Thursday, October 07, 2004

Isn't anybody going to listen to my story...

This, in a nutshell, is what it's all about. For the Patriot Act-loving crowd, who feels that protesting, or any criticism of GWBush is "aiding the enemy," this should feel really good. Protestors in NYC during the Republican NAtional Convention were arrested while legally protesting, and held illegally:

From The NYTimes:

Prosecutors Won't Pursue Cases of 227 in Disputed Protest

The Manhattan district attorney's office said yesterday that it would not prosecute cases against 227 protesters who were arrested in one of the most disputed demonstrations of the Republican National Convention, saying it would be difficult to prove that the protesters had deliberately defied orders.

One protester who appeared in court yesterday, Richard Hardie, a 73-year-old furniture designer from Northampton, Mass., said he was held for 49½ hours in a holding area on a Manhattan pier and in the courthouse.

Martin R. Stolar, president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who represents about 80 of the 227 protesters, said the protesters planned to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city by the end of the month. For example, many of the protesters claim that they were held for longer than the 24 hours the law allows.

"Just saying, 'Oops, sorry,' is not enough,'' said G. Simon Harak, a coordinator for the War Resisters League, the group that organized the Fulton Street protest, and one of those arrested. "There has to be some kind of redress for the violation of our civil rights."

But wait, there's more. It's now illegal to protest. If we criticize GWBush, we may be guilty of heinous crimes. From Slate:

An old law turns protesters into threats against the president.

The strange catalyst here is a new weapon in the federal antiprotest arsenal or—more precisely—a previously unused one. The government nailed Bursey with an arcane 1970 Secret Service provision—Title 18, Section 1752(a)(1)(ii) of the U.S. Code—which makes it a federal crime to "knowingly and willfully" enter an area restricted by the Secret Service during a presidential visit. The law was originally drafted by legislators scarred by the assassinations of the 1960s, in the hopes of preventing the next attempt on the life of a president. Turns out the law can be used to prevent criticism as well.

In Bursey's case, the government contended that on Oct. 24, 2002, the protected zone encompassed an intersection near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport where Brett Bursey was standing with a sign that read "No War for Oil." Bursey said that hundreds of Bush supporters stood around him, along with four other protesters, all awaiting the president. In a scene that has played itself out repeatedly during this campaign, most anti-Bush protesters that day were kept in a "free-speech zone" located three-quarters of a mile away—well out of ear- and camera-shot of the president. Bursey and the other protesters were told several times to move—and did—but Bursey never went quite far enough away to placate the Secret Service.

Secret Service agent Holly Able testified at trial that she then gave him four options: He could go to the demonstration area, get in line for the rally (if he had a ticket), go home, or go to jail. When he refused to disappear from sight, Bursey was arrested by airport police, thrown into a police wagon, and taken away. He was slapped with a local charge at first—trespassing—but that was quickly dropped. Bursey, after all, had been standing on public land. Then the federal charges were trotted out.

There are also reports that the temporary quarters used to hold the "detained" protestors were actually a building leased by the RNC. I'll keep looking into this. But in the meantime, there's plenty of scary stuff here.

For anyone protesting, as so many do here in L.A., please be careful. But be true to yourselves.