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.”
Tear gas is among the least of the problems facing those who care about the murder and destruction of war. But it is a major element in the militarization of local policing. In fact, it is widely deemed illegal in war, but legal in non-war.
Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit Is Both A Testament to the Power of Dissent And An Illustration of Government Hostility to Black Political Power
July 17 marks the 59th anniversary of Billie Holiday’s death. We recall Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”, a musical protest against this country’s white supremacist violence. “Strange Fruit” is a testament to the power of music as an impetus for social change. The government’s reaction is also a story about the repression of dissent. It is for both of these reasons why we at Defending Rights & Dissent continue to defend the right to dissent.
The US Attorney’s Office (USAO) have announced they are moving to dismiss without prejudice all charges against the remaining 38 protesters arrested during Donald Trump’s Inauguration.
Both major parties are supporting legislation that breathes life into the misguided belief that police are under attack, and that protesters or criticism of aggressive policing put police officers’ lives in danger.
The prosecution of Stand Rock protesters serve as another method to chill or repress public dissent.