02 September 2008

the right to peaceably assemble

"the state can't give you free speech, and the state can't take it away. you were born with it - like your eyes, like your ears. freedom is something that you assume, then you wait for someone to try and take it away. the degree to which you resist, is the degree to which you are free."
~utah phillips

i'm pretty upset right now. and tired. be warned.

i've caught wind of several reports of protesters being handed their asses at both the dnc and rnc. typically those targeted are of the anarchist varietal. mostly because these folks act as sort of a protection for other protesters. they will put themselves in the line of fire, so to speak. my experience has always been one that is radically different than what most people think of when they hear the words anarchist or anarchy. i can at least see how anarchists make people nervous, given the misguided media representation that reigns supreme. that still doesn't give anyone carte blanche to commence ass kicking. that is called police brutality. period.

with the exception of a few people that can be found in most any group, the anarchists i have encountered are fairly peaceful people - and a lot like me. they believe the system is flawed. they believe that our foreign and domestic policies are harmful to living beings and the planet. they have faith in humanity - that we can lead ourselves - that we don't need leaders. they think it is messed up that natural resources that really belong to no one are harvested, repackaged, and sold back to us in neat little boxes. they believe that we don't own anything, that we borrow stuff until we die...

in all fairness, i have questions. ones i've tried to raise for discussion to no avail in the past with different anarchists, at different points in my life. being the virgo that i'am, i want to know what it would look like. how it would work. we tend to want to have someone in charge - after all, we've been raised with this cultural construct all our lives. this country has known leaders since we ripped it away from the native peoples of this land so long ago. and i go back and forth with humanity. reading mccarthy's 'the road' did nothing to help. sometimes i think that if some terrible shit went down, we would band together. some days i see how truly horrible people can be to one another and wonder if that is even possible. i also encounter a fair amount apathy that factors into the equation.

i love the idea of anarchy - the idea that WE define how our lives and communities are led. we don't rely on leaders to change things for us, we are each actively involved in spurring that change. we work together, using such tools as concensus, for decision making. the western world is highly individualistic. though i have also witnessed complete strangers jumping to help when help is needed. without being asked. it is an organic response for many, myself included.

i know that there are many misconceptions about what anarchy means. and it is something that i struggle with myself, regularly. do i even bother to vote? am i simply supporting can the system be changed, or is it already too far gone? we don't live in a democracy. i encounter many on a daily basis that would prefer to have someone else make their decisions for them. to wave a flag around and blow up fireworks on the forth of july, but never get their hands dirty. it is difficult for me to get my brain around that.

this i know for certain. no matter who is elected in november, we will still have work to do. every minute of every day of our lives. democracy is not a spectator sport. you don't get to slap a flag sticker on your car and believe that your part is finished.

the right to peaceably assemble is a farce. in order to do so, one must obtain permits to gather. if there is a march, you need a parade permit. you need to carry a certain amount of insurance as well. sidewalks are supposedly safe places to air grievances, so long as you don't cross some magical, mystical line i've yet to figure out. but i digress.

what spurred this diatribe, you ask? the following. i've been to my fair share of protests where arrests were made. where rubber bullets were fired at close range. where people love to talk about how free we are in this country while i've seen the complete opposite. what you're about to watch and read is simply unacceptable. we've reached a new low. one where a reporter is cuffed and stuffed and the producers of her show are hurt, then arrested. while i've grown to expect that using your voice in a public manner can have consequences that are painful and unjust, this really stunned me, left me feeling angry.

yeah, i'll vote in november. i do think that there are certain people that are easier to work with than others - that more can be accomplished this way. yeah, there are really truly wonderful things about this country. yeah, i'll never stop fighting for what i believe is right. and someday i will live in a place that embraces what i embrace. it has to be out there somewhere. and it will be near an ocean. yeah, i still have faith and hope in "we the people."

but this. is. so. wrong.

Democracy Now! Host and Producers Arrested at Republican Convention

By Holly Watt
ST. PAUL -- Democracy Now! radio host Amy Goodman and two producers were arrested while covering demonstrations at the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn. Goodman was released after being held for over three hours, but is still waiting to hear when Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar would be released.

"I was down on the convention floor interviewing delegates when I heard that two of our producers had been arrested," said Goodman. "I ran down to Jackson and 7th Street, where the police had moved in."

Goodman said that when she ran up to find out what was going on, she was also arrested.

"They seriously manhandled me and handcuffed my hands behind my back. The top ID [at the convention] is to get on the floor and the Secret Service ripped that off me. I had my Democracy Now! ID too. I was clearly a reporter."

Goodman, who was released after being charged with a misdemeanor, said that Salazar had been hurt in the face, while Kouddous had been thrown up against a wall and hurt his elbow.

"Nicole told me that as they moved in on three sides, she asked them 'How do I get away from this?' and they jumped on her."

Both Kouddous and Salazar could be held for up to 36 hours.

"One of the police kept shouting at me 'Shut up, shut up," she said. "It was extremely threatening."

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