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.”
In Opening Argument Prosecution Concedes No Evidence Tying First J20 Defendants To Property Destruction
On Monday November 20, 2017, prosecution and defense gave opening arguments in the trial of the first of the six people–one journalists, two medics, and three protesters– swept up in the mass arrest of Inauguration Day Protesters. What was startling was how many of the key facts were not in dispute. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys purport that any of the six people on trial personally engaged in any destruction.
Press Freedom Groups Join Defending Rights & Dissent in Demanding Charges Be Dropped Against Journalists Arrested When Covering Inauguration Protest
Aaron Cantú and Alexei Wood journalists who were covering a protest march on Inauguration Day 2017, in Washington, DC. They face a number of charges, including engaging in a riot, conspiracy to riot, inciting a riot, and property damage. Since some of the charges are felonies, they face potentially decades in prison. Cantú and Wood were arrested and charged for simply doing their jobs as reporters. Their prosecution endangers press freedom in the United States
The DOJ is turning political expression into conspiracy and free assembly into a crime. They are using a shocking legal theory: if you attend a march where other individuals engage in vandalism you are collectively liable for their acts and should face decades in prison. Ditto if you’re a journalist who is merely covering the event
DRAD, DC NLG FOIA Request Uncovers That DC Police Spent Over $300,000 in Weapons, Ammunition to Use against Inauguration Day Protesters
New, previously undisclosed records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the DC Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (DC NLG) and Defending Rights & Dissent (DRAD) details the types, quantities, manufacturers and costs of munitions used against protesters on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.
Defending Right & Dissent recently took action against affronts to the right to boycott in Maryland and Texas.