The American establishment loves protestors. Foreign protestors, that is – those causing trouble for regimes that our officials don’t like.
Here at home, however, the establishment is much less fond of protestors. Curiously, a nation born of democratic rebellion systematically resorts to knee-jerk police repression to crush legitimate public dissent. Not only does this make a mockery of our nation’s founding principles, but it usually ends up being quite costly for taxpayers, who later must foot the legal bill for police excesses against our laws and people.
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The most recent example stems from a 2002 protest in Washington, DC, against the corporate autocracy of the IMF and World Bank. Hundreds of peaceful protestors and innocent bystanders were attacked by police forces, roughed up, cuffed, and taken away for hours of interrogation about their political and even religious beliefs.
Consequently, lawsuits happened. The city has already paid more than a million dollars in fees and settlements for the police repression. As usual, authorities tried to cover up their actions with lies and more suppression – including mysterious gaps in official audiotapes and the disappearance, destruction, and doctoring of police records.
Last November, the city paid another big settlement to eight protestors who had been illegally detained and grilled by the FBI in a parking garage. For years the FBI and city police flatly denied that this interrogation ever happened. But – oops – as the case was headed to trial, lawyers for the protestors dug out police logs documenting the role of a secret FBI unit in this assault on American liberties.
The price of liberty is, indeed, eternal vigilance, for the Powers That Be are eternally striving to shut down our freedoms. To keep up and act up, go to www.aclu.org.
“Inquiry Raises More Questions in Case of Arrests After ’02 Protest in Capital,” The New York Times, December 8, 2009.