Pretend that you're a Philadelphian politician and that your owners and handlers in the Republican Party are in town for a big whoop-de-do political convention. Now, pretend that your owners want to act as if they are actually higher on the evolutionary scale than they really are. Now, pretend that your owners want everything for their gala little time to be broadcast into the homes of all the girls and boys simpletons who have fallen for your tricks before and will again. Now, pretend that you do not want, under any circumstances, for anyone to attempt to inject a little reality into the flickering images of your wee soiree. Finally, imagine that you believe that the Constitution is more of an annoyance than any sort of historical basis for debate and discussion on the issues.
Now that you have pretended all of that, let's just pretend a little more. Okay?
Pretend that you know that there will be some hundreds and maybe thousands of American citizens that, for some ungodly reason, still believe that the Constitution offers them the right to stand up and be heard even though what they have to say might upset a few of your owners and their by-the-hour dates. Just what, pray tell, could a person do to insure that all appears to be as sanitary and issueless and as empty as the minds of the lords and ladies attending your constant parties and meetings and drinking contests.
Well, if you are the Republican Party, what you do would be as completely unconstitutional as possible but, hey! You either are the people or you know those people who own the only means of disseminating information and they're all your buddies and pals, right?!? You also know that the courts are just jammed packed with as many evil little right wing gnomes as both that senile old fool Reagan and that lying old fool Daddy Bush could make them so there shouldn't be any real legal problems to worry about.
What you would do, if you were as low and vile as the Republican Party, is to have the local police and state troopers infiltrate the groups who are in town expecting to exercise their First Amendment rights and to make note of who the leaders are. These spies and Nazis then report back to you and proclaim, per your wishes, that these people are planning to break laws. Now, since you're not really all that bright (after all, you're either a Republican or a cop), you accuse these particular people, not of planning on breaking any big laws that fall into the realm of felonies but, instead, you only accuse them of planning misdemeanors.
Now, just before the first demonstration is planned by these naive people who still think that the Constitution applies to them, you raid the warehouse where they are working and arrest 75 of them and charge them with various misdemeanors. What were these dastardly Americans doing at the time of their arrest? Why, they were building huge puppets meant to make a point about the WTO or NAFTA or the greed and nastiness of Corporate America and the Global Economy or testing toxic products on innocent animals and other wonderful capitalistic icons that you and I know and love.
How does one go about arresting all of these people? Well, in one instance, an undercover cop (spy) simply loaded a van full of protestors and their puppets, told them they were going to the protest site and then drove them directly to jail where they were arrested and put behind bars. What crime had these folks committed? It would hard to say in as much as they had never had the opportunity to don their puppets or even to protest in as much as they went straight to jail and never left the van.
Okay, now you have raided the warehouse where these vile puppets were being made and you have arrested the 75 Americans who were foolish enough to try to exercise their constitutional rights. What to do for an encore?!? Why, you also arrest the owner of the warehouse, one John Sellers, and you charge him as a "ringleader" of the protestors and 13 or 14 other charges, and then you get a nut case judge to hold him under a $1 million bail.
Okay, so time passes. Thirteen of the defendants agree to a deal with the Philadelphia District Attorney, one Lynne M. Abraham, that frees them on three months' probation and a fine. The rest remain behind bars in a Philadelphia jail awaiting their day in court.
The defendants, as is their right under the law, petition the court for all documents related to the location, communication, identity and information gathered by these state sponsored spies (you remember, the cops?!?). What do you receive from the state police? You receive the addresses of miscellaneous web sites and Internet listservs where they claim to have garnered all of the information that they needed to make the arrests. Not one shred of evidence is produced to support the charges nor were any of the troopers identified nor was any justification offered that gave reason to the spying in the first place. Just a bunch of web addresses. Just how insane is that?!?
Now, let's pretend that you are that self same Philly DA and you are all prepared to take these un-American little punks to court and have them put away forever. First, though, you and the presiding judge, one Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon, meet in his quarters along with the four state troopers who had spied on the protestors. You ask your first witness to begin the process of identifying the culprits and linking them to the crimes of which they've been charged.
Your first witness looks at mug shots of 32 of the defendants. He can identify none of them nor link them in any way to any crime. Not to worry, though. You have three other troopers to testify. One of them will be able to link these little brats to a crime, you're sure of that.
Sadly, after the fourth trooper leaves the room, not one defendant has been identified as engaging in any crime. In fact, only three were even identified as being in the warehouse which, if memory serves me correctly, isn't exactly a crime in and of itself.
Judge DeLeon then threatens that, unless the DA drops the charges first, and if these defendants are brought to court, he will dismiss all charges immediately.
If you're a little weenie like the DA, though, do you give up just because you have absolutely no proof of any illegal activity by any of the defendants? Of course, not! The judge, the DA, and the four troopers will be meeting in chambers next week in order to have the troopers try to identify even one of the remaining 30 before court.
Okay, so it's pretty apparent that the other 30 protestors will also have the charges against them dropped for the same reasons as the first 32. What sort of justification would the DA's Office offer for this massive attack on American's First Amendment rights? What possible reason could they give for arresting many even before they could have committed a crime?
Well, according to Cathie Abookire, spokeswoman for the DA's office, commenting on why charges were dropped against John Sellers in particular, "I can only tell you after we reviewed the case, interviewed people and looked at many, many hours of videotape, the evidence was not there to bring forth the case, so we withdrew the charges."
To shorten that a bit, she admitted that there had been absolutely no reason to arrest or charge him in the first place.
All in all, 404 protestors were arrested during the Republican Convention. Of those 404 Americans, 35 were charged with felonies, 339 with misdemeanors, and 30 with summary offenses (equal to a traffic ticket in nature). Of that 339 charged with misdemeanors, about 100 accepted the DA's offer to clear their record if they stay out legal trouble for six months. Of the 35 charged with felonies, all but 18 had their charges dropped to misdemeanors. It is not known what happened to the individuals facing the summary offenses. Of the 18 who still face felony charges, they are charged with mostly alleged assaults on the police officers.
What was the response from the Republican Party to this wholesale assault on American's Constitutional rights? Well, they praised the city for their handling of the protestors, singling out Philadelphia Police Chief John Timoney in particular. In fact, the city was lauded for their violent clampdown on Americans and their rights and the situation was compared to the Seattle protests and the chaos that occurred there last year. Of course, none of those who praised the city noted in their applause that the vast majority of the violence that occurred in Seattle was incited by the police, themselves.
How about the media? Didn't they use their huge power of the press to speak out against these arrests and bail that was actually higher for the crime of owning a warehouse in Philly than the DA usually requests for those suspected of committing murder in that city? Well, as a great example of just how seriously the media takes the First Amendment, the Washington Post, in their coverage of the November trial, calls these Americans "Summer Protestors".
So, what have we learned from all of this, boys and girls? Well, we've learned that a political convention trumps an American's Constitutional rights in Philly. We've learned that you don't have to actually think about or plan or commit a crime to be charged with that crime in Philly. We've learned that there may be a ray of hope in the fact that the state troopers testified honestly about recognizing none of the protestors nor recalling them committing any illegal acts. We've learned that the police and government in Philly care absolutely nothing for your rights as individual Americans unless you, too, bring tens of millions of dollars into the city's coffers and the local economy. We've learned that the media, who one would expect to be rather protective of the First Amendment and any attacks against it, obviously doesn't care much when it's just Americans who are exercising that right and not some wealthy little troll who uses it to buy more and more of our your government's attention. We've learned, to our dismay and ultimate sadness, that you and I can become players in a drama that would embarrass a third world dictator in Philly's overt and public attack on American citizens. We've learned, finally, that America is just as nasty and full of Nazis and we've so often warned.
Gentle readers, you do not have to agree with the issues that these protestors felt so strongly about. You don't even have to like the fact that the protests occurred. What you must, as Americans, agree with is the absolute right of these protestors to speak out on these issues and to be heard. You must agree with the fact that, since the media is conservative and refuses to air any actual facts or debates, then just like in the 60's, these Americans will take to the streets to have their causes heard and listened to. The protestors were right in the 60's and they are right in the beginning of the 21st Century. All America has to do is to listen and to think. Two rather large processes these days, I know, but not impossible. ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 )
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