Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘dissent’

Anthony Gregory on Peaceful Dissent and Government Crackdowns

In Activism, Big Brother, Censorship, Constitutional Rights, First Amendment, History, Libertarian, Police State, US Government on March 19, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Over at Campaign for Liberty yesterday, Anthony Gregory released an article detailing various historical examples of the U.S. federal government targeting peaceful dissenters.

This article comes after a recent release of a memo to the state of Missouri, a memo conflating belligerent, right-wing extremist groups—some of whom are racist or anti-Semitic, some of whom are violently opposed to open immigration, some of whom want to impose upon the American people a system of national socialism—with others who, like many of us, simply want to get big government off of our backs.

Thus, tax protesters, second amendment advocates, anti-war activists, goldbugs, Ron Paul enthusiasts, and “sovereign citizens” (who sound like agorists and other natural-law libertarians from the description given)—all my kind of people—are lumped together with the sort of terrorist scum that would burn crosses on other people’s property, blow up abortion clinics, harass undocumented migrant workers, or—like Timothy McVeigh—blow up buildings with innocent people, including children, inside.

On the surface, one might assume Gregory’s article is nothing more than an explanation to people interested that these are two very different camps, and that the sort of people who frequent Campaign for Liberty have no connection to the violent, aggressive goals of various right-wing extremist groups in operation.  But Mr. Gregory’s article goes much further than that.

Gregory’s article takes an in-depth look at the tendency of the government, over the course of U.S. history, to overreact to criticism and suppress dissent, even those most peaceful of dissenters, the Quakers.  Starting from the horrendous Alien and Sedition Acts of Adams and his Federalist Party, the U.S. government has cracked down on free speech and peaceful dissent of Americans from all angles of the political spectrum—left, right, and centre.

There is a lot of history here, and although Gregory handles the material with breathtaking clarity, I’m left wanting to read more.  No doubt, a book could be written on the subject, detailing these various episodes, the various uses of counter-intelligence and infiltration by U.S. officials.  If Gregory were to tackle such a subject in book form, I would surely order a copy.

In any event, this article is worth the read.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Kooky pro-government conspiracy theories

In Activism, Big Brother, Censorship, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Local Politics, Police State, Politics, Protest, Republican, Terrorism, US Government on September 30, 2008 at 2:02 pm

A Letter from the RNC 8

Dear Friends, Family, and Comrades:

We are the RNC 8: individuals targeted because of our political beliefs and work organizing for protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention, in what appears to be the first use of Minnesota’s version of the US Patriot Act. The 8 of us are currently charged with Conspiracy to Commit Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism, a 2nd degree felony that carries the possibility of several years in prison. We are writing to let you know about our situation, to ask for support, and to offer words of hope.

A little background: the RNC Welcoming Committee was a group formed in late 2006 upon hearing that the 2008 Republican National Convention would be descending on Minneapolis-St. Paul where we live, work, and build community. The Welcoming Committee’s purpose was to serve as an anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizing body, creating an informational and logistical framework for radical resistance to the RNC. We spent more than a year and a half doing outreach, facilitating meetings throughout the country, and networking folks of all political persuasions who shared a common interest in voicing dissent in the streets of St. Paul while the GOP’s machine chugged away inside the convention.

In mid-August the Welcoming Committee opened a “Convergence Center,” a space for protesters to gather, eat, share resources, and build networks of solidarity. On Friday, August 29th, 2008, as folks were finishing dinner and sitting down to a movie the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department stormed in, guns drawn, ordering everyone to the ground. This evening raid resulted in seized property (mostly literature), and after being cuffed, searched, and IDed, the 60+ individual inside were released.

The next morning, on Saturday, August 30th, the Sheriff’s department executed search warrants on three houses, seizing personal and common household items and arresting the first 5 of us- Monica Bicking, Garrett Fitzgerald, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, and Eryn Trimmer. Later that day Luce Guillen-Givins was arrested leaving a public meeting at a park. Rob Czernik and Max Specktor were arrested on Monday, September 1, bringing the number to its present 8. All were held on probable cause and released on $10,000 bail on Thursday, September 4, the last day of the RNC.

These arrests were preemptive, targeting known organizers in an attempt to derail anti-RNC protests before the convention had even begun. Conspiracy charges expand upon the traditional notion of crime. Instead of condemning action, the very concept of conspiracy criminalizes thought and camaraderie, the development of relationships, the willingness to hope that our world might change and the realization that we can be agents of that change.

Conspiracy charges serve a very particular purpose- to criminalize dissent. They create a convenient method for incapacitating activists, with the potential for diverting limited resources towards protracted legal battles and terrorizing entire communities into silence and inaction. Though not the first conspiracy case against organizers- not even the first in recent memory- our case may be precedent-setting. Minnesota’s terrorism statutes have never been enacted in this way before, and if they win their case against us, they will only be strengthened as they continue their crusade on ever more widespread fronts. We view our case as an opportunity to demonstrate community solidarity in the face of repression, to establish a precedent of successful resistance to the government’s attempts to destroy our movements.

Right now we are in the very early stages of a legal battle that will require large sums of money and enormous personal resources. We have already been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support locally and throughout the country, and are grateful for everything that people have done for us. We now have a Twin Cities-based support committee and are developing a national support network that we feel confident will help us through the coming months. For more information on the case and how to support us, or to donate, go to http://RNC8.org

We have been humbled by such an immense initial show of solidarity and are inspired to turn our attention back to the very issues that motivated us to organize against the RNC in the first place. What’s happening to us is part of a much broader and very serious problem. The fact is that we live in a police state- some people first realized this in the streets of St. Paul during the convention, but many others live with that reality their whole lives. People of color, poor and working class people, immigrants, are targeted and criminalized on a daily basis, and we understand what that context suggests about the repression the 8 of us face now. Because we are political organizers who have built solid relationships through our work, because we have various forms of privilege- some of us through our skin, some through our class, some through our education- and because we have the resources to invoke a national network of support, we are lucky, even as we are being targeted.

And so, while we ask for support in whatever form you are able to offer it, and while we need that support to stay free, we also ask that you think of our case as a late indicator of the oppressive climate in which we live. The best solidarity is to keep the struggle going, and we hope that supporting us can be a small part of broader movements for social change.

For better times and with love,

the RNC 8: Luce Guillen-Givins, Max Spector, Nathanael Secor, Eryn Timmer, Monica Bicking, Erik Oseland, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald