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.”
Protesting is an appropriate and essential way for noncitizens to confront the harsh treatment they are experiencing in detention centers, bring awareness to the issue, and seek to change it.
As organization dedicated both to police accountability and to defending political dissent, we are deeply disturbed by both the acquittal of the former police officer who killed Anthony Lamar Smith and police use of force against the protests in response to this acquittal.
Defending Rights & Dissent expresses its deep sense of dismay that a DC Superior Court Judge has refused to dismiss charges against participants in a counter-inauguration protest. The currently nearly 200 defendants face multiple felony charges carrying up to decades in prison for participating in a First Amendment protected assembly.
Amendment No. 115 to HR 3354, if passed, this amendment would cut off all federal government funding to Islamic Relief Worldwide. Approving this amendment would be taking the unprecedented step of singling out an individual non-profit organization for legislative exclusion from participation in programming with US foreign assistance funds when there is no legal basis for the exclusion.
Defending Rights & Dissent, Center for Constitutional Rights Release First Comprehensive Report on Ag-Gag Laws
This landmark report discusses ag-gag laws in historical and political context, catalogues an earlier wave of ag-gag legislation, examines each recent law in detail, explores constitutional concerns and current lawsuits, and documents several successful campaigns to defeat ag-gag legislation.