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.”
Defending Rights & Dissent was elated by the news that 159 of the J20 defendants had their charges dismissed. Nonetheless, the struggle continues. Fifty-nine people still face multiple felony charges.Defending Rights & Dissent demands that the remaining charges be dropped, that Jennifer Kerkhoff be fired, and that DC police be held accountable for the wanton brutality they engaged in during the inauguration.
Groups seek oversight of NYPD Strategic Response Group’s role in abusive and repressive protest policing and conflation of “anti-terror” and protest
Following the rough policing of an immigration-related protest on Thursday and prior protests in NYC where protesters were subjected to abusive treatment and tactics, a number of civil rights, legal and other organizations called for the City Council to hold an oversight hearing into the policing of protests.
With New FOIA Request, Defending Rights & Dissent and National Lawyers Guild Demand Answers About Infiltration of Inauguration Protests
Earlier today, Defending Rights & Dissent and the National Lawyers Guild filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking information about the infiltration of protest group DisruptJ20 by DC police, as well as the extent of police cooperation with non-law enforcement third parties like Project Veritas.
On January 10, 2017 Defending Rights & Dissent sent a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence expressing concern over their investigation of political activist and former Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein. While it is legitimate to be concerned about foreign interference in a US election, the tenor of discussions concerning this interference has increasingly moved into the direction of chilling dissent.
Together we fought mass surveillance, the Muslim bans, anti-protests bills, censorship, and attempts to roll back what progress has been made on criminal justice reform. And we fought Trump’s unqualified, reactionary, and often racist nominees. We defended whistleblowers, dissidents and press freedom.