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 Growing Crackdown on Foreign Media, Lawmakers Call for Al-Jazeera to Register As Foreign Agent Due to Its Investigative Reporting on Pro-Israel Lobbyists
A group of lawmakers are angry that an Al-Jazeera reporter partook in an undercover investigation of Israel lobbyists. As a result, they are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to force the network to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Such a move would clearly be a retaliatory act against investigative journalism.
On Thursday February 8, 2017, supporters of the right to boycott scored a major victory, when a Massachusetts anti-boycott bill was sent to “study.” The defeat of this bill was not a foregone conclusion. It was the result of the tireless work done by the Freedom to Boycott Massachusetts Coalition. Groups like Freedom to Boycott Massachusetts prove that grassroots activists have the power to push back against anti-boycott bills and win.
Marcus has shown little interest in defending the civil rights of vulnerable people, but he has shown a strong desire to distort civil rights law to silence political speech he disagrees with. This is unacceptable. Demand your Senators oppose Marcus.
In Victory for the Right to Boycott, Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction Against Kansas Anti-BDS Law
“The conduct the Kansas Law aims to regulate is inherently expressive. It is easy enough to associate plaintiff’s conduct with the message that the boycotters believe Israel should improve its treatment of Palestinians. And boycotts—like parades—have an expressive quality. Forcing plaintiff to disown her boycott is akin to forcing plaintiff to accommodate Kansas’s message of support for Israel.”
Earlier today, Defending Rights & Dissent sent a letter to the Florida Department of Corrections expressing our concern with allegations they had retaliated against prisoners who engaged in political organizing.