The Criminalization of Protest


Police and politicians ignore the First Amendment when we need it the most.

I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C., area for the better part of the last 10 years. So I’ve seen my share of demonstrations, although more often than not I just try to avoid the traffic nightmares they cause. Among the various classes of protests—pro-life, anti-war, environmental, and now tea parties—the most destructive are the anti-globalization marches. So when cops clashed with anti-globalization demonstrators at the Pittsburgh G-20 summit in September, it was easy to assume that most of the altercations represented justified police responses to overzealous protesters.

But a number of disturbing photographs, videos, and witness accounts told a different story. Along with similar evidence from other recent high-stakes political events, they reveal an increasing, disquieting willingness to smother even peaceful dissent.

On the Friday afternoon before the G-20 meeting kicked into high gear, a student at the University of Pittsburgh snapped a photo showing a University of Pittsburgh police officer directing traffic at a roadblock. What’s troubling is what he’s wearing: camouflage military fatigues. It’s difficult to discern a practical reason why a man working for an urban police department would need to wear camouflage, especially while patrolling an economic summit. He’s a civilian dressed like a soldier. The symbolism is clear, and it affects the attitudes of both the cops wearing the clothes and the people they’re policing.

[Read more at]

3 Comments on "The Criminalization of Protest"

  1. For what is basically a rightwing site shilling Ayn Rand books, that particular article was dead-on correct in pointing out the disturbing trend.

    The right to assemble for redress of grievances is SUPPOSED to be a guaranteed right in this COUNTRY, not just in some pre-designated “free speech zone” far away from the earshot or eyesight of the powerful.

    The entire country is supposed to be a free speech zone, and those we ALLOW to be in power should be forced to listen, we shouldn't be forced into silence.

    Additionally, more police need to be reminded that the people you're supposed to “protect and serve” are the ones far too many of you are abusing. Your badge doesn't give you the right to abuse that power, and if you think it does, you shouldn't be a cop. Officers still in possession of their honor need to turn in any officer who abuses the privilege of wearing the uniform.

  2. These are precisely the kinds of events where free speech and the freedom to protest need protection the most: when influential figures make high-level decisions with far-reaching consequences.

  3. this is only the beginning…

Comments are closed.