A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
September 13, 2002
Free Speech in Jeopardy
by Rob Moitoza
On September 10 the internet site unitedforpeace.org was knocked offline by hackers. The site was intended to announce various peace events going on across the country. Obviously, someone who resorts to these kinds of tactics does not believe in free speech. I would call them anti-American. Since the person did this anonymously, it is really no better than any other cowardly terrorist act.
Meanwhile, all across America citizens are being harrassed, herded into chained off "First amendment zones," pepper sprayed, and jailed merely for expressing their opposition to the Bush administration and their policies.
In Pittsburg, columnist, Regis T. Sabol said, "I got a first-hand lesson on Labor Day on what the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly mean under the regime of George W. Bush. Americans who support Bush and his policies can raise signs in his praise and line the streets when his limousine passes by. Americans who do not support Bush and his policies must stay far away from the president by judicial decree or risk arrest."
In Youngstown, Ohio, Michael Rechtenwald, founder and chair of Citizens for Elected Government, called the Freedom Zone "pathetic and a violation of the Constitution of the United States."
Bill Neel, 65, of Butler, refused to join other protesters inside the "First amendment zone," saying the arrangement infringed on his right of free speech and reminded him of a Nazi concentration camp. Neel insisted on holding his sign outside the fence, so Allegheny County police arrested him and took him away in handcuffs. County Police Superintendent Ken Fulton said the U.S. Secret Service specified crowd-control procedures to ensure Bush's safety. He said his officers were enforcing rules put in place by federal agents. "One group wanted to have 300 people on the street. That's too large. You can't have them meandering around, carrying signs. That's disorderly." Of course, 300 pro Bush supporters was just fine.
At the recent Portland visit by George Bush, innocent bystanders were pepper sprayed by police. I know. I was there. A lawsuit has now been filed against the city of Portland by a group of these citizens. Pepper spraying people who are exercising their constitutional rights is un-American. At the very least it is unconstitutional. People have a right to protest in the United States of America. They are being denied these rights by the Bush administration. Why? They will tell you that it is for "security reasons." This is a lie. The people being sprayed were unarmed and unconfrontational. Surely they were no threat to anyone's security! The real reason is that the Bush regime does not want dissenting voices anywhere near his speeches and photo ops... and it's working. The media is not covering the thousands of protests going on across this country. Meanwhile, pro-Bush supporters are shown lining the streets where Bush is speaking. It's all a big propaganda ploy. This policy is more akin to the former Soviet Union than to our United States of America. These "great deceivers" in the Bush administration want to fool the public into thinking that the American people are all gleefully supporting them. But it is a lie and a shameful violation of our free speech rights. It not only hides the truth from the American people, but makes a mockery of our constitution... the very document that George Bush is sworn to defend. At the same time, these people, who are undermining our constitution, then drape themselves in the flag and call themselves "patriotic Americans."
However, we the protesters, are the true defenders of freedom and democracy. I am a U.S. Navy veteran. I did not serve my country only to come back and have my rights taken away by Bush and Cheney, or anyone else! (By the way, Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft never served in the military! They'd rather send our young kids off to fight their wars for them.)
As loyal Americans, we know that the price of freedom is "eternal vigilance." We know that Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft are subverting the bill of rights and making end runs around our constitution every chance they get. The good news is that our American justice system seems to be working. The courts are overturning these un-American attempts by Ashcroft and Bush nearly every day.
But why are these guys defying the Constitution and the voice of the American people in the first place? It appears that George Bush is interested only in his own wealth and power at the expense of everything and everyone else.... including democracy itself. Well, guess what, folks... Not in my America! Not in my name! We will not be silenced.
There are a lot of people who I disagree with in our country. For example, I wouldn't give you two cents for anything Rush Limbaugh has to say. However, as Thomas Paine stated, "I would defend to the death his right to say it." I would never resort to violent threats, or knocking someone's website offline just because I disagree with their pont of view. If we do that, we may as well adopt the political systems of Iran or Iraq where the government calls the shots and the people merely follow along. Not in my America! Not in my name!
Write your congressman. Let your voice be heard. Our Democracy is worth saving.
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