Free speech zone

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A free speech zone is an area set aside for protesters, within which law enforcement supposedly will not interfere with them if they stay inside it, but may arrest or assail them if they venture out of it. It is often at a remote location from which the protesters need not be seen or heard by those attending the event being protested.


Examples

  • "When [President George W.] Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up 'free speech zones' or 'protest zones' where people opposed to Bush policies (and sometimes sign-carrying supporters) are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event....When Bush came to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, 'The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us.' The local police, at the Secret Service's behest, set up a 'designated free-speech zone' on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush's speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, though folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president's path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign. Neel later commented, 'As far as I'm concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone. If the Bush administration has its way, anyone who criticizes them will be out of sight and out of mind.'" [1]
  • "...Brett Bursey, of South Carolina, attended a speech given by the president [George W. Bush] at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. He was standing among thousands of other citizens. Bursey held up a sign stating: 'No more war for oil.' ...Bursey did not pose a threat to the president, nor was he located in an area restricted to official personnel. Bursey wasn't blocking a corridor the Secret Service needed to keep clear for security reasons. He was standing among citizens who were enthusiastically greeting Bush. Bursey, however, was the only one holding an anti-Bush sign....He was ordered to put down his sign or move to a designated protest site more than half a mile away, outside the sight and hearing of the president. Bursey refused. He was then arrested and charged with trespassing by the South Carolina police....However, those charges were dropped. Understandably, courts across the nation have upheld the right to protest on public property....Instead, Bursey was indicted by the federal government for violation of a federal law that allows the Secret Service to restrict access to areas visited by the president. Bursey faces up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine." [2]
  • "Protesters at this summer's Democratic National Convention in Boston may be confined to a cozy triangle of land off Haymarket Square, blocked off from the FleetCenter and convention delegates by a maze of Central Artery service roads, MBTA train tracks, and a temporary parking lot holding scores of buses and media trucks....Under a preliminary plan floated by convention organizers, the "free-speech zone" would be a small plot bounded by Green Line tracks and North Washington Street, in an area that until recently was given over to the elevated artery. The zone would hold as few as 400 of the several thousand protesters who are expected in Boston in late July." [3]

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