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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Protesting is Not Terrorism

So why is the FBI policing democracy as if it is?
Terrorism is defined as the use of violence against civilian targets for political aims: the Oklahoma federal building bombing of 1995, the 9/11 attacks, suicide bombings against civilian targets in Israel and Iraq. Protesting is not terrorism, thinking about protesting even less so. In fact, protesting is recognized in the First Amendment as "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." The FBI must not be reading that far down into the 45-word amendment.
Even before the 9/11 attacks, the FBI changed its definition of terrorism to include the violent potential of protesters in the United States, and not just any kind of protester: Mainly, those who oppose government policy -- on globalism, on the war in Iraq -- or the government itself: anti-Bush protesters are barred from voicing their opinion within a half mile of the president, ostensibly as a security measure. The implicit message to those protesters is that they could be violent, therefore they could be terrorists, therefore they can be barred from expressing their First Amendment rights. How that explains the FBI's eye for gay activists, too, isn't clear, although agency files pried open in the 1990s showed consistent surveillance of gay groups petitioning for attention during the AIDS epidemic.


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