The Hightower Report

Revisiting the Arrest of Protesters; and Speak Out for America

SPEAK OUT FOR AMERICA

We Americans once had a strong president who told us during the dark days of the Depression, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Now we have a frightening president who constantly tells us we must live in fear, that fear is our future, that fear is patriotic – that fear is now America. He even color-codes it so we'll know whether it's a red-hot, super-scaredy fear day or just a run-of-the-mill, orange-tinted fear day.

In case that's too subtle, you'll be glad to know that Bush's Department of Homeland Security has developed a public-service television commercial to bring fear down to a gut-wrenching, emotional level. This ad shows faces of worried children asking their mommies such questions as: "What if something happens? Will you come get me?" Then a narrator warns viewers that every American family should get prepared for a terrorist attack. Finally the screen goes dark, and the punch line appears in these worrisome words: "Everyone should have a plan."

Welcome to Bush's scary world.

The Bushites are using a nonstop-fear campaign to impose the anti-America on our "Land of the Free" – an unrecognizable America of supreme executive authority, constant surveillance of the people, secret government, suppression of dissent, and permanent war. As Bush himself put it in 2004: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

He's not the quickest bunny in the litter, is he? Unfortunately, it's not a laughing matter. Top Bush-Cheney autocrats are doing more to trample America's democratic values than our enemies can possibly do. It's up to us to reassert and protect those values. More of us must speak out for them – more loudly, more frequently, more insistently. Remember: The opposite of courage isn't cowardice. It's conformity.

REVISITING THE ARREST OF PROTESTERS

If you just can't bring yourself to believe that our government authorities would even think of suppressing the legitimate protests of peaceful demonstrators, look at the record of court cases recently coming out of New York.

You might recall media reports from the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, when about 1,100 people were arrested in one day during anti-war demonstrations. Most media pundits joined the authorities in praising the police for stopping these "dangerous troublemakers." But the city now faces 605 lawsuits from people contending they were merely exercising their right to free speech and assembly – making no trouble at all.

And now, based on witnesses and numerous videos taken of the demonstrations and arrests, protesters are winning their cases. It turns out that police were making mass arrests of innocent people – then making up arrest reports charging people with crimes they did not commit.

Take the example of two guys and a young woman who were videotaped trying to string a banner onto the New York Public Library. "You can't hang signs [there]," an officer told them, and they immediately took it down. "You can hold it, but you can't hang it," the officer said. So, they did. Two seconds later, as the two men held the banner on the stairs of the library, other police moved in and arrested them.

When the police filed their arrest complaint, they charged the three young people with "obstructing the entire intersection so no cars or pedestrians could pass through." The woman was also charged with refusal to obey a police order and leading a parade through the intersection without a permit – even though the video clearly showed she never had left the library steps.

It isn't the demonstrators who are out of control; it's the authorities. And they're not merely cracking down on a few people – they're trampling the constitutional rights of all of us.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

peaceful demonstrators, 2004 Republican National Convention, constitutional rights, Department of Homeland Security, Bush administration

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