The War on Dissent
the abolition on First Amendment rights
Seattle, December 1999
The Tasering of Andrew Meyer:
Bush's America in a Nutshell
By Chris Rowthorn
Created Sep 20 2007 - 9:03am
On Monday, September 17, 2007, police at the University of Florida tasered Andrew Meyer , a 21-year-old student, for asking Senator John Kerry challenging questions. As Mr. Meyer writhed on the ground in agony, most of his fellow students sat passively in their seats and Senator Kerry, the only man in the building with the power to stop the torture, made no attempt to intervene. This sad incident is much more than just an isolated attempt to squelch one dissenting voice at a small speaking engagement in Florida.
Indeed, the tasering of Andrew Meyer is a microcosm of the United States of America in the year 2007.
The four players in the present-day American political drama were all represented at the University of Florida on Monday:
1) Andrew Meyer writhing on the ground in agony represents the Constitution and the freedom of speech and the protection from unlawful arrest that it enshrines.
2) The police holding Mr. Meyer to the ground and inflicting torture with 50,000 volts of electricity represent the fascist forces in America led by George W. Bush and their attempts to kill the Constitution.
3) John Kerry droning impotently on in the background and allowing the torture to occur through his shameful lack of courage and principle represents today's Democratic Party.
4) The majority of the students who sat passively by while one of their own was tortured for speaking out represent the largely apathetic American populace.
And, of course, after the fact, the fifth and perhaps most important player in the drama made its inevitable entrance: the press. Major press outlets and even some supposedly left-wing political blogs were united in suggesting that Mr. Meyer actually deserved to be tasered because of his history as a prankster. Thus, the American media has sanctioned the torture of an American citizen who exercised his freedom of speech. In this they stand firmly in the tradition of all fascist states, in which certain undesirables and those who dared to speak out were officially sanctioned as targets of violence.
As Naomi Wolf has rightfully pointed out, the tasering of Andrew Meyer will be remembered as a watershed moment in American history. That much is certain. The only thing that remains to be seen is how we, as Americans, react to it. Will we sit passively by while our Constitution and our Democracy are murdered right before our eyes? Will we demand that our supposed political leaders take meaningful and principled action? Will we allow our press to make excuses for the fascist takeover of our country?
The choice is clear: either we fight fascism right now with all our power, or we will be the next ones on the ground with a policeman's knee on our throats and 50,000 volts of electricity coursing through our bodies.
About author Chris Rowthorn is an American journalist based in Kyoto, Japan. He has written for the Japan Times and Kansai Time Out.
FEBRUARY 15, 2006
Red State, Meet Police State
A federal employee gets hassled by Homeland Security for antiwar stickers on his car. Is it a mistake, a new rule, or the part of a trend of the First Amendment being bullied out of existence? Read the transcript, read the rules and decide for yourself
BY NICHOLAS COLLIAS
Secret Service Intercepted Michael Moore's Email and Searched His Home Without A Warrant
If you thought the U.S. Patriot Act and Total Information Awareness laws would only be used against foreigners, think again. In a scene straight out of Orwell's 1984, Big Brother came knocking on retired Chief Petty Officer Michael Moore's door. Apparently the Too Much Information... oops, we mean Total Information Awareness program didn't like his email to a friend, and no doubt confused this Moore with the producer of "Bowling at Columbine" - so the thought police came-a-calling to reel him in. Heaven forbid, anyone should call Texecutioner Bush, "Satan." Meanwhile, back at the ranch, while Bush is calling bin Laden the "evildoer", Michael Moore is being interrogated for his heavy-handed remarks. Can't the FBI come up with better terrorist leads than this? What happened to our rights???
First Amendment Being Stripped Away
For Immediate Release: November 24, 2003
Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich today released the following statement:
"Reports have come out that the FBI is collecting data on people who attend peace demonstrations. Retired Gen. Tommy Franks recently said that if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government.
The Bush Administration is clearly not waiting for an attack to discard the First Amendment. This past weekend supporters of my campaign who were peacefully protesting the FTAA in Miami were attacked by police with tear gas as part of a security operation funded through the bill that poured another $87 billion into Iraq. Also this past weekend, supporters of my campaign who joined those protesting the School of the Americas in Georgia found their demonstration drowned out by loud music blasted at them by the military. The FBI's data collection is part of this pattern of restricting Americans' right to free speech.
"This kind of intimidation will undoubtedly have an effect on the opinions people give to survey takers asking about the occupation in Iraq. But, let me tell you this, I will continue to attend every peace rally possible, and I expect that I will see millions of Americans there standing proudly and openly against these fear tactics. The First Amendment protects controversial views, and nothing is more controversial than peace when your government wants war so badly it will lie and threaten to obtain it. The nonviolent movement for peace and an end to the Iraq occupation will only grow with every authoritarian abuse employed against it."
articles about the repression of dissent
"We believe that the government and the police have
embarked on a strategy of repression to stop, crush or marginalize the
burgeoning progressive movement that gained world attention in the protest
against the WTO in Seattle last year."
International Action Center attorneys announcing the filing of a class-action lawsuit on behalf of protestors at the WTO Ministerial meeting in Seattle, Washington, April 1999
Miami: A Dangerous Victory
The Miami Model
Jeremy Scahill, November 25, 2003
January 5, 2004
Protest paranoia: Our fear of riots spawns police overreaction
A Register-Guard Editorial
It's troubling to contemplate how post-Patriot Act police agencies - and the public at large, for that matter - might respond to the 2004 equivalent of the historic 1963 March on Washington. Forget the much smaller 40th anniversary commemoration of the civil rights milestone that occurred last August and imagine instead an event that expects hundreds of thousands of people to descend on Washington.
A crowd that size would scare the daylights out of public officials, security agencies, business owners, law enforcement, commuters and plenty of average city residents. Terrifying scenarios would begin to surface in official briefings: rioting, property damage, violence - even the potential for terrorism.
The news media would report the scenarios, interview the experts about strategies and preparations and inform the public about precautions to take to avoid being caught in the chaos.
File footage of black-masked anarchists running amok in Seattle would illustrate stories about the dangers inherent in such events. Grim-faced police chiefs would hold press conferences to outline zero-tolerance policies and reassure the populace that there was more than enough manpower and jail space to handle any eventuality.
Welcome to the new way of responding to "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances," rights guaranteed along with freedom of speech, the press and religion in the First Amendment. The latter three freedoms may get more media attention, but the authors of the Bill of Rights gave equal emphasis to the rights of assembly and petition.
Unfortunately, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, we're doing our best to scare ourselves to death. We've surrendered common sense to a creeping paranoia that may yet become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To protect ourselves from a few bad-apple protesters, we empower police to conduct mass arrests, covert operations and all manner of painful crowd-control intimidation. After the fact, the court system must sometimes step in to correct abuses, as a federal judge just did in Seattle.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled last week that police had no probable cause to arrest 157 protesters in downtown Seattle during the WTO conference held in December 1999. In what has become an oft-repeated criticism of police response to demonstrations, protesters in Seattle said they were forced down the street and arrested by police, who made no effort to separate the group from innocent bystanders.
Similar allegations have spawned lawsuits in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and charges of police misconduct have become especially vehement in Miami in the wake of last November's demonstrations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting.
Critics of Miami's police response to the protests include the national AFL-CIO and a Miami judge who said in court that he saw ''no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers'' during the November demonstrations.
The problem with the emerging strategy of indiscriminate mass arrests at demonstrations - 1,300 at an anti-war rally in San Francisco, and 700 in Washington, D.C. - is that the net inevitably snares innocent people. The union members, retirees, public employees, grandparents, high school students and other ordinary citizens who have joined massive anti-war or anti-globalization marches in major American cities are not criminals. Neither are the journalists who cover the demonstrations.
Yet, if we continue to signal to law enforcement that we expect them to keep order at all costs, pretty soon the only people willing to exercise their right to assemble and petition the government will be people who are willing to be arrested.
Ah ha! That must be why the authors of the Bill of Rights included the protection for assembly and petition right up there in the very First Amendment. We aren't supposed to fear arrest for exercising these rights.
Posted on Sun, Nov. 23, 2003
He respected the badge, but `not in Miami'
Early on Thursday morning, Bentley Killmon boarded a chartered bus to take him from Fort Myers to Miami so he could protest the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. The 71-year-old, retired airline pilot said he was amazed by the heavy police presence in downtown Miami when he arrived.
Throughout the day, he said he watched police overreact to incidents. He saw a 53-year-old woman get shot in the chest with rubber bullets. He saw other peaceful protesters being gassed with pepper spray. He saw young people, who weren't doing anything illegal or improper, being pushed and harassed by cops.
''My father was in the Norfolk City Police Department for many years,'' he said. ``Until Thursday, I respected the badge. I respected the job the police had to do. But I no longer respect the badge. Not in Miami. Not after what I saw. Not after what happened to me and others.''
As the day ended, Killmon, along with others from the Alliance for Retired Americans, were trying to find their way back to their buses.
''We ran into a line of brown shirts,'' he said, referring to the uniforms worn by the Miami-Dade Police Department. ``They were very rude. They would not let us pass, and they sent us down the railroad tracks.
''That's when we saw the black shirts coming at us,'' he said. Miami police wore black uniforms.
''They were pointing their guns at us,'' he continued. ``I guess they had those rubber pellets in them, but I didn't know, I was just incredibly frightened. Some of the people with us got down on their knees, and as I got down on my knees, I was briskly pushed to the ground. It felt like I had a foot to my back knocking me down. Everyone in our group was knocked to the ground and handcuffed. I had my hands cuffed behind my back for 7 1⁄2 hours.''
Killmon said he was charged with disorderly conduct.
''I still don't know what it was I did,'' he said Saturday.
After spending the night in jail, he said a judge dismissed the charges against him.
''Miami was a police state,'' he said.
While city and county leaders pat themselves on the back and Miami Police Chief John Timoney talks about the ''remarkable restraint'' shown by officers, one of them may want to contact Killmon and tell this man what a great job the police did.
Miami's Angel Calzadilla, Timoney's executive assistant, said he couldn't comment on Killmon's arrest until he was certain which police agency arrested him.
''As the story comes out, over the next few hours and days and weeks, the public is going to learn what we saw on the street, that the police provoked these exchanges and went way out of their way to increase the magnitude of their response,'' said Ron Judd, a regional director for the AFL-CIO. ``There was nothing measured in their response. We had retired steel workers, retired firefighters, retired teamsters harassed and arrested Thursday.
''When you start shooting seniors with rubber bullets and using pepper spray on them and arresting them, it's just outrageous,'' Judd said. ``And if their stories don't get people's dander up and the public isn't outraged by this, then folks in South Florida have no heart.''
As far as the national leadership of the AFL-CIO is concerned, what happened in Miami was an insult to every member of the organization.
''You are going to hear from us loud and clear over the next few weeks and months,'' he said. ``All of the options are open -- asking the Justice Department to investigate civil rights abuses, filing our own lawsuits against the city and the county and whatever we can think of. That is how outraged we are by this.''
Fred Frost, president of the South Florida AFL-CIO and its 150,000 members, agreed.
''Am I happy with the way the police treated regular working people and the respect that I think we are due?'' he asked. ``The answer is no. I think they treated us like we were the enemy. The police just seemed to be so hyped up. I felt like I was in a war zone. This wasn't my city. This wasn't the city I know.''
Iraq bill includes millions for Miami meeting
By Alex Navarro Clifton, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2003
Buried in a bill that provides money for the war in Iraq is an $8.5 million federal boost for Miami to host the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference later this month.
Passed in the House last week and the Senate Monday, the FTAA money is a single line within the massive Iraq bill.
But for the 40 local communities expected to provide extra police officers and equipment at the conference, it helps ease the financial burden on already strapped cities and counties.
Between 20,000 and 100,000 protesters are expected to flood downtown Miami during the conference set for Nov. 17-21.
"The money enables the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County in particular to go the extra mile in security," said Charles Cobb, chairman of the nonprofit Florida FTAA Inc., which is helping organize the conference. "It gives them much more comfort to do whatever is necessary to provide good security and do it in a friendly, positive way."
The FTAA would establish a free-trade zone among the nations of the Americas and the Caribbean, excluding Cuba. It would be the world's largest free market, with a combined gross domestic product of nearly $13 trillion and nearly 800 million consumers.
U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, said Miami can't be expected to shoulder the entire security burden, especially since violence and protests have erupted at free trade meetings in Seattle and Cancun, Mexico.
"I think we can be sure we'll have the same problem in Miami," Shaw said. "It's certainly to the United States' advantage to show the world we can have a successful conference in the U.S., protect civil liberties and maintain order."
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, also supports federal money for the FTAA.
"Congressman Hastings is supportive of having the meeting in South Florida and that obviously costs money," said Hastings' spokesman, Fred Turner. "As far as the federal government can help with funding, he's happy it was included."
Cobb said it's important for Miami to make a good impression on the foreign ministers attending the conference.
"Security is a critical element," said Cobb. "Doing it firmly, but friendly."
The war on dissent
Heavy-handed police and propaganda tactics brought Baghdad to Miami
By NAOMI KLEIN
Tuesday, November 25, 2003 - Page A21
In December, 1990, U.S. President George Bush Sr. travelled through South America to sell the continent on a bold new dream: "a free-trade system that links all of the Americas." Addressing the Argentine congress, he said that the plan, later to be named the Free-Trade Area of the Americas would be "our hemisphere's new declaration of interdependence . . . the brilliant new dawn of a splendid new world."
Last week, Mr. Bush's two sons joined forces to try to usher in that new world by holding the FTAA negotiations in friendly Florida. This is the state that Governor Jeb Bush vowed to "deliver" to his brother during the 2000 presidential elections, even if that meant keeping many African-Americans from exercising their right to vote. Now Jeb Bush was vowing to hand his brother the coveted trade deal, even if that meant keeping thousands from exercising their right to protest.
And yet, despite the Bush brothers' best efforts, the dream of a hemisphere united into a single free-market economy died last week. It was killed not by demonstrators in Miami, but by the populations of Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, which have let their politicians know that if they sign away any more power to foreign multinationals, they may as well not come home.
The Brazilians brokered a compromise that makes the agreement a pick-and-choose affair, allowing governments to sign on to the parts they like and refuse the ones they don't. Washington will, of course, continue to try to bully individual countries and groups of nations into sweeping trade contracts on the model of the North American free-trade agreement, but there will be no single, unified deal.
Inside the Hotel Inter-Continental, it was being called "FTAA Lite."
Outside, we experienced something distinctly heavier: "War Lite." In fact, the more control the U.S. trade representatives lost at the negotiating table, the more raw power the police exerted on the streets.
"Our goal was to drown you out," one Miami-Dade police officer explained to me, and that's exactly what they did. Small, peaceful demonstrations were attacked with extreme force; organizations were infiltrated by undercover officers who then used stun guns on activists; busses filled with union members were prevented from joining permitted marches; dozens of young faces were smashed into concrete and beaten bloody with batons; human rights activists had guns pointed at their heads at military-style checkpoints.
Police violence outside of trade summits is not new, but what was striking about Miami was how divorced the security response was from anything resembling an actual threat. From an activist perspective, the protests were disappointingly small and almost embarrassingly obedient, an understandable response to weeks of police intimidation.
Listening to the incessant roar of helicopters and the march of police boots, I couldn't shake the feeling that something new was going on. It felt less like we were the targets of this operation than the target practice, unwitting extras in an elaborate military drill.
The FTAA Summit in Miami represents the official homecoming of the "war on terror." The latest tactical and propaganda techniques honed in Iraq -- from a Hollywoodized military to a militarized media -- have now been used on a grand scale in a major U.S. city. "This should be a model for homeland defence," Miami Mayor Manny Diaz proudly said of the security operation that brought together over 40 law-enforcement agencies, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
But in order for the Miami Model to work, the police first had to establish a connection between legitimate activists and dangerous terrorists. Enter Miami Police Chief John Timoney, an avowed enemy of activist "punks" who repeatedly classified FTAA opponents as "outsiders coming in to terrorize and vandalize our city."
With the activists recast as dangerous aliens, Miami became eligible for the open tap of public money irrigating the "war on terror." In fact, $8.5-million spent on security during the FTAA meeting came directly out of the $87-billion President Bush extracted from Congress for Iraq last month -- a fact barely reported outside of the Miami press.
But more was borrowed from the Iraq invasion than just money. Miami police also invited reporters to "embed" with them in armoured vehicles and helicopters. As in Iraq, most reporters embraced their role as pseudo-soldiers with unsettling zeal, suiting up in ridiculous combat helmets and brand-new camouflage flak jackets.
The resulting media coverage was the familiar wartime combination of dramatic images and non-information. We know, thanks to an "embed" from the Miami Herald, that Police Chief Timoney was working so hard hunting down troublemakers that by 3:30 on Thursday, "he had eaten only a banana and an oatmeal cookie since 6 a.m."
Local television stations didn't cover the protests so much as hover over them. Their helicopters showed images of confrontations but instead of hearing the voices on the streets -- voices of demonstrators pleading with police to stop shooting and clearly following orders to disperse -- we heard only from senior police officials and perky news anchors commiserating with the boys on the front line.
Meanwhile, independent journalists who dared to do their jobs and film the police violence up close were actively targeted. "She's not with us," one officer told another as they grabbed Ana Nogueira, a correspondent with Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! who was covering a peaceful protest outside the Miami-Dade county jail. When the police established that Ms. Nogueira was indeed "not with us" (i.e. neither an embedded reporter nor an undercover cop) she was hauled away and charged.
The Miami Model of dealing with dissent reaches far beyond a single meeting. On Sunday, the New York Times reported on a leaked FBI bulletin revealing "a co-ordinated, nationwide effort to collect intelligence" on the U.S. anti-war movement. The memorandum singles out perfectly lawful protest activities including non-violence training, videotaping of police actions and Internet organizing. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the document revealed that, "The FBI 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."
We can expect much more of these tactics on the homeland front. Just as civil liberties violations escalated when Washington lost control over the FTAA process, so will repression increase as the Bush crew faces the ultimate threat: losing control over the White House.
Already, Jim Wilkinson, director of strategic communications at U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, (the operation that gave the world the Jessica Lynch rescue), has moved to New York to head up media operations for the Republican National Convention. "We're looking at embedding reporters," he told the New York Observer of his plans to use some of the Iraq tricks during the convention. "We're looking at new and interesting camera angles."
The war is coming home.
Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo and Fences and Windows.