Monday, March 22, 2004

The New Police State

Last night on ABC's The Practice, fictional criminal defense attorney Ellenor Frutt (Camryn Manheim) defended a fictional woman against fictional charges involving violation of the so-called (and wholly non-fictional) "free speech zones" around El Presidente Bush. The fictional woman defendant had refused to move three miles away from where El Presidente was appearing, and when a policeman physically tried to move her, she clocked the policeman with a hard right to the jaw.

The show's plotline included an impassioned closing argument by Ellenor about the erosion of our liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.

Turns out, this stuff ain't fiction! Read, if you've got the stomach for it, this account of the arrest and manhandling of peace activists who had the gall to drive into Crawford, Texas, without permission. Who brazenly wore anti-Bush buttons and carried anti-Bush signs. Here's the opening of the article:

"If you're ever thinking about going down to Crawford, Texas, to protest against Bush, beware. The police do not take kindly to demonstrators there -- or legal observers, for that matter. And even if you're just wearing an anti-Bush button, you could get arrested. That's the message a local jury sent last month."

The protesters were arrested just for being there, and the police chief said during the trial that the act of wearing an anti-Bush button was cause enough to get them into trouble. They were fined, and their sentencing recalls vividly the words of the fictional judge on The Pratice last night: "We've got to send a clear message that if you dissent in this country, YOU WILL PAY THE PRICE." (Now, granted, the fictional judge on ABC-TV was deliberately setting up a decision he knows will be challenged on appeal, but still ... that is fiction and what happened in Crawford is for real!)

Police stopping people for merely ENTERING A TOWN in the United States of America in 2004 is reminiscent of what went on in Harlan, Kentucky, back during the Depression, when coal operators hired private gun-thugs to stop and detain visitors to that town ... in an attempt to bar labor organizers and journalists covering the union movement among coal miners. The difference in El Presidente's Crawford is that Bush doesn't need to pay gun-thugs when he's got the full cooperation of regular law enforcement.

We have to stand up to this. We have to fight back.

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