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ACLU sues Secret Service

by Kalamalama staff

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the federal government, in the form of the Secret Service, has been violating the free speech rights of anti-President Bush protesters at events across the country. The ACLU is backing up its allegation in the first nationwide lawsuit of its kind.


According to the ACLU brief, when President Bush came to Neville Island, Penn. last year, protesters were herded behind a chain-link fence in a remote area while supporters were allowed to line the motorcade route. One man who refused to be herded into the fenced area was arrested, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU alleges a significant increase in such incidents under the Bush Administration, indicating a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against citizens who disagree with Bush administration policies.

The ACLU Online Newsletter for Sept. 25, alleges that local police, acting at the direction of the Secret Service, have violated the rights of protesters in two ways: On some occasions, “People expressing views critical of the government were moved further away from public officials while those with pro-government views were allowed to remain closer.”
On other occasions, “everyone expressing a view of any kind was herded into what is commonly known as a ‘protest zone,’ leaving those who merely observe, but express no view, to remain closer.”

“ There is nothing more American than raising your voice in protest, and there is nothing more un-American than a government that attempts to hit the mute button when it doesn’t like what it hears,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of greater Pittsburgh and a member of the national ACLU legal team that filed the lawsuit.

According to the newsletter, ACLU’s suit accuses the Secret Service of censorship at events around the country, including: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington. “All were initiated at the behest of the Secret Service and are evidence of a growing—and disturbing—trend,” the newsletter said.
Walczak indicated that security was not at issue: “Anyone intent on harming officials would simply carry a sign with a supportive message or no sign at all. The individuals we are talking about didn’t pose a security threat; they posed a political threat,” Walczak said.

Additional information on the ACLU Web site indicated that the ACLU was acting on behalf of four national advocacy groups: the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), United for Peace and Justice (UPFJ), USAction, and National Organization for Women (NOW).



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