Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Right of Peaceful Assembly

Hat tip to SouthsideDem at Daily Kos for this piece that details the police breaking up a war protest. There are two videos from YouTube showing what appear to be peaceful war protesters singing an old John Lennon tune. Then shots ring out and teargas begins to cloud up. The police broke up the demonstration with teargas and rubber bullets.

Over on Kos, one of the posters opined that the state has a plan to provoke this kind of thing. To me that sound like a bit of a conspiracy theory that won't work. But there is no denying the evidence of the videos. Pretty surreal as the camera guy backs out of the fog and you see darkened cops coming in to latch onto hapless protesters. There is a girl, obviously gassed (no not that kind of gassed) trying to clear the effects with water.

Of course there is always another side to the story. The police arrested three people. The next day the charges were dropped. The link to the story is at the bottom of the page. I'm afraid that the videos trump the police story. IF only three protesters were getting rowdy or breaking the law, why gas the lot of them?

This blog isn't about current news so much as using the news to assist in driving home a point or two in the political realm. For starters, video of things like this will be covered far more often since it falls into the "IF it bleeds, It leads" mentality of the media. The camera is double edged. I am a law and order type of guy and I didn't like what I saw the police doing in the videos. So, it has the effect of making a psychological statement without presenting the rest of the facts. Am I the only one who realises that sentence can apply to virtually any marketing strategy up to and including the presidential race?

From the second link: Emphasis added.
But Tacoma Police say what you don't see in the video is that just before the tear gas canisters were fired, some demonstrators had started to throw barricades at officers, and the crowd was told to disperse.

"A large number of protesters started to cause a disturbance. They picked up some of these sawhorses and started throwing them in the direction of officers, and then started sitting down to blockade the street." said Det. Brad Graham. "At that point officers had to move in and disperse the crowd."

Throwing sawhorses certainly isn't what I'd call peaceful and non-violent. I have to wonder how many cops were there and how they were arrayed. Could they have isolated the violent protesters and simply monitored the rest? Pundits and Critics alike will second guess this until hell freezes over. I've been in situations where you have to make a decision under stress, RightFreakingNow. When it is over you have to wonder if it was you, or your training that made the call. Right now, based only on the kos entry, the two videos, and the two stories linked below, I have to conclude that I think the cops mishandled the situation. Just like the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines: Cops are (and should be) held to a higher standard of conduct on the job.

Freedom to assemble and protest in this country is sacred. It is what allows a person who is so frustrated, enraged, fed up, or just plain mad to get thier point out in the open without resorting to a truck load of fertilizer. I don't agree with a lot of protesters. In fact, before my retirement from the Marine Corps, I used to remind my Marines that beating up protesters was verboten. I told them that we, Marines, exist to ensure that protesters have the right to peacefully assemble. So even if you don't like the message, thou shalt not boot stomp the messenger.

As I said, I am a law and order guy. I am that way because order is better than chaos. I am that way because without law predators will go unchecked. Without law, there is only anarchy and the rule of strength. I am also that way because my country has crafted laws to ensure that opposing voices can be heard without breaking the law. The final link below is an oped from an "Anarchist" purporting to be with the "liberals" who protested. I wonder if he or his people had anything to do with tossing sawhorses around.

I don't believe we are anywhere near being a police state. If I did, then my second amendment rights would come into play. IF I did, those bullets would have been lead instead of rubber and the gas would have been a blister agent. If I did, there would have been far more than three arrested and then released.

The last question I have is directed to the cops. Where is your video? Patrol cars routinely carry them. If I am deploying riot cops I would damn sure have a camera(s) focused on the action. Obviously the other side did. IF any reader finds a video from the cops side, please email me. I would love to see it.

Activists bring war protest to Port of Tacoma

Video camera rolls as war protesters clash with Tacoma Police
Plea For Radical Presence at Port of Tacoma on Friday


  1. In paragraph 2 the anarchist talks about spontaneity, but has "action" all planned out. He has his agenda. I am seeing him as one who thrives on the adrenalin rush of bloodsmell, as long as he can ensure that it is the "liberal's" blood, and not his...

    I went and I participated in an anti-Bush protest in Stockton, CA some years ago and it was peaceful, and mostly quiet. There were signs, and people made a few chants. Then there were the media types who wrote that we were all interstate traveling well-funded professional protestors who did that for a living. Totally not true, though there were about half a dozen weird and over the top types, ones that I believe were that sort. I was embarassed enough by one "little miss anarchist," the one with a very large dildo thing strapped to her head, and an "enhanced" appendage at that, that I moved myself and my then twelve year old son away from that section. I was serious in my reasons for being there, and I thought that she was an idiot giving us all a bad image......

    I think sometimes we are not taken seriously because we are all painted by the same brush as the real crazies, when the crazies are more about personal attention than anything else. What too many do not ket is that by looking as mainstream as possible, we are taken more seriously.

    We can be dismissed more easily because of the crazies. If ten thousand are there and making their dignified protest, and there are ten anarchists throwing things, that violence gets filmed by media, and people who were not present there actually believe that the ten thousand rioted!

    I am into free speech, totally, but not at all for violent behavior. The violent ones are the cause of police having that us v. them mentality, and it strips away their capacity to react reasonably in what should be a reasonable situation.

  2. Notice how the LA Protests on 1 May garnered the same attention? I do think that there are small groups of folks deliberatly inciting to riot if possible. It's too bad, because one day the bullets will be real because a sweating, overworked, stressed out cop is going to think he sees a gun or a bomb.