More on Free Speech Zones (not)

A note from Joel Sipress, whom I mentioned in Land of the Free (except near Bush).

Dear Professor Froomkin,

I came across your blog while doing a google search looking for coverage of the Duluth, Minnesota anti-Bush protests. I saw the entry/discussion of the fact that my mug shot was circulated by Secret Service at the Bush rally in Duluth. Thought you might be interested in hearing some more details. The most likely explanation of how I ended up on the Secret Service list is that I was identified in our local newspaper a few days before Bush's visit as the organizer of an anti-Bush protest (as was Joel Kilgour, another one of the three people whose mug shots were circulated). The protest that I helped organize was held about six blocks from Bush's event with the knowledge and approval of our local police force (who, by the way, went to considerable lengths to make sure that local people could gather and speak freely during Bush's visit). Apparently, organizing a legal event at which citizens gather and speak their minds is now enough to get one labelled a security risk. Pretty serious stuff, at least as I see it. (Our rally, by the way, drew about 1500 people, with several hundred more doing sidewalk protests around town.) Feel free to use this information as you see fit.

Best Wishes,

Joel Sipress
Duluth, Minnesota

Incidentally, this is part of a trend. Seems that even wearing the wrong t-shirt can cause the SS to bar you from a rally to which you have a valid ticket (spotted via Dan). Or even get you taken away in handcuffs. Oh, and then you lose your federal government job (FEMA) too.

Note: the Secret Service's official line is that they’d “do the same thing at a Kerry rally.” Has this in fact ever happened at a Kerry rally?

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8 Responses to More on Free Speech Zones (not)

  1. Jim Shirk says:

    Weeeel – at the Kerry/Edwards rally 7/7/2004 in St. Petersburg FL, there were about 50 proBush demonstrators across the street from the Coliseum where the Johns were speaking. While the police didn’t stop or arrest the Bushies, at least they didn’t try to arrest Kerry/Edwards supporters. That’s progress in the new millenium.

  2. Mojo says:

    Arresting people at Kerry/Edwards events for exercising their free speech would make things even worse, not better. The root problem isn’t that the Secret Service is a group of Republican lackeys (they’re really not) but that they can’t tell the difference between a legitimate threat to the person they’re protecting and a tee-shirt. Making the repression bipartisan is certainly no solution. Once Kerry is elected, they’ll start suppressing his opponents with the same jack-booted glee unless someone (hello, judiciary, hello?) puts the brakes on them. (I know the Secret Service also has protection details on Kerry and Edwards right now, but the sad truth is that the SS seems to see themselves as the President’s personal Praetorian Guard with all other duties just something they do until they hit the big time.)

  3. MP says:

    Why was Joel Sipress targeted? Exactly because he is no threat. Huh? Yep. That’s what the liberals have brought upon us. If the Secret Service had pictures of an anti-US muslim cleric who was going to protest Bush, then the lefties scream “racial profiling”. So, they have to go through the charade of “profiling” everybody.

    The Secret Service, and the Bush campaign, could care less about Joel Sipress. He’s a victim not of a radical right, but of a radical left that has forced our law enforcement agencies to waste their time on the Joel Sipresses of the world to avoid political fallout for targeting the bin ladens of the world: Let’s target a few harmless guys now, so later when we walk around with mugshots of arab-looking guys we can say, “What profiling? Did you forget Mr. Sipress?”

    What the Secret Service does care about is the recent trend among liberal protest groups to use violence and rioting to make political “statements.” One such group, which was particularly violent at the WTO meetings has specifically targeted the GOP. Airhead Heinz funds it:

    Violence has no place in the democratic process. If the Secret Service has been jumpy lately, it is the left’s use of violence that has caused it.

  4. Alison says:

    Mmm hmm. And I suppose it was radical lefties who have been bombing abortion clinics and giving death threats to the doctors who work there? Look to your own house, sir.

    Neither side has a lock on extremist, violent behavior. Believing otherwise is a big step in dehumanizing entire groups of people, most of whom are sane and reasonable. That’s dangerous, especially in this day of fear and polarized beliefs.

  5. niq says:

    Yes. You can’t bring an unapproved sign to a Kerry campaign event. Women who have brought signs saying “Democrats for life” or “my abortion hurt me” have been removed or had their signs destroyed during Kerry events.

    Whether this is the secret service or the campaign doing this, I don’t know.

  6. niq says:

    Of course, Joe Shirk is also right: Kerry does at times welcome Bush protesters, often saying he’s going to “educate” them.

  7. fibo says:

    Update: a Boston judge calls a “free speech zone” “an affront to the idea of free expression” but rules it legal.

  8. Mojo says:

    Good news. The Justice Department has developed a plan to eliminate Free Speech Zones and give protesters much more freedom of movement. John Ashcroft’s policy will enable anti-administration protesters to move outside the razor-wire encircled zones so long as they wear the new yellow, six-pointed “free-speech stars”.

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