Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Free Speech? Not in America!

This comes via Daily Kos and the AP. I've copied Kos' post here in its entirety (after all, he does say steal what you want) but this is just so incredible:
Very rarely does the everyday public get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes in a normally-secret Bush Administration.

But Monday, March 28, the Secret Service called three everyday people into their offices to discuss why we were kicked out of a presidential event in Denver last week where Bush promoted his plan to privatize Social Security. What they revealed to us and our lawyer was fascinating.

There we were - three people who had personally picked up tickets from Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez's office and went to a presidential event. But as we entered, we were told that we had been "ID'ed" and were warned that any disruption would get us arrested.

After being seated in the audience we were forcibly removed before the President arrived, even though we had not been disruptive. We were shocked when told that this presidential event was a "private event" and were commanded to leave.

More astonishingly, when the Secret Service was contacted the next day they agreed to meet with us this Monday, March 28 to discuss the circumstances surrounding our removal. We had two big questions going into this meeting:

How is the Bush Administration "ID'ing" citizens before presidential events?

Why was an official taxpayer-funded event called a "private event" - leading to citizens being kicked out?

Most shocking of all, we got answers to both questions.

The Secret Service revealed that we were "ID'ed" when local Republican staffers saw a bumper sticker on the car we drove which said "No More Blood For Oil." Evidently, the free speech expressed on one bumper sticker is cause enough to eject three citizens from a presidential event. (Similarly, someone was ejected from Bush's Social Security privatization event in Arizona the same day simply for wearing a Democratic t-shirt.)

The Secret Service also revealed that ticket distribution and staffing of the Social Security event was run by the local Republican Party. They wanted us to be clear that it was a Republican staffer - not the Secret Service - who kicked us out of the presidential event. But this revealed something else that should be startling to all Americans.

After allowing taxpayers to finance his privatization events (let's call them what they really are after all,) and after using the White House communications apparatus to set them up, Bush is privatizing the ticket distribution and security staffing at his events to the Republican Party. The losers are not just taxpayers, but anyone who values the First Amendment. Under the banner of a "private event" the Republican Party is excluding citizens from seeing their president because of the lone sin of expressing the wrong idea on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. The question for Americans is - will we allow our freedom to be privatized?

Karen Bauer, Leslie Weise, Alexander Young
Denver residents
I was emailed this account by the people involved, so it's straight from the horse's mouth. The AP did a story on this as well.

They hadn't done anything wrong. They weren't dressed inappropriately, they didn't say anything inappropriate," Recht said. "They were kicked out of this venue and not allowed to hear what the president had to say based solely on this political bumper sticker.

"The very essence of the First Amendment is that you can't be punished for the speech you make, the statements you make," Recht said.

So to emphasize -- the White House uses taxpayer dollars to finance these propaganda events. THEN, in order to keep out anyone who might be critical, they "outsource" ticketing and security. That way they can label the events "private" and kick out anyone they want in violation of the First Amendment.

Who in Congress will step up and call for an investigation?
That's the end of Kos' post. After reading this, I was incredibly angered and very disturbed. These people are going to whatever lengths necessary to shut out the other point of view. They only want people there who agree with what they are saying.

This is a terrible disgrace. It shows that the President and his GOP cronies do not care about free speech. They would rather stage media events without any kind of disagreement.

This is the dangerous point where our democracy turns into a theocracy. Aren't we the ones going over to the Middle East to try and put a stop to this very behavior? Yet our own chief executive is employing these tactics right here at home.

The President, the GOP brass, and his minions believe in NOTHING. Not family values, not American citizens, not the Constitution, not the First Amendment or free speech, not even freedom, liberty, opportunity, or democracy at all.

We need to show Americans that we, the Democrats, do believe in this country and our finest traditional values. We are for a stronger America, broader prosperity, a more effective government, a better future, and mutual responsibility. We need to take our country back from these people and earn back the world's trust. Our fellow world citizens are depending on us.

The future of free speech depends on us and our success.

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