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Protecting political insiders from our First Amendment
Ah, it’s August – time for the presidential nominating conventions!
This grand testimonial of our citizens’ rights and liberties will begin with the Republicans in Tampa. Flags are being mounted, majestic music is being arranged, uplifting speeches are being scripted – and, as has now become normal for these spectacles of democracy-in-action, heavily-armed police repression of our cherished First Amendment rights is being ordered.
Of course, the delegates, candidates, lobbyists, and billionaire funders inside the GOP’s convention bunker will be perfectly free (as they should be) to gild the promises and lies that will frame their presidential campaign. They will not be bothered by the 4,000 riot-geared police that authorities will deploy around Tampa. However, any outsider citizens who come to practice the hallowed freedoms of public assembly and speech at the convention will be welcomed by a thoroughly un-American police state.
In May, at the behest of national Republican officials, Tampa’s mayor and council passed a temporary ordinance to suspend our First Amendment and authorize a crackdown on protesters. Warning ominously that a few vandals might get out of control, the ordinance tries to force all citizen demonstrators into a few restricted parade routes and what amounts to “protest pens.” Preemptive detainments, indiscriminate mass arrests, and police infiltrations of peaceful protest groups can be expected. Ironically, that’s the kind of autocratic excess that led to the American Revolution itself.
The city’s top lawyer recently barked that, “troublemakers… will not be tolerated.” But the real troublemakers are those inside the hall – and inside a police system that’s being used to stomp on the very freedoms that America is supposed to embrace and encourage. What's coming down in Tampa this month is not what Madison, Jefferson, and the others meant by liberty.