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September 28, 2002

First Amendment Suspended

MaxSpeak rightly titles his post on the DC protess "The Terrorists Have Won" as the police have used mass arrests to shut down protests in complete breeches of agreements made with demonstrators on when and where they could demonstrate. This will just strengthen the arguments of those arguing for non-cooperation with the police.

I was at the April IMF/World Bank protests two years ago and was generally impressed with DC's police-- as one admires a civil opponent. But these new tactics are outrageous. The police not only arrested protesters but the legal observers who were specifically monitoring police behavior. Here is the update I received from the National Lawyers Guild mass defense committee that is coordinating legal negotiations and defense for the protests:

"Update from Partnership for Civil Justice and NLG Mass Defense Committee re: legal observers who were illegally arrested at protests in Washington, D.C. today.

As many of you know, at least a dozen courageous NLG Mass Defense Committee legal observers organized by Zak on behalf of the NLG Mass Defense Committee were swept up in mass arrests today by the D.C. MPD and federal law enforcement who once again have proved their adeptness and determination in violating the Constitutional rights of activists, passers-by, tourists and legal observers. The legal observers arrested include law students from U.D.C. Dave Clarke School of Law, George Washington and Georgetown, among others. For some, this was their first legal observer experience.

We have spoken with many of the observers, having last seen those green hats through the windows of the mass arrest busses carting people to detention. They are in good spirits, all things considered.

The police came out in full riot gear, with guns and clubs, trapped and then moved in on assemblies of demonstrators. People were not allowed to disperse. The police today have brutally attacked peaceful demonstrators, beating some and mass arresting hundreds (most recent count is 649), using the same shameful tactics including preventative detention that are currently the subject of litigation filed by Partnership for Civil Justice and the NLG against DC and federal law enforcement authorities.

We at PCJ are discussing legal options with those arrested and we anticipate devoting substantial resources to aggressive litigation challenging today's actions.

Carl Messineo
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard
Zachary Wolfe

Partnership for Civil Justice
1901 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Suite 607
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 530-5630

In the face of these outrageous attacks on civil liberties and protests, it is especially sad that usually admirable allies at places like Tapped/The American Prospect would actually celebrate the "flame out" of the protests. While I agree with Tapped that the global justice movement must engage more heavily in the legislative and political process, that is not in opposition to street protest but as a complement. The issues of global justice would not be on the national and international agenda without the series of global protests we have seen from Seattle to Barcelona to Bolivia. You hear the hint of condescending liberals back when telling Martin Luther King Jr. to act more respectably.

Posted by Nathan at September 28, 2002 01:56 PM

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