Last night Keith Olbermann asked something I’ve wondered about since the police crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protesters began several weeks ago with beatings and arrests in Manhattan, and mass arrest-by-trickery at the Brooklyn Bridge:
“At what point did we all decide that you had to have a permit that designated where you could and could not protest?”
“We” never made this decision, as Olbermann knew before asking the question. Rather, issuance of permits is a law enforcement tactic increasingly being used to undermine our First Amendment rights of assembly and petition for redress of grievances. The tactic is often predicated on the notion that public parks and plazas and streets aren’t really public at all, except during those hours when police choose to allow people to use them.
Olbermann’s guest, attorney Yetta Kurland, noted the illegal containment methods used on protesters at the Republican National Convention in 2004 as a turning point in NYPD efforts to chip away at protesters’ rights.
Olbermann reminded viewers that cops around the country are using trumped-up anti-camping regulations to attack or intimidate OWS protesters, and he noted that Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. has come up with a new dirty trick to discourage protests. Vance has offered to drop charges against 340 people arrested during OWS protests if they don’t get arrested again within the next six months.
In short, anyone who hasn’t noticed democracy in America is in big trouble is either an idiot, a recluse, or too corrupt to care.