Statement - Caitlin Childs, Target of Illegal Spying

Many people express shock upon learning that I have been the subject of surveillance by Homeland Security. What could I have possibly done that would make government officials see me as a threat to national security, they ask. The answer? I joined a peaceful protest on public property outside the Honey Baked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County, Georgia. I was arrested after that protest for taking down the license plate number of the car belonging to the homeland security agent who had been photographing us all day.

I wish I could say being spied on and arrested by homeland security came as a shock to me, but unfortunately it did not. As an activist and an organizer for animal rights for the past eight years, being spied on, harassed and falsely arrested is something that I have come to expect.

I don't think that the public really understands what happens to innocent people who exercise their right to protest. No government ever likes dissent, but the Bush administration has escalated domestic spying and further limited free speech rights - all under the guise of "national security." For evidence, one has to look no further than the advent of "free-speech zones" and protest pens that keep the face of dissent far away from the main event, or the mass arrests in New York during the Republic National Convention. This crackdown on protest has a serious chilling effect on dissent. You can bet some people are going to think twice before going out to protest if they fear they'll end up in jail.

This is not democracy.

I refuse to live in fear of what could happen for speaking out and fighting for the things in which I believe. We learn as young children that freedom of speech is a fundamental right guaranteed in America. The government officials currently in power seem to have forgotten that important lesson.

In many ways, it is a compliment to me that homeland security would be interested in my activities -- if they are paying attention I must be doing something right! I will continue to be an activist, to speak out for animals, for social justice and against government repression. It is vital that we refuse to be bullied or scared into submission and inaction. We must hold our government accountable for its abuse of power and disregard for the Constitution.

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