Tue 14 Feb 2012
How shall we Protect the Occupy Wall Street Protestors? Here’s a letter to Dennis Kucinich proposing a law to protect peaceful protestors.
Witnessing the over-reaction to peaceful protestors by police across the nation is alarming to concerned citizens who recognize that this response is contrary to the United States’ First Amendment Rights of Free Speech and our Right to Peaceably Assemble in Redress of Grievances that are insured by Law. Our Bill of Rights cannot be repealed!
A new Federal Law is needed to assure that these rights to “Peaceably Assemble” are respected, especially against all threats, abuse, attacks with weapons and pepper spray by local law enforcement, against protest marches, and the endangerment of persons and the blatant destruction of the property of non-violent protest encampments. Here, we are reminding of the Supreme Court Decision favoring Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth whose Civil Rights group marched without a required permit. The Court reversed Shuttlesworth’s conviction because the circumstances indicated that the parade permit was denied not to control traffic, but to censor ideas.
Protection must be reinforced by a Federal “Law of the Land,” such as was necessary during the Civil Rights struggle. This Federal Law must override local options to violate the people’s Rights for any asserted reason, that will and must result in injunction, or punitive action by the Justice Department for local police blatantly violating the Constitutional Rights and the protection of peaceful protestors.
Some of the hazards to the expression of Freedom of Speech have been noted with local police asserting their authority to control crowds; to protect law and order; to presume to protect the public by acting on what often turn out to be blatantly false allegations of protestor’s wrong doings, such as: creating a sanitary hazard with waste products; the creating of a fire hazard with electrical usage and heaters; illicit sexual conduct in a public place, even charges of rape; the use of illegal substances; the blocking of traffic; the interference with normal transaction of local business; etc. Perhaps these are “good reasons” not real reasons? The obvious action here is a basic us/them power assertion over a potential unruly mob!
Upon analyzing many of these assertions and allegations it is learned that, contrary to the declaration of non-violence and non law-breaking dedication of the main constituents of a peaceful protest, there are some who chose to act as provocateurs to purposely, defiantly, or even carelessly bring such disgrace and resultant punishment to the declaredly non-offensive peaceful movement such as “Occupy Wall Street!”.
Such offensive persons or such offensive unsanitary conditions are not welcomed by the majority, and when, and if, someone calls attention to such provocative behavior, it will be dealt with effectively in a democratic, ethical and non-violent manner by consensus and by eviction by the majority. This would amount to a “self-policing policy.” To punish an entire movement for the actions or allegation against one or several offenders is more typical of a totalitarian system and is unconscionable in a democracy.
In extreme cases, where the movement’s banning or shunning or cleaning-up after such an offender or such offenders would not effectively banish them from the group, this would then be seen, paradoxically, as a reason to call upon the local authorities to remove such an offender, who has defied the wishes of the majority and thereby has assumed the position of jeopardizing the well-being of the Movement.
We need Police Departments that are sensitive to and responsive to the varieties of people that a democracy consists of. Police are trained to counter “the enemy.” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in NYC is training Recruits to be wary of Muslims and to infiltrate Mosques. Who is the enemy? Police must be required to respect the needs of the people to engage in non-violent demonstrations, and to not restrict, yea even to protect their Constitutional Rights of Free Speech. Let’s make it a Federal Law!
Thank you, Dennis Kucinich, for your consideration and for your help.
Beth K. Lamont, Humanist Chaplain