Saturday, January 26, 2008
Get the cages ready.
Free speech zones were used in Boston at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The free speech zones organized by the authorities in Boston were boxed in by concrete walls, invisible to the Fleet Center where the convention was held and criticized harshly as a “protest pen” or “Boston’s Camp X-Ray”. “Some protesters for a short time Monday [July 26, 2004] converted the zone into a mock prison camp by donning hoods and marching in the cage with their hands behind their backs.” A coalition of groups protesting the Iraq War challenged the planned protest zones. U. S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock was sympathetic to their request: “One cannot conceive of what other design elements could be put into a space to create a more symbolic affront to the role of free expression.”. However, he ultimately rejected the petition to move the protest zones closer to the Fleet Center.
Free speech zones were also used in New York City at the 2004 Republican National Convention. According to Mike McGuire, a columnist for the online anti-war magazine Nonviolent Activist, “The policing of the protests during the 2004 Republican National Convention represent[ed] another interesting model of repression. The NYPD tracked every planned action and set up traps. As marches began, police would emerge from their hiding places — building vestibules, parking garages, or vans — and corral the dissenters with orange netting that read ‘POLICE LINE – DO NOT CROSS,’ establishing areas they ironically called ‘ad-hoc free speech zones.’ One by one, protesters were arrested and detained—some for nearly two days.” Both the Democratic and Republican National parties were jointly awarded a 2005 Jefferson Muzzle from the Thomas Jefferson Center, “For their mutual failure to make the preservation of First Amendment freedoms a priority during the last Presidential election”.
Prominent examples of recent free speech zones are those set up by the Secret Service, who scout locations where the U.S. president is scheduled to speak, or pass through. Officials will target those who carry anti-Bush signs and escort them to the free speech zones prior to and during the event. Reporters are often barred by local officials from displaying these protesters on camera or speaking to them within the zone. Protesters who refuse to go to the free speech zone are often arrested and charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and/or resisting arrest. A seldom-used federal law making it unlawful to “willfully and knowingly to enter or remain in … any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting” has also been invoked.
Civil libertarians claim that Free Speech Zones are used as a form of censorship and public relations management to conceal the existence of popular opposition from the mass public and elected officials. There is much controversy surrounding the creation of these areas — the mere existence of such zones is offensive to some people, who maintain that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution makes the entire country an unrestricted free speech zone. The Department of Homeland Security “has even gone so far as to tell local police departments to regard critics of the War on Terrorism as potential terrorists themselves.”
The Bush administration has been criticized by columnist James Bovard of The American Conservative for requiring protesters to stay within a designated area, while allowing supporters access to more areas. According to the Chicago Tribune, the American Civil Liberties Union has asked a federal court in Washington D.C. to prevent the Secret Service from keeping anti-Bush protesters distant from presidential appearances while allowing supporters to display their messages up close, where they are likely to be seen by the news media.
The preliminary plan for the 2004 Democratic National Convention was criticized by the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU of Massachusetts as being insufficient to handle the size of the expected protest. “The zone would hold as few as 400 of the several thousand protesters who are expected in Boston in late July.”
Notable incidents and court proceedings
In 1939, the United States Supreme Court found in Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization that public streets and parks “have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.” In the later Thornhill v. Alabama case, the court found that picketing and marching in public areas is protected by the United States Constitution as free speech. However, subsequent rulings – Edwards v. South Carolina, Brown v. Louisiana, Cox v. Louisiana, and Adderley v. Florida – found that picketing is afforded less protection than pure speech due to the physical externalities it creates. Regulations on demonstrations may affect the time, place, and manner of those demonstrations, but may not discriminate based on the content of the demonstration.
The Secret Service denies targeting the President’s political opponents. “Decisions made in the formulation of a security plan are based on security considerations, not political considerations.”, said one Secret Service spokesman.
“These [Free Speech] zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event. When Bush came to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, ‘The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us.’ The local police, at the Secret Service’s behest, set up a ‘designated free-speech zone’ on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush’s speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, though folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president’s path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct… Police detective John Ianachione testified that the Secret Service told local police to confine ‘people that were there making a statement pretty much against the president and his views.'” District justice Shirley Trkula threw out the charges, stating that “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’?”
At another incident during a presidential visit to South Carolina, protester Brett Bursey refused an order by Secret Service agents to go to a free speech zone half-a-mile away. He was arrested and charged with trespassing by the South Carolina police. “Bursey said that he asked the policeman if ‘it was the content of my sign,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, it’s the content of your sign that’s the problem.'” However, the prosecution, led by James Strom Thurmond Jr., disputes Bursey’s version of events. Trespassing charges against Bursey were dropped, and Bursey was instead indicted by the federal government for violation of a federal law that allows the Secret Service to restrict access to areas visited by the president. Bursey faced up to six months in prison and a US$5,000 fine. After a bench trial, Bursey was convicted of the offense of trespassing, but judge Bristow Marchant deemed the offense to be relatively minor and ordered a fine of $500 be assessed, which Bursey appealed, and lost. In his ruling, Marchant found that “this is not to say that the Secret Service’s power to restrict the area around the President is absolute, nor does the Court find that protesters are required to go to a designated demonstration area — which was an issue in this case — as long as they do not otherwise remain in a properly restricted area.”
Marchant’s ruling however, was criticized for three reasons:
* The ruling found that Bursey was not the victim of selective prosecution because Bursey was the only person who had refused an order to leave the area. However, this overlooks the fact that nobody else refused to leave the zone because nobody else was asked to leave. 
* The prosecution claimed that the protected zone around the President was 100 yards wide. However, it was unmarked, with cars and trucks allowed to pass through and drop off ticket-holders, and nobody was willing to tell protesters where the zone’s boundaries were. Marchant’s decision noted this but did not find this unreasonable. 
* Marchant found that in the “age of suicide bombers”, the Secret Service should have latitude to get rid of anyone suspicious who is standing near the president’s route. However, given that the reason Bursey was singled out by the Secret Service was his sign, “it’s enough to make anyone with a dissenting view think twice before deciding to stand out from a crowd.”
at 1:32 PM
- Purplewater Plus - Part 4 - Memory Loss
- Hancock Lets Slip the Truth
- Taking a Stroll – Shanghai Version of Quiet Revolt...
- Denver's "Extraordinary Event" Discussed at City C...
- Only Love Can Conquer Hate
- And the Answer is ........
- Purplewater Plus Near You - Part 3: Ducks as Canar...
- Political Video Reaches New High
- Time Critical Information – Your health
- Purplewater Plus Near You – Part 2
- Denver Mayor Hedgejumper: Extraordinary Event? OK,...
CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE
All of the work on this site, including the original YouTube videos by www.DenverDirect.tv, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Click on the symbol above for explanation.