The First Amendment protects Americans’ freedom of speech and assembly. Unfortunately, at various times in US history, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have disregarded these protections, targeting people or groups based on political viewpoint, religious affiliation, or participation in lawful protests. The advent of the internet as the new “town square,” has opened a new front in the battle to protect free speech and assembly, and new technologies make it easier for the government to track our communications and movements both on and offline, inhibiting our willingness to dissent.
Undercover agents have infiltrated law-abiding activist groups, police have beaten and tear-gassed protesters at peaceful protests, and people are considered suspect merely because of their real or perceived Islamic faith. On the internet, police and intelligence agencies monitor social media and speech that should be protected by the First Amendment is considered evidence of “material support for terrorism.”
Dissent is being criminalized by DHS Terror Threat Assessments that name environmentalists, practicing Muslims or people with Ron Paul bumper stickers as potential terrorists, by legislation that conflates activism with terrorism (as in the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act), and by over-policing at protests and restrictive “free speech zones.”
Many analysts believe Trump crossed a line with a series of tweets earlier this month suggesting that networks should lose their broadcast licenses for ‘fake news’ (ie: stories that displease the President).
Trump trying to shift the narrative, as our government always does, by calling into question the patriotism of those who protest. The issue is not patriotism. The issue is injustice.
Defending Rights & Dissent opposes anti-BDS bills, like the one being challenged by the ACLU in Kansas. These laws are unconstitutional, as the right to boycott is protected by the First Amendment.
If you are black and angry about police violence, you are a potential terror threat. Or so says a newly released FBI Intelligence Assessment that concocts a non-existent movement they dub “Black Identity Extremists.”
Democracy Can Never Be Defended By Curtailing Democracy: DRAD Statement on Concerning “Russiagate” Rhetoric
While we understand that many have legitimate concerns about Russian interference in our democratic process and that an impartial, transparent investigation is necessary, we caution people against creating an environment in which the government is given new rationales to target dissent.