Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Free speech and assembly on the line (continued)

During the second step in discouraging protest, Hermes says, police harass and intimidate activists by engaging in surveillance, as well as illegal stops and searches. In Philadelphia in 2000, two men were seen taking photographs of weekly protest meetings at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom office. Initially, they denied being police, but when the Philadelphia Inquirer traced the photographers’ license plates, they acknowledged that they were cops. In Los Angeles — after police harassed protesters by recording the license plates of those who entered the building, and arrested others for jaywalking — the ACLU won a temporary restraining order barring police from entering demonstrators’ headquarters without a search warrant.

The third step? "Arrest masses to destabilize the protests and worry about the Constitution later," says Hermes. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this tactic was the arrest of 75 people on the second day of the 2000 Republican National Convention at what has become known as "the Puppet Warehouse." Police surrounded the warehouse as demonstrators were preparing props, including skeleton figures to represent Texas inmates executed during George W. Bush’s tenure as governor, and a pink paper pig’s head to illustrate the corrupting influence of money on the criminal-justice system. All those inside were arrested, and the props were dumped into a garbage truck. Subsequent court proceedings revealed that four undercover Pennsylvania state troopers, posing as union carpenters, had conducted surveillance inside the warehouse. Activists also learned that police secured a search warrant by using information from the right-wing Maldon Institute, which claimed demonstrators were funded by "Communist and leftist parties."

High bail — reaching as much as $1 million — was imposed for those arrested by police. This kept key organizers in jail until the convention was over and forced protesters to switch from criticizing the Republican Party to fundraising and jail-solidarity work.

As a fourth and final step, Hermes says, police departments intent on undermining protest "maliciously prosecute, whether or not there’s a viable case." In Philadelphia, nearly all the cases against the convention protesters fell apart in court. During Viveiros’s trial, for example, the city pressed ahead with police chief Timoney’s story about how, after Viveiros purportedly struck him with a bicycle, he wrestled the pony-tailed activist to the street and helped arrest him. This assertion came despite the prosecution’s knowledge that a defense video showed Viveiros calmly walking with a patrolman and cooperating with his arrest before the officer shoved him to the ground and punched him in the ribs. The Philadelphia prosecutions, however unsuccessful in the end, took a toll on activists, forcing them to raise money and assist those on trial, and leaving them with little time and resources to organize against the political issues that prompted the protests in the first place.

WHETHER POLICE in New York and Boston will employ the anti-demonstrator tactics described by Hermes remains to be seen. In both cities, ACLU lawyers are meeting with police to establish sites for marches and rallies, but no agreements have been reached. Similar efforts failed in Philadelphia and Los Angeles in 2000.

Discussions in Boston have centered on three issues, according to John Reinstein, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts: where people can march and assemble, apportioning space to demonstrators, and police practices. The ACLU criticizes a new permitting process for convention-week protests, according to the Boston Globe, as a bureaucratic maze that will discourage free speech. The city, however, defends the procedure as necessary to coordinate protests and expedite applications.

The ACLU also objects to a designated protest area near Haymarket Square, two blocks away from the FleetCenter. The area does not meet court requirements that protests be allowed "within sight and sound" of convention delegates. "The convention planners," Massachusetts ACLU executive director Carol Rose told the Boston City Council in February, "appear to have given short shrift to the First Amendment."

The problem, says Reinstein, is a shortage of open space near the FleetCenter, especially since much of it has already been designated for the media, police staging, or convention busing. "We are working on an area where people can go, not where you have to go," confirms Mariellen Burns, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention. The "protest zone" will have a stage and a sound system, she says.

So far, 15 groups have applied for permits to demonstrate during the convention, according to Patricia Malone, director of the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing. About half seek to hold rallies on Boston Common, and the rest want to march in different parts of the city. No permits have been granted, she says. Requests must be submitted by July 10, she adds, and will be approved as they are received.

Activists expressed alarm, shortly after Boston was selected to host the convention, when Timoney visited the Hub to consult on security preparation. His track record in Philadelphia should disqualify him, critics say, from providing advice on how to handle protesters in Boston. However, host committee Boston 2004 communications director Karen Grant insists that the meeting was only an informal visit. "He was never hired as a consultant, and as far as I understand there are no plans to do so," Grant says, adding, "He’s not going to have any role."

With Timoney out of the picture, and Boston’s benign history of handling demonstrations, Reinstein does not expect major problems with police misconduct. "Boston has not seen the kind of interference with the right of assembly that people in New York have experienced," he says. Boston city councilor Chuck Turner, a Green-Rainbow Party member who represents largely black Roxbury, agrees. "There is an attitude in the [police] department that is cooperative with demonstrations," Turner says. Although outside police agencies will certainly be involved with the convention, he adds, "I would hope that [attitude] would continue."

Turner, who is helping to organize some protests, says that although many activists support Kerry, they have no confidence in his ability to change the country’s direction "unless people stand up and demand change." He adds, "Both the Democrats and Republicans are supporting militaristic policies that make it impossible to deal with the needs of people."

page 1  page 2  page 3  page 4 

Issue Date: May 21 - 27, 2004
Back to the News & Features table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group