Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Free Speech Under Fire (Guest entry for CNB)

This is a first for the CNB -- a guest entry. This comes from Mrs. CNB ("looseygoosey" in the comments), who is a staunch civil libertarian.

A parent at the Richland County,WI high school where George Bush appeared today reported the following: Students were told they could not wear any pro-Kerry clothing or buttons or protest in any manner, at the risk of expulsion. After a parent inquired, an alternative activity was provided. (The school secretary reportedly said that students had the choice of just staying home if they didn't want to attend the Bush rally, but the principal subsequently offered an alternative.)

Aside from being a blatant violation of the US Supreme Court's holding in Tinker v. Des Moines School District, in which the Court stated that students' First Amendment freedoms don't stop at the schoolhouse door (and went on to state that undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression and school authorities must accept " mere disturbances" when students exercise their First Amendment rights), this type of thing appears to be a pattern at the Bush/Cheney appearances. Many people, who purchased tickets to the event, have been "escorted" out by the Secret Service and placed under arrest for disturbing the peace. A student in Iowa reported that a Secret Service agent made threats because he was wearing a button endorsing John Kerry.

At another rally, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq was arrested following her protest at a Laura Bush event. If you search Google, you can find reports of incidents like this all over the country. In most cases, I would imagine that no charges are ever actually filed, and that this is a ploy used by the Secret Service to get protestors out of Bush rallies. And let's not even begin to talk about the "loyalty oath" that those attending the rallies are forced to sign, swearing their allegiance to Bush/Cheney as well as their votes in the upcoming election.

So I guess my question is this: What does this kind of policy say about our President, who took an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?" If our President is not going to step in and defend American citizens who are merely practicing our most basic freedoms, Freedom of Expression, who will? Are only those who support the President entitled to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression? Does the President really believe that only his supporters are entitled to attend his appearances and hear his speeched first hand. The last I checked, he was my President too, even though I disagree with just about everything he has done while in office.

I find these events to be a sad commentary on the President's view of civil liberties in this country and what it means to participate in the political process.