FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Criminalizing Dissent

President Barack Obama, referring to the violent attacks on protesters against the controversial election results in Iran’s just-completed presidential election, this week lectured Iran’s government, saying, “Peaceful dissent should never be subject to violence.”

Referring to the tens and hundreds of thousands of frustrated and angry Iranians who have taken to the streets accusing Iranian authorities of rigging the election in favor of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama said that “the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected."

But there is a certain hypocrisy going on here.

Just days ago, the ACLU of Northern California issued a <a href=”http://www.ibabuzz.com/politics/2009/06/10/defense-department-sees-protests-as-terrorism/”>press release</a> announcing that it had filed a complaint  over a Pentagon anti-terrorism training manual. That training manual, aimed at Pentagon personnel, describes domestic protests as “low-level terrorist activity.”

As Staff Attorney Ann Brick and ACLU Washington National Security Policy Council member Michael German write in their complaint letter to the Department of Defense, “For the DoD to instruct its employees that lawful protest activities should be treated as ‘low-level terrorism’ is deeply disturbing in and of itself. It is an even more egregious insult to constitutional values, however, when viewed in the context of a long-term pattern of domestic security initiatives that have attempted to equate lawful dissent with terrorism.”

The ACLU has documented that the government has been and continues a policy of spying on legitimate peaceful protest organizations—particularly those that have been opposing America’s wars and its military policies, and the new president has said nothing and done nothing about terminating this egregious assault on First Amendment freedom of speech and assembly. Given that President Obama has also done nothing since taking office to undo the USA PATRIOT Act, which codifies much activity that traditionally would have been called dissent as a crime, or to publicly reverse the policy of the last eight years during which non-violent protest organizations have been spied on and infiltrated by agents of the military and by the FBI, and during which actual protesters have been harassed, penned into fenced-off “free speech zones,” assaulted by armed police and arrested, his pontificating to Iran about the sanctity of dissent rings particularly hollow.

Imagine, if you will, what this government’s response would be to having hundreds of thousands of American protesters gather in the center of Washington, DC without a permit, to protest the policies of the national government.  There would be riot police in the thousands, some mounted on horseback. There would be federal troops. There would be police charges against demonstrators. There would be tear gas and arrests.

How do we know this?  It happens every time there are major protests in Washington—even when protests are granted permits.

This writer spent three days in the Federal Detention Center at Occoquan, VA, back in 1967 for participating in a peaceful anti-war protest at the Pentagon that year. I was one of hundreds at that event who found himself, as a peaceful demonstrator, confronting armed federal troops with fixed bayonets at that event.  Not much has changed since ‘67, as others have met the same fate over the years in Washington and around the country. Certainly there is every reason to assume that, if the public finally loses patience over the current administration’s continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its failure to really tackle the health care crisis, and its limp response to the economic crisis, and if people descend on Washington or perhaps New York City en masse to protest, those people will be met with the same kind of draconian, police-state style response that protesters have met in the past–or that protesters are being met with in Iran today.

If the Pentagon is teaching its people to equate protest with “low-level terrorism,” how different, really, is Washington from Tehran?

DAVE LINDORFF  is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

August 11, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
Why Capitalism is in Constant Conflict With Democracy
Paul Street
Defund Fascism, Blue and Orange
Richard C. Gross
Americans Scorned
Andrew Levine
Trump and Biden, Two Ignoble Minds Here O’erthrown
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Nationalism Has Led to the Increased Repression of Minorities
Sonali Kolhatkar
Trump’s Presidency is a Death Cult
Colin Todhunter
Pushing GMO Crops into India: Experts Debunk High-Level Claims of Bt Cotton Success
Valerie Croft
How Indigenous Peoples are Using Ancestral Organizing Practices to Fight Mining Corporations and Covid-19
David Rovics
Tear Gas Ted Has a Tantrum in Portland
Dean Baker
There is No Evidence That Generous Unemployment Benefits are Making It Difficult to Find Workers
Robert Fantina
War on Truth: How Kashmir Struggles for Freedom of Press
Dave Lindorff
Trump Launches Attack on Social Security and Medicare
Elizabeth Schmidt
COVID-19 Poses a Huge Threat to Stability in Africa
Parth M.N.
Coping With a Deadly Virus, a Social One, Too
Thomas Knapp
The “Election Interference” Fearmongers Think You’re Stupid
Binoy Kampmark
Mealy-Mouthed Universities: Academic Freedom and the Pavlou Problem Down Under
Mike Garrity
Emperor Trump Loses Again the Northern Rockies in Big Win for Bull Trout, Rivers and the ESA
Alex Lawson
34 Attorneys General Call to Bust Gilead’s Pharma Monopoly on COVID Treatment Remdesivir
August 10, 2020
Gerald Sussman
Biden’s Ukrainegate Problem
Vijay Prashad – Érika Ortega Sanoja
How the U.S. Failed at Its Foreign Policy Toward Venezuela
Daniel Warner
Geneva: The Home of Lost Causes
Mike Hastie
The Police Force Stampede in Portland on August 8, 2020 
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s Executive Orders: EOs as PR and FUs
Rev. William Alberts
Cognitive Without Conscience
David Altheide
Politicizing Fear Through the News Media
F. Douglas Stephenson
Is Big Pharma More Interested in Profiteering Than Protecting Us From Coronavirus?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Money Plague
Howard Lisnoff
Revolutionaries Living in a System of Growing Fascism
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump is Defeating Himself
Lynnette Grey Bull
The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Human Rights Emergency is Not a Photo-Op for Ivanka Trump
Victor Grossman
Some Come, Others Go
Binoy Kampmark
Death From the Sky: Hiroshima and Normalised Atrocities
The Stop Golden Rice Network
Why We Oppose Golden Rice
Michael D. Knox
After Nagasaki, the U.S. Did Not Choose Peace
Elliot Sperber
A Tomos 
Weekend Edition
August 07, 2020
Friday - Sunday
John Davis
The COVID Interregnum
Louis Yako
20 Postcard Notes From Iraq: With Love in the Age of COVID-19
Patrick Cockburn
War and Pandemic Journalism: the Truth Can Disappear Fast
Eve Ottenberg
Fixing the COVID Numbers
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Every Which Way to Lose
Paul Street
Trump is Not Conceding: This is Happening Here
Robert Hunziker
The World on Fire
Rob Urie
Neoliberal Centrists and the American Left
John Laforge
USAF Vet Could Face ‘20 Days for 20 Bombs’ for Protest Against US H-Bombs Stationed in Germany
Andrew Levine
Clyburn’s Complaint
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail