This notion should baffle the American-patriot’s mind. Why would I need to fear the police when I am in public spaces, lawfully exercising my American rights to freedom of speech and assembly? How could my perceptions of country and freedom have been so wrong? Why should I fear those who are meant to serve and protect me?
The police and government are cracking down on dissent all across the country. On November 17th, I was arrested and I hadn’t broken a single law. I simply spoke out against my government in a peaceful and public gathering. The NYPD detained me for being part of OWS, in America, where we are supposed to have freedom of speech and assembly. Over the last decade, we have sat by as our government has stripped our rights away.
On New Years Eve, President Obama cowardly signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) when he knew most Americans would be busy celebrating the coming new year. I emailed the White House several times asking why this bill was not listed under pending legislation only to receive a generic response about Obama’s defense strategy. As I write this blog, NDAA is not posted on the White House site under signed legislation. When the President signs a bill purposefully, when the people are not watching, what does that tell us about the bill and about him as a leader? And this from the man who campaigned on transparency. As Obama swiped his presidential pen across the NDAA he wipe away even more of our constitutional rights. This bill codifies indefinite detention of American citizens who were “a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners” by the military “without trial until the end of hostilities” in the War on Terror.
Now you may feel certain that you or I are unattached to “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States” however, media pundits have already tried to align protesters with terrorists. Furthermore, it would behoove you to know that what appeared to be a leaked memo shows London Police have already aligned the Occupy Movement with terrorism. As far as we know, neither the NYPD nor the US government has done the same, but… we don’t know. The FBI has targeted activist as terrorists (maybe in part to justify a the terrorism budget), so the connection of OWS protests to terrorism is not farfetched.
Historically, the US government has not been above robbing its own people of their liberty. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order that allowed the US military to detain tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese heritage. While a drastic measure, this was less extreme than signing indefinite detention into law. The Internal Security Act of 1950 and the witch-hunting of the Red Scare obliterated civil liberties in America. In the 1960s, the FBI targeted the Black Panther Party, who militantly spoke against the US imperialist establishment, as the greatest threat to internal national security. They also targeted Martin Luther King Jr. who spoke of peace and used nonviolent resistance. In September 2002, US officials deported Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, in an example of extraordinary rendition, to Syria where he claims he was interrogated and tortured for almost a year. One thing seems certain: it is not beyond the US government to use vague laws and fear to crush dissent by obliterating civil liberties.
Whether the military detains innocent Americans citizens is not the only issue. It will do well all lovers of freedom and justice to consider the impacts of simply passing a law that gives the government that power. When people fear their government, they hesitate to speak out against it. For governments to control people, they do not always have to crush dissent with an iron fist; in many cases all the government has to do is make people afraid to speak out. The power shift itself is an affront on American freedom.
I love my family and friends for their concerns. I call on them and everyone to stand up for justice. I know that when they say “be careful” they don’t mean I shouldn’t protest. However, if being “careful” in the current swarm of government disenfranchisement, police brutality, and oppression of freedom means not expressing my opinion, voice, and beliefs to the fullest extent, then I refuse to “be careful.” I love my family and country too much to hold back. I choose, instead, to be care full. As our freedom dwindles, and oppression perseveres, I will remain hopeful. However, I shall bid farewell and offer the advice of my family and friends to that, which needs it most, and simply say “Goodbye freedom. Please be careful. You are under a much bigger threat than I”.