Friday, September 30, 2011

Daring to Stand Outside the Box

There's a vast and growing apparatus of intimidation designed to deter and control citizen protests. The most that's allowed is to assemble with the permission of state authorities and remain roped off in sequestered, out-of-the-way areas: the Orwellian-named free speech zones. Anything that is even remotely disruptive or threatening is going to be met with aggressive force: pepper spray, mass arrests by highly militarized urban police forces, and aggressive prosecutions.
~ from What's Behind the Scorn for the Wall Street Protests? by Glenn Greenwald ~
I'm glad to see that Greenwald wrote about a particular pet peeve of mine: so-called free speech zones. In many of the various protests I helped organize and/or participated in, it irked me to no end that the police and local officials wanted to cordon off our rights of free assembly and free speech -- usually far enough away from whatever our target was.

When we held a week-long protest and demonstration at the Port of Grays Harbor (Aberdeen) over military shipments to Iraq, the police decided to make the so-called free speech zone in a swampy field. We reluctantly complied for the first few days, but on the day of the main protest march, we refused to go into our "cattle pen." We lined up one-by-one on the shoulder of a public street across from the main entrance to the the port.

This upset the local and state police forces which, by the way, outnumbered the 100 or so peaceful protesters by, at least, a 2 to 1 margin. The police became very aggressive and antagonistic. They tried to force us back into the pen, but we didn't budge. At one point, I feared the police were set to attack the front of the column -- egged on by the state police and Homeland Security personnel -- but, to the credit of Aberdeen's local police force, it didn't come to that. There was a lot of yelling from both sides, but the police eventually relented and we stayed on the shoulder of the street.

The protesters in New York's Financial District are facing these same tactics right now. Their supposedly free speech zone is in a park a few blocks away from the hallowed Wall Street. As long as they mill around their zone, the police aren't hassling them too much. However, when they march up the PUBLIC streets to Wall St itself, that's when the police become overtly aggressive and abusive.

Hey, we don't want the captains of finance troubled in any way as they continue to cannibalize the nation and planet!! Having to deal with or answer protesters might upset their delicate dispositions!


  1. If there's a free speech zone, what does that make the rest of the country, eh?

  2. USA=VZD; Vast Zone of Deception.


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