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News ::
Flirting with Big Brother.....NOW! (english)
04 Dec 2002
Perhaps more importantly, the justices will also decide whether RICO allows groups, individuals, or perhaps the government to demand the kind of far-reaching suppression of protests in the future. I hope you’re following this because it’s headed right for Big Brother’s ever increasing reach into our civil liberties
There is a case to be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court today by a rightwing group in which the justices will review whether lower courts went too far in applying the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, called RICO for short, to anti-abortion activities. The use of RICO was a legal maneuver that was initiated by the centrist National Organization of Women (NOW) in an effort to curtail intimidating, aggressive, and sometimes deadly anti-abortion actions at women’s clinics across the nation. The Supreme Court previously ruled in the same case that NOW and the clinics could sue protesters under RICO. That set a very bad precedent for protesters of all stripes, even those who support NOW and other efforts at bringing about social or environmental justice. Obviously, the very same statute could be used against progressive groups, say environmentalists demonstrating against global warming, or global justice advocates working against corporate domination. In short, NOW has opened an ominous can of worms in their effort to curtail the actions of so-called Right-to-Life groups.
The question going before the court today is whether the law was used correctly. The rightwing majority Supreme Court will decide whether civil disobedience and violence amount to extortion, one of the requirements for a RICO charge and the one NOW originally focused upon. Perhaps more importantly, the justices will also decide whether RICO allows groups, individuals, or perhaps the government to demand the kind of far-reaching suppression of protests in the future. I hope you’re following this because it’s headed right for Big Brother’s ever increasing reach into our civil liberties. And, look who’s doing the decision-making, those same men in black that gave you the present occupant in the Whitehouse!
It looks like NOW has managed to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. They should have realized long ago the ramifications of this case on the rest of the social justice and environmental movement. Instead, they chose to pursue their own issue over the needs of the rest of the movement. We’ll see if the foul wind that often emanates from the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court building blows that bath water right back in NOW’s face and the faces of those of us who would support them. If it does, NOW will pay a heavy political price for their blind pursuit of a limited goal. Unfortunately, everyone else will pay the price as well. In a time and place where our civil liberties are fast slipping away under the glaring eyes of Big Brother (looking suspiciously like John Ashcroft, Tom Ridge, and a host of other far-right ideologues), we will all lose in a very big way.
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