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 Opposes Trump Executive Order Equating Support for Palestinian Rights with Anti-Semitic Discrimination
Anti-semitism is a real threat and should be opposed. Civil rights laws are an important and necessary tool in upholding the rights of all people. However, it is a distortion of civil rights to use federal civil rights law to silence political speech and advocacy for Palestinian human rights.
On Wednesday, Trump signed two bills meant to support the protest movement in Hong Kong. Would that domestic protest movements got a fraction of the love Capitol Hill and the White House are showering on those in Hong Kong.
The extractive industry is afraid. Concern about climate chaos, and opposition to their pipelines and fracking is growing. Rather than address concerns about the environment, they want to make their critics shut up. So they lobby legislators to pass bills silence the opposition.
Today, the National Park Service announced it will not adopt any of their proposed new regulations and restrictions on protests on the National Mall and the area around the White House.