US Indymedia Global Indymedia Publish About us
Printed from Boston IMC : http://boston.indymedia.org/
Boston.Indymedia
IVAW Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier
Testimonies
Brad Presente

Other Local News

Spare Change News
Open Media Boston
Somerville Voices
Cradle of Liberty
The Sword and Shield

Local Radio Shows

WMBR 88.1 FM
What's Left
WEDS at 8:00 pm
Local Edition
FRI (alt) at 5:30 pm

WMFO 91.5 FM
Socialist Alternative
SUN 11:00 am

WZBC 90.3 FM
Sounds of Dissent
SAT at 11:00 am
Truth and Justice Radio
SUN at 6:00 am

Create account Log in
Comment on this article | View comments | Email this article | Printer-friendly version
Commentary :: Human Rights
America a Police State? No, Not Yet
19 Sep 2004
Modified: 06:04:51 PM
There are certainly serious assaults on First Amendment freedoms underway, but the problem with prematurely characterizing America as a police state is that it plays right into the Bush/Rove/Ashcroft strategy of instilling fear in the public.
A number of people have written me recently, particularly in response to several articles about the arrest of peaceful demonstrators at Bush campaign events, suggesting that America has become a police state.

This is an interesting proposition. It is undeniable that the First Amendment freedoms of assembly and speech are under assault by this administration and justice department.

* People in New York City during the Republican National Convention were arrested and held without charge and without access to an attorney for as long as several days in defiance even of a court order for their release.

* Over the course of the past four years, many protesters seeking to express their opposition to the Bush administration or its policies have been herded by police into remote, fenced-in compounds cynically called “free speech zones” by local police acting on the authority of the Secret Service and the White House, while those who have refused to be hidden away have been arrested, usually to be charged with “trespass” or “disorderly conduct.”

* Domestic spying has burgeoned, with undercover agents infiltrating legitimate non-violent groups, and police, including federal law enforcement officers, going to the homes of people planning peaceful protests to threaten them with arrest and jail.

* Travelers with progressive political backgrounds or connections have found themselves on a computer list operated by the Transportation Security Administration, which results in their being singled out at airport security checkpoints for extensive questioning and body searches which have sometimes resulted in missed flights, though it is clear that they pose no threat to airplane safety.

* And of course, we know the administration has been arresting and deporting immigrants without due process and has even imprisoned American citizens and held them without charge for years.

These and other outrages like the computer monitoring of internet use are certainly all hallmarks of a police state, but does this mean we are living in a police state?

My perspective on this may be colored by the fact that I spent nearly two years living in a genuine police state—the People’s Republic of China—and that in my younger days, I visited on several occasions another one, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). In both of those countries, people who make even the slightest protest against the government could—and in China still can be snatched up and taken away to be tossed into a prison gulag where there is no monitoring, no lawyer, and often no contact with friends and family. Many have been and, again in today’s China, continue to be killed for their beliefs and actions. Monitoring and spying in such states is pervasive. People in neighborhoods are paid to spy on and report on people to the police authorities, but often personal grudges can result in false claims that can ruin lives—and there is no recourse for challenging the abuses.

In such an environment, people understandably become afraid to even speak their minds among friends and family. Children learn very early that there are two worlds—one in the home and one outside the home—and that things that are said in the home are not to be communicated to anyone, even childhood playmates, outside the home.

This to me is what a police state is, and thankfully, as ugly as things have gotten of late in America, we are not there or even close to there yet.

What bothers me about the premature characterization of the U.S. as a police state is that it seems to play right into the hands of what the Bush administration and Republican Party leaders are trying to do, which is to create a climate of fear and intimidation, in which dissent and expressions of opinions outside the mainstream are considered mad, evil or even treasonous.

For the rest of this column, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .
See also:
http://www.thiscantbehappening.net

This work is in the public domain
Add a quick comment
Title
Your name Your email

Comment

Text Format
Anti-spam Enter the following number into the box:
To add more detailed comments, or to upload files, see the full comment form.

Comments

Sorry Dave, I disagree with you this time.
20 Sep 2004
Usually I like your articles, Dave Lindorff, but this time I must disagree. Police in American society are now completely above the law and citizens are no longer protected by the Constitution. That equates to a police state. Every police state has its unique characteristics, often culturally defined, and an American police state will seem very much American. So much so, that those that toe the party line will not necessarily know the difference.
Oh, COME ON! America a "Police State"?
20 Sep 2004
Shouldnt you be more specific? Okay, then I will. This is the definition of a "Police State:

"Noun 1. police state - a country that maintains repressive control over the people by means of police (especially secret police) dictatorship, monocracy, one-man rule, shogunate, Stalinism, totalitarianism, tyranny, authoritarianism, Caesarism, despotism, absolutism - a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.) "

"a country that maintains repressive control over the people by means of police"

Um, that would be the (former) USSR, perhaps Nazi Germany, and many African countries have a repressive police force. No, what you have here is the classic "lets take testimony of the chicken, regarding the recent sales at KFC". You would hear tales of murder and butchery. What you get is the whining complaints of people who went out 'a protestin', disrupting a political convention located in the middle of NYC within screaming distance of the WTC Ground Zero site. Im sure that if your story were written from the perspective of the attendees of the RNC, you would hear glowing remarks about police efficiency and how safe people felt.

AND THIS:

"* Travelers with progressive political backgrounds or connections have found themselves on a computer list operated by the Transportation Security Administration, which results in their being singled out at airport security checkpoints for extensive questioning and body searches which have sometimes resulted in missed flights, though it is clear that they pose no threat to airplane safety."

REALLY? Wouldnt the determination of wether or not someone posed a risk to arplaine security come from a thorough check of that passenger's background and belongings? ESPECIALLY if that person already has been determined to be a political dissident? Its like Megan's Law. Commit the deed, and it follows you wherever you go, and the general public (that would be the 80% or so Americans who do not have 'progressive' political beliefs), feel the need to be protected from these dissidents.

* And of course, we know the administration has been arresting and deporting immigrants without due process and has even imprisoned American citizens and held them without charge for years."

"has even imprisoned American citizens and held them without charge for years."

That is an outright LIE. Name even one.