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Feeling the Chill

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September 3, 2008

The blogging from the Republican National Convention has been excellent. Glenn Greenwald has been providing extensive coverage for Salon, as has Lindsay Beyerstein for Firedoglake, to name a few.

Today Glenn wrote about the revelation today that the FBI had been working with the Ramsey Country sheriff’s department to raid houses of suspected “anarchists” on Sunday, which resulted in the seizing of several boxes of literature. The ACLU of Minnesota sued for the release of that literature over the weekend, and will seek an emergency appeal after losing an initial motion.

The federal government’s role in these local events is no surprise: since 2006, the ACLU and its affiliates have filed several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information on the Pentagon’s surveillance of anti-war groups. Just last month, the ACLU of Maryland released documents it had obtained through a Public Information Act lawsuit for the release of information related to the surveillance of local peace groups and anti-death penalty activists. Last year we released a report about the documents that resulted from our FOIA requests and profiles a few of the people who were targeted by the Pentagon.

As Glenn points out today, this kind of federal-level surveillance and subsequent raids have a chilling effect on free speech and protest, both of which are supposed to be protected under the First Amendment. He contrasts the lack of outrage over this abuse of government power with the huge outcry against the Chinese government for squelching free speech and protest during the Olympics:

[H]ow is our own Government’s behavior in Minnesota any different than what the Chinese did to its protesters during the Olympics (other than the fact that we actually have a Constitution that prohibits such behavior)? And where are all the self-righteous Freedom Crusaders in our nation’s establishment organs who were so flamboyantly criticizing the actions of a Government on the other side of the globe as our own Government engages in the same tyrannical, protest-squelching conduct with exactly the same motives?

In Minnesota, hundreds of innocent people are being swept up in mass arrests for simply exercising their right to express dissent. That’s not something that is supposed to happen in this country. Where’s the outcry over how protestors are being treated here at home?

The silence is deafening.