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.”
“The dismissal of the felony charge is a tremendous victory for the six defendants, their attorneys, and the activists who have mobilized to support them. We, nonetheless, are deeply disturbed by the failure to dismiss the other seven charges, including five counts of property damage, conspiracy to riot, and engaging in ariot. In her ruling, Judge Leibovitz endorsed some of the most disturbing arguments of the prosecution.”
Defending Rights & Dissent was joined by allies Free Press, Demand Progress, DropJ20, and the ACLU of DC in delivering over 50,000 signature to the US Attorney’s Office calling on the Department of Justice to end its prosecution of protesters arrested on Inauguration Day in Washington, DC.
Defending Rights & Dissent Opposes Kenneth Marcus’ Nomination to Department of Education Civil Rights Post
Marcus’ interest in civil rights seems limited to advancing unusual legal theories to silence opinions on Palestine-Israel he disagrees with. As the DOE’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Marcus would endanger the First Amendment and civil rights, his nomination should be rejected.
In Opening Argument Prosecution Concedes No Evidence Tying First J20 Defendants To Property Destruction
On Monday November 20, 2017, prosecution and defense gave opening arguments in the trial of the first of the six people–one journalists, two medics, and three protesters– swept up in the mass arrest of Inauguration Day Protesters. What was startling was how many of the key facts were not in dispute. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys purport that any of the six people on trial personally engaged in any destruction.
On November 13, 2017 Defending Rights & Dissent sent a letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. In our letter, we alerted both special rapporteurs to the ways in which the trials and arrest of the inauguration protesters violate international human rights norms.