Holy founding fathers! What is it about the First Amendment that confuses today’s political elite and their police agents?
Amendment Number One is a pretty straightforward declaration of the people’s fundamental political rights: freedom to speak out publicly, to assemble, to confront officials with our grievances. It does not say that these freedoms can be eliminated anytime they might pose an inconvenience or embarrassment to those in charge. Yet it’s become commonplace for the secret service and police to exclude even the mildest protest from presidential campaign events.
This year, only three days after July 4th – when America loudly celebrated its freedom from autocracy – a 60-year-old librarian named Carol Kreck attended a John McCain “town hall meeting” in Denver. Held at a city-owned hall, the event was billed as open to the public. But it was not open to Ms. Kreck. She stood quietly in the public plaza outside the hall holding a handmade sign that simply said: "McCain = Bush.”
Her silent (and polite) exercise of First Amendment rights, however, so offended Republican officials that McCain’s secret service detail had her arrested for “trespassing” and escorted off the public premises. Democracy was morphed into autocracy.
Democrats are doing it too. Just before July 4th, it was learned that those arranging the party’s summer convention in Denver would restrict citizen demonstrations to a fenced-off enclosure. These “freedom cages,” as they’ve been dubbed, will be out of sight and out of earshot of the Democratic delegates and dignitaries – so as not to muss up their reverie with any, you know, democracy.
When the parties and police can limit our “freedoms” to protest that can’t be seen or heard we no longer have those freedoms – and it’s time for a little rebellion, just as Thomas Jefferson said would be necessary every now and then.
“Help defend Carol Kreck,” www.secure.progressnowaction.org, July 8, 2008.
“The Democratic Convention; Degrees of Comfort,” www.nytimes.com, July 2, 2008.