Freedom of Speech in America IMO

Free Speech -use it or loose it.Reprinted from vol 30, no 2
Active For Justice:

 
As one on the receiving end of a rather abrupt truncation of free expression in last year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, and having participated this year with a toned-down message calculated to least offend, I don’t offer healthy prospects for Freedom of Speech as this nation progresses forward.

Even as the populace gets excited about a potential Obama victory, the candidate himself has been aligning with the disasterous policies of the current administration. Indeed Barack Obama has voted with Bush thus far. I predict therefore that voices for social justice will still feel the call to protest, and likewise the government’s need to silence dissent will continue.

More and more headlines tell of Americans deprived of their voice. Most recently a man was denied entry to a shopping mall on account of his t-shirt, despite courts deciding people have that right. Such indignant citizens are regularly arrested and detained, to be released without filing charges. The pattern has become to keep activists from public view until after whatever they are protesting has passed. Municipalities weigh the risk of incurring civil suits against the imperative to obfuscate criticism.

The PPJPC will have an interesting opportunity to test its members’ First Amendment protection with the 2008 Democratic State Convention coming to Colorado Springs. This will be no mere protest of a visiting dignitary, nor a picketing of a military facility. The convention will bring thousands of delegates together to the World Arena on May 16 and 17, where they will formalize the platform for their state party. The delegates will be skirting a panoply of issues, all of them relevant to the populace outside, many dear to us. Social justice groups from all over will be well served to take this opportunity to communicate with these delegates on the sidewalks and in front of TV cameras.

Citizens expect the Democratic Party to be more responsive to their constituents than Republicans, but the Democrats certainly haven’t
shown it. The state convention will be exactly the place to address such representative responsibility loud and clear.

The Colorado Springs city manager and CSPD have already begun expressing what they’d like to see, or not see, by way of public
demonstrations. They approve of the minimal turnout for the Bush protest of 2005, where activists were kept to Venetucci Boulevard. The
city is offering to host a forum to listen to public opinion while the convention continues without interruption. As yet there has been no
public mention of restrictions.

The World Arena sits on land stewarded by the El Pomar Foundation. Certainly the facility was built with participation from the city. The
street which connects Cheyenne Meadows Drive to Frontage Road, though it is marked “private,” has city curbs, signs and culverts. Whether the grounds are public or private could bear to be challenged in court. But as trends go, the police could feel safe in designating Free Speech Zones at certain areas of the grounds.

We don’t have to push it that far. The World Arena parking area is surrounded by several well situated public egresses from which to
demonstrate a message. We can choose to be seen by cars entering and exiting, or by pedestrians walking to and from their nearby hotel accommodations. There are places to hand out fliers and places visible to the convention doors. There is even a location prominent to where a national candidate, or two, could arrive, if the party deems it strategic to make a show for the Colorado delegates.

Efforts are underway to coordinate activist groups from Denver and Boulder to join us, to push the convention goers toward more
progressive, and in our case, moral ideals. This should prove a good measure of what Coloradans retain of their Freedom of Speech, and will be a good exercise for refining a message if we choose to participate in Denver demonstrations planned by our national colleagues at the Democratic National Convention this August.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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