Posts Tagged ‘free assembly’

News Digest 6/5/12

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 3/23/12

Friday, March 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

New York’s new hard line aims at protest and the press

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 10:42 am by

The First Amendment is, by most accounts, pretty unequivocal in its protection of freedom of the press, as well as freedom of assembly.

In New York City these days, however, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg now trumpets his new hard line against a revived Occupy Wall Street, these  First Amendment rights are becoming awfully equivocal.

While there appear to have been no instances (yet) of actual government suppression of the publication of information or opinions (the usual letter of the law) the New York Police Department seems intent on preempting the press in another way by literally attacking journalists, such as photographer ZD Roberts. GregPalast.com reports:

Our photographer ZD Roberts was beaten by New York City cops with nightsticks while covering Occupy Wall Street’s attempt to re-take Zuccotti Park Saturday night.Zach yelled several times, “I’m PRESS! PRESS!” yet was slammed on the head twice after he’d been thrown to the ground when the police shoved back the protesters. Zach, whose photos of Occupy Wall Street have been seen all over the world on the front page of The Guardian, showed his press badge, an act for which his hair was grabbed, head pulled back and slammed again with a club.

If you remember, Zach was arrested while covering the story three months ago. His trial is coming up (he refused to cop a plea).

We’ve covered the world … but who thought that the toughest combat assignment would be New York?

Here’s Zach story and comment in his own words and photos:

My head hurts. The NYPD did this to me.

3 months after my arrest during an Occupy Wall St. protest on #D17 and two days away from my meeting with the Assistant DA about said arrest – I got beaten by cops just outside of Zuccotti Park.

I wasn’t the only one, and I have no doubt I won’t be the last. The NYPD has complete authority in this town – I hate using the word police state, but when I saw a girl thrown from a bus, in handcuffs, having a seizure being tossed to the ground – I really am at a loss for any other words.

Authorities quietly finding ways to revoke the right to assemble

Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 10:27 am by

Crowd with "We the people" signAccording to Steven Rosenfeld of Alternet, authorities have five tactics that will be used against protesters in the coming year. These tactics are found in “the main pages from the anti-protest playbook being fine-tuned by municipal officials in advance of 2012 protests.”

1. Expanding permit requirements:

Municipalities — and not just Charlotte, South Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention will be held, and Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention will be held — are adopting local ordinances requiring protesters to apply for permits months or weeks in advance, even if they haven’t unveiled all of their rules for the events. That idea is not only to prevent spontaneous assembly, but also to create deterrents, leading to tactic two: charging protesters for exercising their rights.

2. Charging protesters for municipal costs:

In supposedly liberal cities, such as San Francisco and Syracuse, New York, city halls have told protest groups they have to pay for the costs of (unwanted) police escorts and other fees to discourage marches.

3. Demonizing protesters in pre-event press conferences:

…smear tactics not only justify spending vast sums of public money on policing, but they also deter peaceful people from coming out to join the protest

4. Creating exclusion zones and segregating protesters:

The sidewalk and camping restrictions are part of a trend of declaring larger areas of cities off-limits to protesters…

“Exclusion zones are appalling,” (Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee.) said. “We completely oppose and do not negotiate for any type of pens or pits in which people can stand. Our view is that people have the right to be on the streets and sidewalks and it is not a compromisable right. But that is definitely what you are going to see this year.”

5. Mass arrests and punitive detention:

As many Occupy protesters learned last fall, the police have the bullhorns, handcuffs, pepper spray, waiting vans and jail cells at their disposal if they want to conduct sweeps, and use trap and detain tactics.

As much as the authorities try, there are some things that they cannot control.

The first is the number of people who will protest—whether it is in local Occupy protests or national political events. When enough people take to the streets, police cannot arrest everyone. Nor can they control the media from covering police overreach and excessive force.

G-8 Summit moved from Chicago to Camp David

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 11:22 am by

June 7This week, President Obama announced that the G-8 Summit will be moved from Chicago to the secluded Camp David, supposedly because he wanted a more “intimate” setting for the annual economic meeting of eight world leaders.

However, as the summit had already attracted thousands of protesters and switching locations within two months is a logistical and security nightmare, it seems likely that the president had different motives to move the location.

“They moved them to avoid us,” said Joe Iosbaker, a protest organizer with the United National Antiwar Committee in Chicago who is part of that city’s Local Civil Rights Restoration campaign. “The G-8 leaders were going to be the targets of the largest protest in the United States against their agenda. They decided, let’s move them someplace where it will be much harder for crowds to assemble.”

The annual G-8 Summit is normally heavily protested, and this year’s meeting in Chicago was to be no different. Two major protests were already planned for both the G-8 and NATO meetings, which are to be held the day after the G-8 Summit ends.  The heavily secured, rural Camp David is less ideal place for protesters compared to the large, urban Chicago.

The president wasn’t the only one trying to avoid protests in Chicago. In preparation for the massive demonstrations, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago City Council have enacted ordinances aimed to limit protest and ignore freedom of speech.

Dubbed the “sit down and shut up” ordinances, the two pieces of legislation were drafted by Emanuel and then passed by the city council in January. The ordinances aim to restrict First Amendment rights by increasing financial barriers, enlarging police powers, and increasing to a ridiculous point the steps required to legally protest.

Yet Chicago protesters will continue with their plans despite the location change and Draconian new policies, according to Andy Thayer. The protests will go forward,” the protest organizer said. “We believe that NATO is, frankly, the de facto military arm of G-8 and anybody who’s upset with G-8 should be upset with NATO.”

Crackdown on Occupy movement continues

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm by

Occupy Tacoma

Crackdowns on Occupy sites in Oakland, New York City, and most recently Washington DC, have vividly illustrated the erosion of the First Amendment, which guarantees rights to assembly and to petition our government for redress of grievances.  The problem, however, extends beyond those particular sites where crackdowns have made headlines.

The Occupy site in Tacoma is also facing new challenges after representatives of the Washington State Department of Transportation notified the protestors of complaints from local business owners and began taking preliminary steps to build a fence blocking off the campsite from the rest of the city. As one protestor noted, “It’s pretty clear they want us to leave, which is really unfair…We’re not causing trouble. We’re keeping the conversation alive.” Steve Pierce, communications director for the Transportation Department, has now issued statements that “It’s gotten to the point where some of the issues need to be addressed.” However, Pierce stressed that if it comes to that point, the removal will be done in a “thoughtful and sensitive way.”

The situation in Tacoma is hardly new to followers of the Occupy movement. It may not be as shockingly violent or as widely publicized as the Oakland Police Department’s actions in removing Occupy protestors in October and January, but at various sites around the country the Occupy protestors are facing increasing pressure from local authorities. While local officials and activists bicker over technicalities, the simple fact remains that Americans have protected rights to civil political protest that cannot be ignored or removed.

The Occupy movement in Tacoma has a relatively simple mission statement aimed specifically at rebuilding a thriving economic community while “bringing attention to the disastrous impacts of unregulated corporate activity on political, economic, and environmental systems through free speech and peaceable assembly.” It would be one thing if the protestors were acting outside of the law or advocating for an unachievable or questionable change in policy, but these concerns raised by Occupy protestors are things that many if not most Americans recognize as being in the public’s best interest.

So under what authority can public authorities justify efforts to end these demonstrations? And perhaps more importantly, why are more people not concerned and outraged at these attempts to neutralize the fundamental right to free speech and peaceable demonstration on which the entirety of civil liberties rest? The response to questions such as these is of vital importance and carries a huge potential impact for every American.

Oakland PD’s operational plans for Occupy Oakland released

Friday, January 13, 2012 at 8:26 am by

The Oakland Police Department (OPD) was tracking the activities of Occupy Oakland over a month before its October 25 raid of the Occupy encampment, planning the best way to infiltrate the site despite a lack of criminal activity there. The operational and intelligence plans of the OPD detail the strategy for the Occupy Oakland raid on October 25, which injured many and changed the relationship between law enforcement and Occupy sites throughout the nation.

Three reports were released, two from early November and one from October 25. The report from the October 25 plan detailed the operation to remove the Occupiers from their site at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

The OPD reported the events that took place at the site often had no permits, hence the legal opportunity for the disbandment, but also stated that, “there is no information at this time concerning violence or vandalism occurring during this march/rally.”

The OPD had no reason to believe the protestors were causing any harm or destruction, and yet they still broke up the peaceful group with force, injuring many of the protestors.

This clash between Occupy protestors and police highlighted a need to stand in support of the protection of First Amendment rights. In the past ten years, there has been a decay of constitutional freedoms in America and the only way to get them back is through cooperative grassroots movements.

This is not just an issue for Occupiers or other activists; the First Amendment applies to everyone and it is necessary that the rights described within it are preserved for all, if they are to be preserved for any.

Restrictive protest guidelines at University of California removed

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm by

IMG_2548A set of hefty restrictions on students’ rights of speech and protest called the ‘Protest Guidelines’ was removed by the University of California Riverside administration Wednesday afternoon in response to massive student and faculty disapproval.

“Free speech is welcome here,” the guidelines stated, before launching into the lengthy and restrictive measures.

Released earlier this month, the ‘Protest Guidelines’ force would-be protesters to plan their demonstration one month ahead of time and possibly more, depending on the size and activities of the protest. Students are also required to garner approval for site plans, time of protest, amplified sounds, marches, signs and even chalking pavement; a commonly used way for students to advertise events at colleges.

With the guidelines in place, UCR students would also need approval from a committee at the college and would be required to have a staff member from the Assistant Dean of Students present at the protest.

Concerned and outraged by the new constraints, students and a professor at UCR started a petition protesting the move. The petition, which now has close to 1,000 signatures, stated:

We urge all members of the UCR community to protect the freedom of speech and assembly of students, faculty and staff. Failure to reverse these authoritarian rules will harm the exercise of free speech at our University.

(more…)

Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC’s December Newsletter

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 8:40 am by

Constitution in Crisis

December 2011, Vol. 10, No. 12


In this issue:

This Bill of Rights Day, stand with us to stop the NDAA

BORDC News

Grassroots News

Law and Policy

New Resources and Opportunities

On Human Rights Day, celebrate human rights by restoring them

Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 10:11 am by

Human Rights Day posterToday, December 10, marks the 63rd anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human Rights Day rarely garners attention; commercializing torture and genocide just doesn’t seem that appealing to marketers. Yet despite its lack of attention, Human Rights Day is one of the most significant dates in both America’s and the world’s history.

Crafted by a committee of the United Nations (UN), the Universal Decalaration of Human Rights provided a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”

It’s starts with a simple, but powerful statement: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

It goes further. The Declaration includes 30 articles outlining the basic human rights that shall not be denied to any person.

Yet at home in America, the fundamental human rights that America agreed “to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance” are willfully ignored. Government policies and practices exist in direct opposition to these ideals. Racial and religious profiling, inhumane immigration enforcement, a move to revive torture practices, to indefinitely detain individuals without trial, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly continue to plague American society.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allows indefinite detention of any individual, and nearly included an amendment authorizing the torture of detainees.

But the declaration states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment.” Later, the declaration states: ”Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing,” and yet the NDAA passed overwhelmingly in Senate last week. If President Obama takes signs the bill, Americans’ rights will only be damaged further.

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile,” yet immigration laws across the country increase unjust profiling and Muslims and people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent are unfairly targeted by the government.

Police brutality against the Occupy movement and other law-abiding activists are among the seemingly constant efforts to undermine free speech and dissent.

However, the movement to stop human rights violations and hold torturers accountable continues. On January 11, we will mark yet another somber tenth anniversary: the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Guantánamo Bay detention center. And on that day, a coalition of organizations will lead a national day of action against Guantánamo and other illegal detention schemes:

To mark the 10th anniversary of unlawful counterterrorism detentions at Guantánamo and to call for an end to indefinite detention and unfair trials, we will be creating a human chain between the White House and the Capitol. We need 2,700 people—the number of detainees still unlawfully held by the US government at Guantánamo and Bagram [Air Force Base in Afghanistan].

The coalition includes Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, Physicians for Human Rights, Code Pink, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, and many others.

Today, celebrate Human Rights Day by signing up to participate in the national day of action.

Americans have few human rights left. This Human Rights Day, we must renew our commitment to restore them.