"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Impatience with Dissent

Under George W. Bush, Republicans have evinced a great impatience with legitimate dissent. Republican campaigning techniques demonstrated an impatience with dissent and a disregard for the rights of dissenters to express themselves. During the campaigns of 2000 and 2004, the Bush campaigns carefully screened non- Republicans from their rallies. This is perfectly legal and has a precedent in Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign, but it is hardly democratic. After winning reelection in 2004, Bush barnstormed the nation speaking for his so-called Social Security reforms but it was reported in at least one location that his advance people provided a non-admit list for Fargo, North Dakota, rallies so that known Democratic activists would be excluded from the rally at a local high school. At other rallies, people were required to sign pledges to support the Bush privatization plan before being admitted to rallies. In Denver, a Republican operative posing as a Secret Service agent ejected three people from a rally.

In the same year one Steve Howards approached Cheney in a Denver mall and told him that his policies were reprehensible. Ten minutes later, the Secret Service handcuffed him and charged him with harassment. In 2006, anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan had a ticket to view the state of the union address from the fifth gallery of the House, but she was cuffed and arrested in an elevator because she wore an anti-war shirt. A policeman said she was being held “ because you were protesting." Later a Republican Congressman’s wife was removed from a gallery because she wore a pro-war shirt. She was not arrested. In late 2005, Veterans Administration officials investigated nurse Laura Berg because she wrote a letter to the editor critical of the Bush administration. First, they seized her computer, hoping they could prove she wrote the letter while at work. When that failed, they informed her they were continuing an investigation of sedition.

That the Bush campaigns used police and secret service to keep protesters away from the traveling chief executive is also troubling because it impinged upon free expression. Outrage over the outcome of the disputed 2000 election in Florida led placard-carrying protesters to show up at Bush appearances in his first year as president. Claiming these citizens threatened the president’s security; they were kept out of sight. The real reason may have been a desire to keep them out of the range of television cameras. When Bush flew into Green Bay, Wisconsin, to address friendly unionists in Kaukauna on Labor Day, protesters were kept off the tarmac and away from the parade route. When President Bush visited Greensboro, NC, on July 25, placard carrying peace demonstrators were kept more than a mile away from him. They had tried unsuccessfully to get permission to stand along his parade route with their signs.

In time, the Secret Service developing a policy of creating Free Speech or Demonstration Zone’s far away from parade routes and places where Bush would speak. By late 2003, the Free Speech Zone’s were sometimes half a mile away from where Bush would appear. When George W. Bush appeared at a carpenters’ rally on Labor Day, 2002 in western Pennsylvania, Bill Neel, 65, of Butler, Pa. showed up with a sign that read “The Bushes must truly love the poor--they’ve made so many of us.” Neel refused to stay in the protest pen and was arrested for disorderly conduct. Neel argued, “the whole country is a free speech zone.” By 2007, the name had been changed to First Amendment Zones, which seems like some sort of sick joke or at least an oxymoron.

In Oregon, Peter Buckley, 45, complained in the Oregonian that he and other protesters were rounded up and placed in a dirt compound that was surrounded by a six-foot high cyclone fence. Buckley ran for Congress in 2002. People in Tampa, Florida, including two grandmothers, were arrested in 2001 at a Bush rally because they held up signs outside a remote protest zone. Bush spokesmen claimed these people must be kept far away for security reasons, but people carrying pro-Bush signs were permitted along parade routes and very close to him at rallies. In the past, courts have invalidated protest pens, but the practice has become routine for the president. The point is to make protesters invisible to television cameras and journalists.

Eventually, investigators used the Freedom of Information Act to turn up a government manual on how to deal with protesters and demonstrators called “Presidential Advice Manual.” Published in October 2002, it outlined the procedures described above and emphasized that protesters and demonstrators should be kept out of the view of television cameras. They were also to be kept “preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route.” There should be “rally squads” comprised of young people and “local athletic teams” to shout down protesters should they somehow get inside an event. When Vice President Cheney appeared at a fundraiser at an Estero, Florida resort in late 2003, security people forced protesters to move some distance from the resort entrance so they would not disturb Cheney. Efforts to curb protesters can also be seen as an effort to curb public discourse.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!