the Department of Justice, aware of the FBI memo, was concerned that it would be seen as urging law enforcement to begin monitoring persons who might be contemplating staging political protests protected by the First Amendment. So several months later, in April 2004 - as the New York Times also reported — the Department of Justice, which oversees the FBI, issued its own memo - addressing, and dismissing, these constitutional concerns.

The memo came from DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). In the memo, OLC concluded, not surprisingly, that the monitoring, interrogating and gathering of evidence on potential political protesters raised no First Amendment concerns. In addition, it went on to conclude that even if, hypothetically, such activities did raise concerns, any “chilling” effect would be “quite minimal” and would be far outweighed by the overriding public interest in maintaining “order.”

Evidence Suggests Protesters Are Subjected To Home and Office Interviews
No chilling effect? In the last few months, evidence has been mounting that special agents are showing up at the homes and offices of potential protesters - casting suspicion upon them in front of bosses, colleagues, family, friends and neighbors. This activity apparently has increased as the Republican Convention and the November election draw near.

If that’s not a chilling effect, I don’t know what is. The price of free speech should not be a high-profile FBI visit that makes all who know you wonder if you may be a criminal.

During these visits, the special agents “interview” the potential protesters to determine if they — or anyone they know — might be planning any political demonstrations. Of course, the “anyone they know” is especially worrisome - hints of McCarthyism.

Also according to the New York Times, the final question the FBI agents ask is this: Does the interviewee know that withholding information on whether they know anyone else who might be planning a demonstration or “disruption” is itself a crime?

One can only imagine how this parting shot plays out: “Oh, by the way, ma’am, before me and my armed partner here leave your house, we’d like to remind you that if you haven’t told us if you know someone else who might be planning a demonstration, you have committed a crime and we can prosecute you for not telling us that. Have a good night, ma’am.”

This, of course, is pure intimidation.

DOJ’s Absurd Stance: Interrogation in Home or Office Is Not Interrogation
The FBI, seemingly, takes an absurdly narrow view of what kind of tactics would, in fact, chill speech - a view that excludes its own plainly chilling measures.

For instance, Joe Parris, an FBI spokesman, told the New York Times that, because “no one was dragged from their homes and put under bright lights,” interviews of potential demonstrators are not “chilling.”

So now we know the Administration’s new First Amendment standard: So long as the government agents don’t “drag you from your home” and interrogate you “under bright lights,” you have nothing to complain or worry about.

The fact of the matter is, tactics such as those contemplated in last year’s FBI memo, and approved by the Justice Department this past spring, do chill free speech. They do intimidate.

And, self-justifying memos by government lawyers notwithstanding, such tactics usher in an era of intolerance and fear that has no place in American politics.

Bob Barr served in the U.S. House of Representatives from January 1995 to January 2003. He was a senior member of the Judiciary Committee. He now practices law, writes extensively, works with the American Conservative Union, and consults on privacy matters with the ACLU.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Bush Free Speech Zones Go National

August 14th, 2004 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

Bush Zones Go National
By Jim Hightower
The Nation

August 16th, 2004 Issue

At the 2000 GOP nominating convention in Philadelphia, candidate Bush created a fenced-in, out-of-sight protest zone that could only hold barely 1,500 people at a time. So citizens who wished to give voice to their many grievances with the powers that be had to:

1. Schedule their exercise of First Amendment rights with the decidedly unsympathetic authorities.
2. Report like cattle to the protest pen at their designated time, and only in the numbers authorized.
3. Then, under the recorded surveillance of the authorities, feel free to let loose with all the speech they could utter within their allotted minutes (although no one - not Bush, not convention delegates, not the preening members of Congress, not the limousine-gliding corporate sponsors and certainly not the mass media - would be anywhere nearby to hear a single word of what they had to say).
Imagine how proud the Founders would be of this interpretation of their revolutionary work. The Democrats, always willing to learn useful tricks from the opposition, created their own “free-speech zone” when they gathered in Los Angeles that year for their convention.

Once ensconced in the White House, the Bushites institutionalized the art of dissing dissent, routinely dispatching the Secret Service to order local police to set up FSZs to quarantine protesters wherever Bush goes. The embedded media trooping dutifully behind him almost never cover this fascinating and truly newsworthy phenomenon, instead focusing almost entirely on spoon-fed sound bites from the President’s press office.

An independent libertarian writer, however, James Bovard, chronicled George’s splendid isolation from citizen protest in last December’s issue of The American Conservative. He wrote about Bill Neel, a retired steelworker who dared to raise his humble head at a 2002 Labor Day picnic in Pittsburgh, where Bush had gone to be photographed with worker-type people. Bill definitely did not fit the message of the day, for this 65-year-old was sporting a sign that said: The Bush Family Must Surely Love the Poor, They Made so Many of Us.

Ouch! Negative! Not acceptable! Must go!

Bill was standing in a crowd of pro-Bush people who were standing along the street where Bush’s motorcade would pass. The Bush backers had all sorts of Hooray George-type signs. Those were totally okey-dokey with the Secret Service, but Neel’s…well, it simply had to be removed.

He was told by the Pittsburgh cops to depart to the designated FSZ, a ballpark encased in a chain-link fence a third of a mile from Bush’s (and the media’s) path. Bill, that rambunctious rebel, refused to budge. So they arrested him for disorderly conduct, dispatched him to the luxury of a Pittsburgh jail and confiscated his offending sign.

At Bill’s trial, a Pittsburgh detective testified that the Secret Service had instructed local police to confine “people that were making a statement pretty much against the President and his views.” The district court judge not only tossed out the silly charges against Neel but scolded the prosecution: “I believe this is America. Whatever happened to ‘I don’t agree with you, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it’?”

This was no isolated incident. Bovard also takes us to St. Louis, where George appeared last year. About 150 sign-toting protesters were shunted off to a zone where they could not be seen from the street, and - get ready to spin in your grave, Jimmy Madison - the media were not allowed to talk to them, and protesters were not allowed out of the protest zone to talk to the media.

Now meet Brett Bursey. He committed the crime of holding up a No War for Oil sign when sensitive George visited Columbia, South Carolina, last year. Standing amid a sea of pro-Bush signs in a public area, Bursey was commanded by local police to remove himself forthwith to the FSZ half a mile away from the action, even though he was already two football fields from where Bush was to speak. No, said Brett. So, naturally, they arrested him. Asked why, the officer said, “It’s the content of your sign that’s the problem.”

Five months later, Brett’s trespassing charge was tossed on the rather obvious grounds that - yoo-hoo! - there’s no such thing as a member of the public trespassing on public property at a public event. But John Ashcroft is oblivious to the obvious, so the Justice Department of the United States of America (represented in this case by - can you stand it? - US Attorney Strom Thurmond Jr.) inserted itself into this local misdemeanor case, charging our man Brett with a federal violation of “entering a restricted area around the president.” Great Goofy in the Sky - he was 200 yards away, surrounded by cheering Bushcalytes who were also in the “restricted area.”

Ashcroft/Thurmond/Bush attempted to deny Bursey’s lawyers access to Secret Service documents setting forth official policy on who gets stopped for criticizing the President, where, when and why. But Bursey finally obtained the documents and posted them on the South Carolina Progressive Network website, they reveal that what the Secret Service did goes against official policy.

Then there’s the “Crawford Contretemps.” In May of 2003 a troupe of about 100 antiwar Texans were on their way by car to George W’s Little Ponderosa, located about five miles outside the tiny town of Crawford. To get to Bush’s place, one drives through the town - but the traveling protesters were greeted by a police blockade. They got out of their cars to find out what was up, only to be told by Police Chief Donnie Tidmore that they were violating a town ordinance requiring a permit to protest within the city limits.

But wait, they said, we’re on our way to Bush’s ranchette - we have no intention of protesting here. Logic was a stranger that day in Crawford, however, and Chief Tidmore warned them that they had three minutes to turn around and go back from whence they came, or else they’d be considered a demonstration, and, he reminded them, they had no permit for that. (Tidmore later said that he actually gave them seven minutes to depart, in order to be “as fair as possible.”)

Five of the group tried to talk sense with Tidmore, but that was not possible. Their reward for even trying was to be arrested for refusing to disperse and given a night in the nearby McLennan County jail. The chief said he could’ve just given them a ticket, but he judged that arresting them was the only way to get them to move, claiming that they were causing a danger because of the traffic.

This February, the five were brought to trial in Crawford. Their lawyer asked Tidmore if someone who simply wore a political button reading “Peace” could be found in violation of Crawford’s ordinance against protesting without a permit. Yes, said the chief. “It could be a sign of demonstration.”

The five were convicted.

The Bushites are using federal, state and local police to conduct an undeclared war against dissent, literally incarcerating Americans who publicly express their disagreements with him and his policies. The ACLU and others have now sued Bush’s Secret Service for its ongoing pattern of repressing legitimate, made-in-America protest, citing cases in Arizona, California, Virginia, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas - and coming soon to a theater near you!

If incarceration is not enough to deter dissenters, how about some old-fashioned goon-squad tactics like infiltration and intimidation of protesters? In May of 2002 Ashcroft issued a decree terminating a quarter-century-old policy that bans FBI agents from spying on Americans in their political meetings and churches.

Not only were federal agents “freed” by Bush and his attack dog Ashcroft to violate the freedoms (assembly, speech, privacy) of any and all citizens, but they were encouraged to do so. This unleashing of the FBI was done in the name of combating foreign terrorists. The Bushites loudly scoffed at complaints that agents would also be used to spy on American citizens for political purposes having nothing to do with terrorism. While officials scoffed publicly, however, an internal FBI newsletter quietly encouraged agents to increase surveillance of antiwar groups, saying that there were “plenty of reasons” for doing so, “chief of which it will enhance the paranoia endemic in such circles and will further service to get the point across that there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.”

Likewise, in May of last year, the Homeland Security Department waded butt-deep into the murky waters of political suppression, issuing a terrorist advisory to local law enforcement agencies. It urged all police officials to keep a hawk-eyed watch on any homelanders who [Warning: Do not read the rest of this sentence if it will shock you to learn that there are people like this in your country!] have “expressed dislike of attitudes and decisions of the US government.”

Memo to Tom Ridge, Secretary of HSD: Sir, that’s everyone. All 280 million of us, minus George Bush, you and the handful of others actually making the decisions. You’ve just branded every red-blooded American a terrorist. Maybe you should stick to playing with your color codes.

Last November, Ashcroft weighed back in with new federal guidelines allowing the FBI to make what amount to pre-emptive spying assaults on people. Much like the nifty Bush-Rumsfeld doctrine of attacking countries to pre-empt the possibility that maybe, someday, some way, those countries might pose a threat to the United States, the Bush-Ashcroft doctrine allows government gumshoes to spy on citizens and noncitizens alike without any indication that the spied-upon people are doing anything illegal. The executive directive gives the FBI authority to collect “information on individuals, groups, and organizations of possible investigative interest.”

The language used by Ashcroft mouthpiece Mark Corallo to explain this directive is meant to be reassuring, but it is Orwell-level scary: What it means, says Corallo, is that agents “can do more research.” “It emphasizes early intervention” and “allows them to be more proactive.” Yeah, they get to do all that without opening a formal investigation (which sets limits on the snooping), much less bothering to get any court approval for their snooping. A proactive secret police is rarely a positive for people.

With the FBI on the loose, other police powers now feel free to join in the all-season sport of intimidating people. In Austin, even the Army was caught snooping on us. At a small University of Texas conference in February to discuss Islam in Muslim countries, two Army officers were discovered to be posing as participants. The next week two agents from the Army Intelligence and Security Command appeared on campus demanding a list of participants and trying to grill Sahar Aziz, the conference organizer. Alarmed by these intimidating tactics, Aziz got the help of a lawyer, and the local newspaper ran a story. The Army quickly went away - but a spokeswoman for the intelligence command refused even to confirm that the agents had been on campus, much less discuss why the US Army is involved in domestic surveillance and intimidation.

In California an antiwar group called Peace Fresno included in its ranks a nice young man named Aaron Stokes, who was always willing to be helpful. Unfortunately, Aaron died in a motorcycle wreck, and when his picture ran in the paper, Peace Fresno learned that he was really Aaron Kilner, a deputy with the sheriff’s department. The sheriff said he could not discuss the specifics of Kilner’s infiltration role, but that there was no formal investigation of Peace Fresno under way. He did insist, however, that there is potential for terrorism in Fresno County. “We believe that there is,” the sheriff said ominously (and vaguely). “I’m not going to expand on it.”

If the authorities think there is terrorist potential in Fresno (probably not real high on Osama’s target list), then there is potential everywhere, and under the Bush regime, this is plenty enough reason for any and all police agencies to launch secret campaigns to infiltrate, investigate and intimidate any and all people and groups with politics that they find even mildly suspicious…or distasteful.

The attitude of police authorities was summed up by Mike van Winkle, a spokesperson for the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (another spin off of the Homeland Security Department - your tax dollars at work). After peaceful antiwar protesters in Oakland were gassed and shot by local police, van Winkle [Note: I do not make up these names] explained the prevailing thinking of America’s new, vast network of antiterrorist forces: You can make an easy kind of link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that protest. You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act. I’ve heard terrorism described as anything that is violent or has an economic impact. Terrorism isn’t just bombs going off and killing people.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Free Speech Zones In The USA?

June 16th, 2004 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

Free Speech Zones In The USA?
By Ward Reilly
The Baltimore Chronicle

May 27th, 2004

You could have been a world hero, Mr. Bush, instead of being a world criminal, at least in my eyes. Could have, but never more.

“Free Speech Zones” in the U.S.A.? I thought our entire nation was a “Free Speech Zone.” I thought that is what “freedom of speech” meant in our Constitution. That we could say anything we wanted, anywhere on public property where we wanted to say it. What was I thinking? Welcome to “Free Speech, 2004, “Dubya” Bush Style.”
On Friday morning, May 21st, 2004, during a visit to my city by President George W. Bush, I learned what it means to live in a country when “free speech” means something entirely different if you don`t happen to agree with what your President, and/or his cabinet, have done in your name.

On this day, all good “pro-Bush” citizens in Baton Rouge, Louisiana got to stand along the curbside of Dalrymple Drive in hopes of catching a glimpse of the most powerful man on Earth, as he rode by them on his way to speak to the graduates at LSU.

“Superman at LSU,” you ask? Not exactly, but President Bush was here. Now, having a sitting President visit is normally quite an honor in itself, kind-of, but Bush`s fans on Dalrymple Drive just didn`t have any good luck that day. The President chose a different route leading to the Assembly Center, and so the Bush fans went along their merry way without having caught a glimpse of their leader.

I, on the other hand, an old ex-Infantry veteran from long ago, was forced to stand 100 feet from Dalrymple Drive, in the direct Louisiana summer sun, hidden behind some of the beautiful giant oak trees growing alongside Dalrymple Drive at Highland Road, even though I had planned, with several other groups, to protest along the curbside on Dalrymple Drive.

But because I was not “pro-Bush”, and because I carried a sign, I wasn`t allowed to do what I planned. A sign of protest? How devious! How DANGEROUS! It`s enough to suspend the Bill Of Rights, right? WRONG!

I “captured” the “Free Speech Zone,” and it now is an “Anti-War Trophy” in my music room, with my military decorations and awards.

At LSU on Friday, May 21st, “Free Speech,” as designated by law, was only to be allowed for “anti-war” citizens that were willing to stand in a roped-off 35 foot square, 100 feet from the road. My sign said “Veterans For Peace, No WAR” on one side, and “The DUBYA–M-D’s ARE IN THE WHITE HOUSE” on the other. Not exactly controversial. Not exactly threatening. It just said that I`m against this Iraq “war,” and I don`t like this President. I have been against this war since way before it even started, and I will be that way until the last U.S. soldier is home from there.

We had a legal permit to demonstrate against this war and President Bush, a permit from the Secret Service, as enforced by the LSU police. When our group of demonstrators arrived on Dalrymple Drive that morning to protest this visit, an LSU policeman told us that we had to stand in a 35-foot fenced-in square, exactly 100` from Dalrymple Drive, for “security” reasons, under the threat of arrest if we didn’t. We refused to stand in that thing, but we did not get arrested. (It would have been funny if all the protestors had stood in the little square and said “MOO” over and over, like cattle do.)

Directly across the street from the “free speech zone,” about 25 “pro-Bush” citizens stood along the curb and waited for the President. I was selected as spokesman for our group, so I asked the LSU police Sarge, “Why can those people stand along the curb but we can`t?” The Sarge said, and I quote, “Because they are pro-Bush, and they don`t have signs”…. damn, it was my sign’s fault!

At the end of the demonstration some of us demonstrators entered the little roped-off square, pulled up the stakes holding it in place, and proceeded to walk all around the Parade Grounds of LSU, inside the world’s first government-issued “Moving Free Speech Zone.” FOX News filmed it, and they even showed us marching around in our captured “free speech zone” on New Orleans TV.

So let me get this straight–and also let me present this to you, and you decide what is wrong with this picture. If you are “pro-Bush,” you need no permit to stand along the edge of the road, and no security is necessary if you decide that you want to get as close to the President as you can. The police checked none of them, asked them for no permits, and allowed those people to line the street within only inches of where the President would be riding.

So if I were a terrorist or an assassin trying to “hit” our President, all I would have needed to do in order to get only inches away from him, would have been to say nothing, get no permit, and carry no sign.

I just don`t get it. Do you get it?

Did I mention that a lot of men and women have died in war thinking that their sacrifice would guarantee that something like this would never happen to me or you in the United States of America? Maybe if our “War President” had shown up when it was his turn to fight in a war, this wouldn`t have happened to us when he did show up somewhere, like here in Baton Rouge on May 21, 2004.

Nice of you to show up George. At least it was nice if you were a “pro-Bush-non-sign-carrying-pro-war” type. Please don`t come back here. You could have been a world hero, instead of being a world criminal, at least in my eyes. Could have, but never more.

The Infantry wasn`t too bad for me…I`m here. At least I can still write about “free speech,” even if I can`t practice it. Peace George, from Baton Rouge. Stop the war, and bring the troops home now.

P.S.–I “captured” the “Free Speech Zone,” and it now is an “Anti-War Trophy” in my music room, with my military decorations and awards. I think it is safe for me to say that it is the only captured and portable “Free Speech Zone” in the world, and I will treasure it for the rest of my life.

Ward Reilly, of Baton Rouge, La., is a member of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Copyright © 2004 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

J. Edgar Hoover Back At The ‘New’ FBI

May 3rd, 2004 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

J. Edgar Hoover Back At The ‘New’ FBI
By Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice

December 4th, 2003

Classified FBI Bulletin Reveals Tactics at Protests

If you go around telling people, “We’re going to ferret out information on demonstrations,” that deters people. People don’t want their names and pictures in FBI files. ,American University constitutional law professor Herman Schwartz, commenting on FBI Intelligence Bulletin no. 89, October 15, 2003, “Tactics Used During Protests and Demonstrations”
Americans of a certain age remember the FBI’s counter-intelligence operation, COINTELPRO, which, during its years of operation from 1956 to 1971, surveilled, infiltrated, manipulated, and tried to provoke criminal activities by entirely lawful civil rights and anti-war demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights to oppose government policies.

In the 1970s, the Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities so exposed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s relentless violations of the Bill of Rights, very much including the First Amendment, that Attorney General Edward Levi,the best constitutionalist in that office in our history,established new FBI guidelines to keep its agents within the bounds of the Constitution.

And Senator Frank Church of Idaho, chairman of that Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, pledged in 1975, “The American people need to be reassured that never again will an agency of the government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers a threat to the established order.”

Attorney General John Ashcroft has broken that pledge more times than I can count, because so much of his surveillance of we the people is done in secret. But Ashcroft’s overturning of the Levi FBI guidelines was perpetrated publicly in May 2002, when he set new FBI guidelines in the spirit of COINTELPRO. As a May 31, 2002, New York Times editorial charged: The FBI now has “nearly unbridled power to poke into the affairs of anyone in the United States, even when there is no evidence of illegal activity.”

As further evidence of how FBI director Robert Mueller continues morphing into J. Edgar Hoover, the November 23, 2003, New York Times,in a front-page story by its invaluable legal affairs reporter Eric Lichtblau,warned:

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.”

This is not news to those of us who track the FBI tracking us. But the importance of this coverage of the continuous contempt of Frank Church’s 1975 pledge to the American people by Robert Mueller and his boss, John Ashcroft, is revealed in a sentence deep in that New York Times story:

“The FBI memorandum . . . appears to offer the first corroboration of a coordinated nationwide effort to collect intelligence regarding demonstrations.”

Analyzing this classified confidential FBI memorandum, FBI Intelligence Bulletin no. 89, (of which I too have a copy), the October 15, 2003, Times quotes ACLU executive director Anthony Romero: “This bulletin confirms that the federal government is targeting innocent Americans engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent. . . . It is troubling that the FBI is advocating spying on peaceful protesters, but even protesters who engage in civil disobedience or other disruptive acts should not be treated like potential terrorists.”

Among the “tactics” the FBI advises local law enforcement agencies to track in this intelligence bulletin on “current, relevant terrorism information” is the frequent use by protesters of “the Internet to recruit, raise funds, and coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations.”

This is exactly how the nation’s Bill of Rights Defense Committees coordinate,and provide organizing tools for the formation of new BORDC committees,to protest Ashcroft’s USA Patriot Act and subsequent executive orders in messages to their members of Congress.

And when the attorney general went on his “victory tour”,speaking only to law enforcement agencies on the virtues of the Patriot Act,BORDC and ACLU members used the Internet, exercising their First Amendment rights, to recruit demonstrators at various stops on Ashcroft’s barnstorming trek.

In what part of the Constitution does the FBI have the authority to put in its databases the names of protesters using the Internet to organize peaceful demonstrations?

FBI Intelligence Bulletin no. 89 also alerts local police that “activists often communicate with one another using cell phones or radios to coordinate activities or to update colleagues about ongoing events. Other types of media equipment (video cameras, photogenic equipment, audiotape recorders, microphones, and computer and radio equipment) may be used for documenting potential cases of police brutality and for distribution of information over the Internet.”

Good grief! These persons under suspicion actually document out-of-control police during demonstrations,and they also communicate with each other in the course of a demonstration!

This FBI “Law Enforcement Sensitive Bulletin” ends, “Law enforcement agencies should be alert to these possible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts to the nearest FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

But why does this brooding FBI bulletin contain so many references to entirely legal protest activities? Like this one: “Activists may use intimidation techniques such as videotaping” during demonstrations. Who is intimidating whom?

Referring to these FBI instructions on how to deal with the “tactics” of protesting demonstrators, Senator Ted Kennedy,on ABC-TV’s This Week, November 23,said, “How could we be fighting abroad to defend our freedoms, and diminishing those freedoms here at home?”

Adds the ACLU’s Anthony Romero,”What is the chilling effect that will be felt by Americans all across the country if they think they will come under FBI scrutiny just by going to a protest?”

Will somebody in the elite Washington press corps ask George W. Bush if he’s heard about the fifth freedom in the First Amendment, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”?

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies

January 16th, 2004 by Andy in Free Speech Zones

F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies
By Eric Lichtblau
The New York Times

November 23, 2003

The F.B.I. is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent. The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we’re going back to the days of Hoover…What the F.B.I. regards as potential terrorism strikes me as civil disobedience.
-Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union
WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 - The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

The memorandum, which the bureau sent to local law enforcement agencies last month in advance of antiwar demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco, detailed how protesters have sometimes used “training camps” to rehearse for demonstrations, the Internet to raise money and gas masks to defend against tear gas. The memorandum analyzed lawful activities like recruiting demonstrators, as well as illegal activities like using fake documentation to get into a secured site.

F.B.I. officials said in interviews that the intelligence-gathering effort was aimed at identifying anarchists and “extremist elements” plotting violence, not at monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protesters.

The initiative has won the support of some local police, who view it as a critical way to maintain order at large-scale demonstrations. Indeed, some law enforcement officials said they believed the F.B.I.’s approach had helped to ensure that nationwide antiwar demonstrations in recent months, drawing hundreds of thousands of protesters, remained largely free of violence and disruption.

But some civil rights advocates and legal scholars said the monitoring program could signal a return to the abuses of the 1960’s and 1970’s, when J. Edgar Hoover was the F.B.I. director and agents routinely spied on political protesters like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The F.B.I. is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we’re going back to the days of Hoover.”

Herman Schwartz, a constitutional law professor at American University who has written about F.B.I. history, said collecting intelligence at demonstrations is probably legal.

But he added: “As a matter of principle, it has a very serious chilling effect on peaceful demonstration. If you go around telling people, `We’re going to ferret out information on demonstrations,’ that deters people. People don’t want their names and pictures in F.B.I. files.”

The abuses of the Hoover era, which included efforts by the F.B.I. to harass and discredit Hoover’s political enemies under a program known as Cointelpro, led to tight restrictions on F.B.I. investigations of political activities.

Those restrictions were relaxed significantly last year, when Attorney General John Ashcroft issued guidelines giving agents authority to attend political rallies, mosques and any event “open to the public.”

Mr. Ashcroft said the Sept. 11 attacks made it essential that the F.B.I. be allowed to investigate terrorism more aggressively. The bureau’s recent strategy in policing demonstrations is an outgrowth of that policy, officials said.

“We’re not concerned with individuals who are exercising their constitutional rights,” one F.B.I. official said. “But it’s obvious that there are individuals capable of violence at these events. We know that there are anarchists that are actively involved in trying to sabotage and commit acts of violence at these different events, and we also know that these large gatherings would be a prime target for terrorist groups.”

Civil rights advocates, relying largely on anecdotal evidence, have complained for months that federal officials have surreptitiously sought to suppress the First Amendment rights of antiwar demonstrators.

Critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, for instance, have sued the government to learn how their names ended up on a “no fly” list used to stop suspected terrorists from boarding planes. Civil rights advocates have accused federal and local authorities in Denver and Fresno, Calif., of spying on antiwar demonstrators or infiltrating planning meetings. And the New York Police Department this year questioned many of those arrested at demonstrations about their political affiliations, before halting the practice and expunging the data in the face of public criticism.

The F.B.I. memorandum, however, appears to offer the first corroboration of a coordinated, nationwide effort to collect intelligence regarding demonstrations.

The memorandum, circulated on Oct. 15 - just 10 days before many thousands gathered in Washington and San Francisco to protest the American occupation of Iraq - noted that the bureau “possesses no information indicating that violent or terrorist activities are being planned as part of these protests” and that “most protests are peaceful events.”

But it pointed to violence at protests against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as evidence of potential disruption. Law enforcement officials said in interviews that they had become particularly concerned about the ability of antigovernment groups to exploit demonstrations and promote a violent agenda.

“What a great opportunity for an act of terrorism, when all your resources are dedicated to some big event and you let your guard down,” a law enforcement official involved in securing recent demonstrations said. “What would the public say if we didn’t look for criminal activity and intelligence at these events?”

The memorandum urged local law enforcement officials “to be alert to these possible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts” to counterterrorism task forces run by the F.B.I. It warned about an array of threats, including homemade bombs and the formation of human chains.

The memorandum discussed demonstrators’ “innovative strategies,” like the videotaping of arrests as a means of “intimidation” against the police. And it noted that protesters “often use the Internet to recruit, raise funds and coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations.”

“Activists may also make use of training camps to rehearse tactics and counter-strategies for dealing with the police and to resolve any logistical issues,” the memorandum continued. It also noted that protesters may raise money to help pay for lawyers for those arrested.

F.B.I. counterterrorism officials developed the intelligence cited in the memorandum through firsthand observation, informants, public sources like the Internet and other methods, officials said.

Officials said the F.B.I. treats demonstrations no differently than other large-scale and vulnerable gatherings. The aim, they said, was not to monitor protesters but to gather intelligence.

Critics said they remained worried. “What the F.B.I. regards as potential terrorism,” Mr. Romero of the A.C.L.U. said, “strikes me as civil disobedience.”

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

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