Monday, January 14

Great Corporate "Greening": Saving Grass for Democracy and the Children

...and don't wear black when you assemble with others to protest neo-conic causes.

Here's an excerpt from a recent e-notice from Partnership for Civil Justice on public hearings sponsored by the National Park Services held last weekend on the government's plan to curtail public demonstrations.

PCJ is on the right side of this issue by defending our endangered constitutional freedom to assemble:
The NPS has launched an initiative, much like that launched to exclude protests from New York City's Great Lawn, that will be used to further restrict or ban protest on the Mall from current levels. This is a component of a nationwide campaign of corporate-sponsored organizations working in partnership with government entities that claim that protests, rallies and demonstrations harm grass or "green space" or "natural resources" and must therefore be restricted or banned or shunted off to designated protest pits.
The allusion to New York City's "Great Lawn" involves a lawsuit PCJ filed against the city on behalf of protesters to assemble in Central Park. Last week (8 January), a NYC court ruled favorably for the Constitution.
The Partnership for Civil Justice has announced today the filing in Court of a landmark settlement agreement with the City of New York that strikes down key provisions of controversial and unconstitutional regulations aimed at restricting access to the Great Lawn of Central Park. Click on this link to view the .pdf of the full Stipulation and Settlement Agreement.

The City must now establish a constitutionally valid permitting scheme for protests in Central Park and must undertake a feasibility study into the optimum and sustainable use of the Great Lawn and what efforts can be undertaken to maximize the availability of the lawn for large events including rallies and demonstrations.
In a rare move on behalf of populist democracy, the Washington Post in an 11 April 2007 editorial sided with PCJ on its litigation against the DC police department and FBI for strong-arm tactics against protesters during a 2002 anti-globalization protest in the nation's capital.
A lawsuit brought by a group of protesters in a 2002 incident paints a disturbing picture of the actions of D.C. police and the FBI, and it raises questions about whether there was an attempt to hide some of those actions. As reported by The Post's Carol D. Leonnig, the protesters not only were wrongly arrested (the charges were dropped and any records expunged), but they were also interrogated by the FBI, allegedly including inappropriate questions about their and others' beliefs. The protesters say the interrogations were videotaped, and one aim of their lawsuit is to find out what happened to those records.

There's no question that police should investigate suspicious behavior, particularly in this era of heightened concern over terrorism. Yet the worst offense of these protesters is that they were wearing black; police were apparently confusing fashion with dangerous anarchism. That they were arrested on trespassing charges even after showing they had a parking pass for the garage where they were detained suggests that public safety was not the paramount concern. Either the arrests were a pretense to gather intelligence or a bid to discourage dissent -- perhaps both.

The involvement of the FBI, which is supposed to monitor domestic groups only when there is clear suspicion of criminal activity, is particularly disturbing. For years, authorities refused even to acknowledge that FBI agents were present in the garage, only to have their presence confirmed by a newly discovered document. What makes that revelation even more troubling is that city officials had vowed to the court that no such document existed. Was that oversight an honest mistake or a coverup?
I vote "cover-up." But to continue:
Both the FBI and D.C. police have stumbled in the area of individual rights -- the FBI of late with its misuse of "national security letters" to obtain private information about U.S. citizens. The District's most notable transgression was the infamous mass arrests in Pershing Park, also during anti-globalization protests in 2002. Police officials say they have reformed their ways since that costly incident. We would like to think so. But the apparent nonchalance of local and federal officials about getting to the bottom of what happened to those people dressed in black is not reassuring.
Thank God America still has fascist-fighting idealists like Partnership for Civil Justice out there on the barricades of our cold, fascist night America now finds itself.

Related: FBI Quizzes Protesters on Religious, Political Beliefs

On 5 April 2007, Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! featured PCJ co-founder and attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard about the FBI's covert role in questioning the 2002 protesters.

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