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.”
CBP Admits to Targeting Journalists, Activists, After Civil Society Groups, Including Defending Rights & Dissent, Demanded Answers
After revelations that Customs and Border Patrol (CBB) had monitored journalists, human rights lawyers, and activists, Defending Rights & Dissent joined with a 100 civil society demanding answers. In a May 9, 2019 response letter, CBP admits for the first time to having engaged in this monitoring, though it defended its actions.
As draconian anti-protest bills, known as ‘critical infrastructure’ bills, make their way through state legislatures in Illinois and Texas, coalitions in both states are growing and becoming more vocal in opposition.
Ahead of Hearing, Defending Rights & Dissent Urges Homeland Security Committee to Address Law Enforcement Abuses of Counterterrorism Authorities
With an uptick in white supremacist violence, the House Homeland Security Committee is holding a hearing on “Confronting the Rise of Domestic Terrorism in the Homeland.” Defending Rights & Dissent recognizes the real threat white supremacist violence poses to many communities. We also have deep concerns about how law enforcement routinely abuses their counterterrorism authorities. The framework of “terrorism” has been used to criminalize some of the very same communities most at risk from white supremacist violence. When investigating nonviolent activists, law enforcement frequently cite their counterterrorism authorities.
Elected officials in South Dakota aren’t even trying to hide their cozy relationship with TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline.
The People’s Lobby, Sierra Club and environmental justice leaders from around the city spoke out at a press conference yesterday against HR1633. The bill is designed to squash anti-pipeline protests with a mix of draconian fines and jail time for peaceful civil disobedience.