Tag: protest

No More Bloody Sundays

Today marks the 50th anniversary of “Blood Sunday”, the day when civil rights demonstrators marching from Selma to Montgomery were set upon by a law-enforcement organized mob at the Edmund Pettis Bridge. There’s a lot to say about it, including the lame-brained decision of GOP leaders to not attend. But one thing really jumped out at me looking at all the grandstanding politicians.

There is no way a Selma protest would be allowed today:

Today, it would be impossible to obtain a federal court order permitting a five-day protest march on a 52-mile stretch of a major U.S. highway. Under contemporary legal doctrine, the Selma protests would have ended March 8, 1965.

Starting in the 1970s, however, the federal courts began rolling back this idea. A series of rulings erected what is known as the public forum doctrine, which lets a city, state or the federal government decide whether public property can be used for 1st Amendment activities. It also means that if courts do not designate a place a “traditional public forum,” government may forbid its use as a site of protest altogether.

Under this doctrine, the federal government has completely banned large protests at Mt. Rushmore and the Jefferson Memorial.

In fact, a few years ago, a bunch of people were arrested for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial, a decisions the Courts upheld. I can’t imagine what Jefferson, a staunch advocate of free speech, would have said about it.

Even in traditional public forums, government may strictly regulate the time, place and manner of speech activity. The National Park Service, for example, has created “free speech areas” and limited protests to them. Predictably, the federal courts have sustained this policy.

Likewise, local, state and federal governments have banned dissent near major political events, such as the presidential nominating conventions.

Protesters are relegated to “designated speech zones,” sometimes blocks or miles from the venue. The federal courts have sustained such regulations as justifiable security measures. The purpose and effect of these regulations, however, is to render the protesters invisible.

Krotosyznski goes on to note the crackdown on the peaceful side of the Ferguson protesters, which included firing tear gas at people standing on their own lawns. The courts belatedly decided that this violated the free speech rights of the protesters, but it was long past. Whether the Ferguson protests had merit or not, given the DOJ reports, is kind of beside the point. The point is that kind of heavy-handed response has become routine for protests that do not have official government sanction.

Many of the Tea Party protests got permission for their activities, but sometimes only after delays and only in designated areas. And the idea that the Tea Party need permission to oppose government policy is fundamentally ridiculous.

So, yeah, follow the commemorations of the Selma march today. But remember that every single one of those politicians speaking about Dr. King’s courage would have shut him down in a heartbeat today. Because for worshippers of government power, no matter what their political persuasion, dissenters are a problem, not something to be proud of. They are only something to be proud of decades after the fact.

Occupy: One Year Later

It was one year ago today that the Occupy Movement was born when it camped out in Zuccotti Park. The movement got a lot of attention. The Left boasted about how it was more popular than the Tea Party (for about ten seconds). Elizabeth Warren tried to claim credit for it. But the movement seems largely dead, their dreams dissolved into mindless violence and stupid stunts.

Contrast that against the Tea Party. The Tea Party remains an active political force, has affected elections, has affected the debate, has affected policy. For all the crank candidates they gave us (Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, etc.), the result of their activism was a Republican House and the first hints of budget control in over a decade. Without the Tea Party, it’s unlikely Paul Ryan would have been the VP choice. It’s even changed the Democrats to having to at least pretend to care about debt.

So why was Occupy a failure while the Tea Party wasn’t? There’s a lot of analysis out there. Doug Mataconis gets close, I think, in pointing out how incoherent they were and how they failed to crystallize around a specific agenda (other than the unworkable student loan forgiveness). They never did seem to cotton on to the idea that big government was the problem; that the Tea Party was the ally, not the enemy, of people who oppose entrenched power.

But I think it boils down to something simpler. As I said at the time, Occupy really was just the Protest of the Month. Some professional agitators and students looking to get laid marched in the streets because … well, because they like to march:

But the larger part of this is that you can get young people to turn out for jus about any protest. College students and graduates without jobs (of whom there are a lot right now) love to go to protests and march. They like to think it’s for a good cause, but they usually have no fucking clue what it’s about. Penn and Teller did a great schtick at an Earth Day Rally where they interviewed a slew of people who knew nothing about environmental issues. This included at least one of the organizers. In 1992, my campus common was flooded with students protesting the Rodney King verdict. And most of them were doing what college students to — hanging out, hitting on each other, playing frisbee. I talked to people who didn’t even know what the protest was about; they just knew it was on, man.

And as I predicted, their enthusiasm would fizzle when it came to actually doing something:

I suspect that when these guys run into the hard reality that not even Democrats will push their agenda, they’ll fade away. They’ll talk of a third party and how the Democrats aren’t really liberal. And they’ll vote for Obama anyway. I mean, if Barack Obama, with huge majorities in Congress, can’t get a public option done, what chances does a “living wage for the unemployed” have?

I’m not happy about this, actually, despite the smug tone of the post. I think OWS was concerned about very legitimate issues: the entrenchment of power, violations of civil liberties, corporate welfare, crony capitalism. I had hoped it would maybe get some of the ostensibly liberal to realize the danger of a centralized powerful government. But it didn’t. And in the end, that’s a loss for America.

On The Night Liberty Died, I Held Her Hand…..

This is tangentially about the SCOTUS hearing on ObamaCare that’s coming up in the first quarter of next year, but it’s not the crux of the subject I wish to comment on.

On March 20 – 22 of last year, I was in Washington D.C. for the vote to pass the health care bill. I had heard a few people suggest a gathering of some sort. Bachmann and some Tea Party notables mostly. For me it was different though. It wasn’t at anyone’s behest that I went, it was an irresistible draw. Think: Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” as he, along with all the others who had been affected by some extraterrestrial force, somehow knew that their presence was required at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and nothing was going to stop them from getting there. I woke up on Friday, March 19th, and told my wife I had to go. She got it, and gave me her blessing (and started making food that would keep in a cooler to try to save money – I was unemployed at the time).

I have no idea if the old regulars here at Right Thinking had any fellow members who went to D.C. that weekend, who could provide you with a first-hand account of the event, but I do know that I was either the only one, or one of only a couple who went, on the other sites I frequented at the time. As I hear the punditry about the upcoming SCOTUS challenge, I keep getting a familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach that many commentators just aren’t/weren’t getting what this was all about. Which Justices are going to recuse themselves, will SCOTUS uphold or overturn or some compromise in-between, will certain politicians’ careers rise or fall on the outcome of the case……blah blah.

It is my firm belief that ObamaCare goes well beyond a simple debate over the finer points of constitutional law. It’s about what force of nature will triumph, the natural yearning of humans for freedom, or the raw evil of despotism and tyranny. While it is my belief that if America falls to the latter, so too will follow the entire world, that belief doesn’t really influence my committment to dedicate what remains of my life to preserving the former. The forces of the latter are global in nature, while the mindset that created the former is still, generally-speaking, only found here in America as a collective force to be reckoned with, diminished and weaker than needed though that force may be.

On the day I got back in town from the health care vote, I posted my take on where we stood as a country at Survivalist Forums, and you could see the epiphany that occurred within me that the above articulates in its first incarnation in that post. After giving my take, I summarized it thusly, which I used a part of to title this post:

“That’s why I went. I watched the grandmother I was raised with die. I watched my favorite aunt die. I watched my mother die. I held all of their hands in their final death throes and witnessed their final breaths. Last night I did the same thing with American Liberty. And I did it with a family of about 2,000 or 3,000 Brother & Sister Patriots who stayed till the end. Last night wasn’t about politics. It was about the death of American Liberty.”

I feel stronger about it now than I did then, some 20 months hence. This SCOTUS ruling will tell us, The People, if the rule of law, wholly inspired by the aforementioned natural yearning for human freedom, still holds any sway against the forces of despotism. And even if it does and the ruling goes against ObamaCare, will this chapter in American jurisprudence be enough to wake The People up to the fact that the fight is never-ending? Or will they give a collective sigh, saying to their collective self, “Shwew! That was close!” and go on about their work-a-daddy lives taking for granted the freedoms and immunities from government intrusion that court victories over highly controversial, important issues tend to mask as even being threatened? Are we collectively peering through the eye-holes of that mask? I think not.

Win or lose at SCOTUS on ObamaCare, it, in and of itself, is not the threat to our liberties that many describe it as. Apathy, complacency, and lack of civic participation are much more deadly enemies to freedom, that allow the rich environment in which travesties to liberty such as ObamaCare, the Patriot Act, and myriad examples of constitutional usurpations that have riddled this country for decades without so much as a whimper from the masses to proliferate, than any one piece of legislation even has the potential to be, no matter how egregious against liberty its provisions are.

So that’s what I felt compelled to say. Of course I hope ObamaCare is overturned, but I implore my readers not to take it as the end-all, be-all of victories over tyranny if it is. The American Revolution started in 1776, but it is a never-ending struggle, and neither the ratification of the Constitution itself, nor the passage, or upholding, or overturning of ObamaCare, can or will portend its conclusion. The precepts of the American Revolution can only be maintained and nurtured, never concluded. But it can be defeated. One entity can prevent its defeat; We, The People. Your participation is required.

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