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 feature | View comments | Email this feature | Printer-friendly version
Commentary :: DNC : Human Rights
This is What Democracy Looks Like
25 Jul 2004
Bostonmoncalllg.jpg
How do I describe the sense of dread that crawled under my skin as I observed that there were only two entrance/exits to this long narrow cage enclosed with two chain link fences, covered with a mesh net, topped with two rolls of razor wire...
It's both the gift and the curse of a writer or artist, to feel life's experiences so intensely that words, or music or brush strokes flow from us without effort as that experience is transformed into a tangible sharing of our experience. But words do not flow this morning They didn't come to me last night either, and so I sought out the catharsis of the companionship of people who would understand, in the dorm hall kitchen here at Emmanuel College where I'm staying with the Kucinich delegates and volunteers this week.

Their company and a night of sleep haven't released my muse. But these are words that must be written, even if eloquence escapes me.

Earlier last evening, I'd been sitting on a subway, returning from a day at the Boston Social Forum, where I'd attended two excellent panel discussions about the Iraq war and the growing peace movement. It wasn't so much what was said at these events that had lifted my spirits as it was the pleasure of being around thousands of people who shared my passion for peace and freedom and had defied the fear mongering and back-room scheming that had been served up to discourage our participation in the democratic process this coming week. To spend time surrounded with these eclectic and astute people was reenergizing, and while none of the speakers offered easy or quick solutions, they reassured me that the world is peopled with enough empowered intelligence to turn things around. Buoyed with a rekindled hope for our future, I'd chatted happily with the passengers on the train about the Tee-shirt I was wearing - the one with the cartoon that says "Move your Ass to the Left, Please."

Instead of returning to the campus where I'm staying for the week, I was going to go see the area I'd been hearing about that had been designated as a "free speech zone". For those readers who haven't participated in a protest since 9/11, these designated areas where protesting at major events is supposed to be confined, are Homeland Security's solution to crowd control. Try to remember, as I continue this essay, that our Bill of Rights guarantees us Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly.

In the interest of security, the subway station near the Fleet Center is closed, so I took the "T" as far as Government Center and would walk the rest of the way. There was already a noticeable increase in security in the station since I'd taken the train earlier in the day. Groups of two or three cops were standing everywhere and national guardsmen were positioned at the turnstiles. My brain cells that store the "FTAA protest in Miami experience" were starting to awaken and the euphoria from being at the Boston Social Forum was quickly waning.

When I emerged from the subway station (called a T-Stop here in Boston), a few blocks before me was Faneuil (rhymes with "Daniel") Hall. I'd been to an event in this historic meeting hall the previous evening for a program sponsored by Veterans for Peace. In the same place where Samuel Adams had once spoken passionately against the injustices of the British Empire's control of the colonies, modern patriots, Daniel Ellsberg and Howard Zinn had decried with equal eloquence the emerging American empire agenda for war without end or justification, fueled with the lives of our soldiers.

One couldn't miss the grand painting above the stage, depicting Daniel Webster on the floor of the Senate, in a now famous debate with Senator Hayne in 1830, where he argued for two days that our Constitution was not a mere agreement of states, but a compact of the American people guaranteeing freedom. His words, "Liberty and Union, now and forever!" are carved boldly beneath the frame. "How ironic," I'd thought when I read those words. There we were in the building know as the "Cradle of Liberty" where almost 250 years ago the case for Liberty was argued well enough to inspire a revolution. But despite Webster's words 175 years ago, liberty and union cannot be assumed to be ours -- not now and certainly not forever. Instead, it is the case for freedom that must be argued by patriots of every generation, both "now and forever," because without vigilance, there will always be those who will steal it away.

There was a better dressed crowd hanging about in the area beyond Faneuil Hall known as the Haymarket, than those at the Boston Social Forum back at University of Massachusetts. Concerns about freedom and peace didn't seem to be on their minds. A group had gathered around a magician who was performing tricks with a little boy. There was a festive, party atmosphere. The police presence was far more discrete among these tourists and revelers. I noted some of the pubs and restaurants in the area, thinking that after I took my photos I'd treat myself to a nice dinner before returning to put together CPR4Democracy. But I have to admit I felt out of place and the response to my Tee-shirt in this crowd wasn't one of approval.

It wasn't as simple to find the "Free Speech Zone" as it seemed. I'd asked several groups of police along the way for directions, and they were all friendly and helpful, but... well maybe it's just my imagination that the directions that finally got me there were from a helpful civilian passerby. It's no wonder I couldn't find the spot, it's so well hidden. There is absolutely no way that anyone would see anything happening in this area. There are no open streets where cars can drive by. There are no sidewalks where people would walk by. Nervously, I walked past a group of cops standing at an opening in a fence, thinking that I would see the assigned area somewhere else and then realized that I was already standing within it.

I can't begin to describe my horror being in this place. The same government that calls the law that gives polluters free reign to pollute, the "Clear Skies Act" and calls the justification for us to terrorize the world, the "War on Terror" has the audacity to call this concentration-camp type holding pen a 'Free Speech Zone"! The first thing that came to my mind was the chant often sung at protest rallies, "Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like."

Now I am at the part of this essay that I can't bring myself to write. How do I describe the sense of dread that crawled under my skin as I observed that there were only two entrance/exits to this long narrow cage enclosed with two chain link fences, covered with a mesh net, topped with two rolls of razor wire. Let me tell you what came to my mind the moment I realized where I was standing: If something terrible were to happen while this area was full of demonstrators - something as simple as someone yelling "fire" or something as sinister as the release of a chemical agent - there would be no way to escape. Let me repeat this - there would be no way to escape. No way to escape! This is not an accident.

I cannot describe the physical aspects of this abomination of our democracy without crying. Rather, I've posted the photos on my website for you to see for yourself at http://www.cpr4democracy.com/TheBostonCage1.cfm. After you see these photos, I pose this question to you, my fellow Americans, "Why would anyone agree to voluntarily place themselves in this enclosure?"

Who paid for this? Who approved it? Who imagined that those of us who are smart enough to see through the treachery of our current government, would actually submit to being confined here? Are we criminals for voicing our opinion? That's the not-so-subliminal message being sent here. If the media were to actually film a demonstration in this pen, would we not look like criminals to anyone seeing us on TV? "Beware, this is what will happen to you if you dare to question the system."

In my well of emotional experiences, the closest I can come to describing the gut wrenching shock that gripped me in this cage is being brokenhearted. I love my country. I love her enough that I have dedicated the rest of my life to her care and wellbeing. But my country doesn't love me back. She has betrayed me with lies and doublespeak.

I walked up to the police that were standing at the entrance and introduced myself as a journalist. "I was wondering if you could tell me your feelings about this enclosure," I asked them. They looked like they could be my neighbors, a guy sitting next to me on the train, the fathers of my nieces' friends... One cop said that they were not permitted to say anything while they were in uniform. Ah yes, I thought, they've already relinquished their freedom of speech.

"I was just wondering, maybe... as a fellow human being, as a fellow American... as a Bostonian... aren't you ashamed?" I asked. I know I shouldn't have said that. They are just doing their job. I should keep my big mouth shut. I should be willing to only speak my mind when caged in barbed wire, out of the public eye, where no one can hear me, or see me cry.

I walked back to the T-stop, past pubs where everyday working people were drinking beer and watching the Red Sox game on TV screens above the bar. Would they even notice the difference when this country is no longer a democracy? Will they continue to believe that clear skies and free speech still exist, here in the Cradle of Liberty? What difference does it make, as long as their team wins.
See also:
http://www.cpr4democracy.com/TheBostonCage1.cfm
http://www.cpr4democracy.com/TheNostonCage2.cfm
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

Re: This is What Democraacy Looks Like
25 Jul 2004
not so sure "they" are stealing our freedom; one more time, this country was founded on the blood of genocide, forced kidnappings of people for labor and the oppression of women, children and the poor. "they" seem to simply be trying to recapture this format that only certain individuals, namely white, male and wealthy, should be "free" and in the sense of free to do as they please, without regard to the consequences.

the struggle continues...
Boycott The "Jailed Speech Zone"
25 Jul 2004
Why To AVOID The Official "Free Speech Zone" At The DNC and RNC

http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/23715/index.php
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
25 Jul 2004
What a powerful and dramatic image we can send the world, by protesting from inside a fence! Why didn't some radical art collective think of this idea first? What else can visually SHOW our message better than freedom cages?
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
25 Jul 2004
or you could all dress up like chickens and turn it into a protest of KFC.

KFC and the DNC: one and the same
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
25 Jul 2004
Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but the obvious point to make is: the U.S. Government is not "America", and visa-versa. I realize that politicians and the media who covers them tend to use the two terms interchangeably, but that doesn't make it correct.

Also, re: the "What better place to demonstrate" comment, are you insane? All it takes is one angry kid, one trigger-happy cop, or one agent provacateur to get the whole area doused in pepper spray. And guess what, people will get hurt or killed because of it--that's exactly what happened at that night-club in Chicago where 22 people died, the bouncers used pepper-spray in an enclosed, overcrowded place. Yes, the imagery would be more powerful protesting from in that cage, but the mainstream media will not cover it (after all, what "great visuals" can come from inside a cage, in the dark, under an overpass -- and any of those that could would merely be a "downer" anyways, and might even cause people to question whether the broadly-defined "security services" in the U.S. are just using "terrorism" as a means to grab power), and it's a trivial matter to get our people seriously hurt.

I personally think the best imagery would be the people refusing the State-provided internment camp and filling the streets instead--the best way to demonstrate freedom is by being free, not imprisoned.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
25 Jul 2004
In a true democracy, the democratic party would be standing up for the majority of the party who want peace! Why are we nominating another war candidate?

If Dennis Kucinich were the nominee, we would not need these protests. There would be celebrations in the streets.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
26 Jul 2004
Someone needs to tell the Boston Fire Department.

This sounds like a gross violation of fire code. This is a place of assembly without emergency exits!!!

If they're going to go to this ludicrous extreme, they should at least rig water sprinklers or monitor lines so they can hose off the panicked and/or contaminated crowd as needed.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
26 Jul 2004
it is shocking and disturbing to read 'this is what democracy looks like" above and see the natl guard, coast guard advance upon boston. as well, it is increasingly sad and scary to see the usa's republicans amplify terrorist warnings and fear levels of americans as the democrats rise in the polls. i'm in canada and it looks like a police state, like paranoia, like the land of the free and home of the brave is missing in its vengeful and greedy actions.
and it is taking us down with it.
americans, protest strongly and loudly in boston and new york.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
26 Jul 2004
ha-ha, are you ready for the next Boston Massacre?
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
26 Jul 2004
1st and foremost we are a republic not a democracy. Although the republic has been dead since lincoln. What we have now is technically a facist state where certin business interests are in bed with the government and given preffered treatment. even though we have "elections" what we have is simply one group of voters pitted against another. both parties are essentially of one mind. 3rd party canadates are basically left out by the high ballot access requirements and then they never get much if any press. the libertarian party is the 3rd largest party and is almost never on the news or in a debate. Wake up people you already ive in a police state and freedom is an illusion only
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
27 Jul 2004
anyone confined to this "FREE" speach zone should consider striving for a die in....
what might be gained from showing police brutality?
might raise awarness
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
27 Jul 2004
Wow. This is really terrible writing. I see you're trying to be profound, but your point is completely lost in a melodramatic writing style. "In my well of emotional experience..." Puh-leeeeeze. This would be great, if you were a 12-year-old studying English as a second language.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
27 Jul 2004
Wow. This is really terrible writing. I see you're trying to be profound, but your point is completely lost in a melodramatic writing style. "In my well of emotional experience..." Puh-leeeeeze. This would be great, if you were a 12-year-old studying English as a second language.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
27 Jul 2004
"Would they even notice the difference when this country is no longer a democracy? Will they continue to believe that clear skies and free speech still exist, here in the Cradle of Liberty? What difference does it make, as long as their team wins."

Answering that question is what scares me the most. It's not some big government conspiracy, or Big Business(tm), or Globalization, or McDonalds, or anything but good old fashioned apathy that is killing America. Those other things are merely symptoms of the problem.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
27 Jul 2004
I wonder if anyone, especially the author, considered the fact that protestors and demonstrators aren't always welcomed with open arms, especially in today's heightened environment of mistrust. I've been to assemblies where violence has broken out when one of the groups advocates very strong viewpoints, and have watched people beaten senseless by those who didn't agree with them.

With the additional complication of the DNC nearby, I'm not surprised that there is a very separate area that is substantially cordoned off, not to 'threaten' anyone who would voice their opinion, which the author seems to think, but probably to protect them from anyone who might desire to do them harm for voicing those opinions. Granted, it's not exactly an inviting and happy looking place, but neither is a crowd of hateful people with little more than a few outnumbered police and a strong breeze to separate them from you. Or to look at it from the other side of the mirror, what would stop a group from using the area for their own agenda, making it possible to hurt others who gathered to listen? Separation between potential targets and attackers is possible here in both directions.

As for contingency plans for a terrorist attack on those in the 'protected speech' area, any city that is hosting a major political convention is going to have something planned just in case. Just because you don't see patrolling groups of engineers with chemical suits and firetrucks stationed every 200 feet does NOT mean those things have been ignored. Making your preparations obvious also makes them a target for anyone who doesn't want those measures available.

But you can spin it any way you like. Some will see a forbidding threat to free speech and those who would take advantage of it. Others will see a place that is sadly required in today's world so that free speech can be exercised with some protection from those who would use violence to silence that speech. And I'm sure there's plenty of other interpretations, all with their own validity.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
27 Jul 2004
Someone should have gotten the idea to occupy this "Free Speech Zone" with people dressed in orange prison jumpsuits and in shackles (headbags & blindfolds for extra added impact) for the duration of the convention. If the police don't allow the long-term occupation of the cage, any attempt to crackdown will just look awful and may turn a few stomachs, especially if properly documented.
Confusion
27 Jul 2004
>>"the same government that calls the law that gives polluters free reign to pollute...has the audacity to call this concentration-camp type holding pen a 'Free Speech Zone"!"

*******

Oh that's classic -- blame the DNC security on Bush!!! HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Check your facts- Jeenie. Bad journalist!!!!

The City of Boston planned DNC security, including your "free speech" cage. Take your complaints to the Massachusetts Liberals who run Boston (the mayor and city council). The Cage was put in place to restrict anti-abortion protestor access to delegates.

Try thinking about WHO and WHY *before* you write next time.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
28 Jul 2004
Hey "You're Left Behind" get your facts straight, Bush has been using "Free Speech Zones" for the last 4 years...moron.
Re: This is What Democracy Looks Like
28 Jul 2004
"Hey "You're Left Behind" get your facts straight, Bush has been using "Free Speech Zones" for the last 4 years...moron."

You mean Bush's idea of a Free Speech Zone is walking down Constitution avenue in DC or gathering on the National Mall to form a huge protest? The audacity! I see big difference in how security is held when someone is protesting the President and when someone is protesting the Democrats.

Next month we get to see what the Republicans have and compare it to the Democrats 'Freedom Cages'.