Thursday, February 02, 2006


"I love free speech."

In October 2003, George W. Bush's speech to the Australian Parliament was interrupted twice by senators heckling him (see the official White House transcript, and note the "(audience interruption)" notations, and Speaker Andrew's demands that first Senator Brown and then Senator Nettle be removed from the chamber). After Senator Nettle's interruption, King George responded with a smug, "I love free speech," and a chortle.

The evidence, though, is sometimes to the contrary. Let's look at some examples:

  • In March 2003, Stephen Downs was arrested at the Crossgates Mall near Albany, NY, for wearing a t-shirt that said, "Give Peace a Chance" — a shirt that he had just purchased in the mall, in fact. He was charged with criminal trespass, charges that were eventually dropped.
  • In September 2004, Sue Niederer was arrested at a Bush campaign rally in New Jersey, for shouting "When are yours going to serve?" in response to a portion of Laura Bush's speech about the troops in Iraq. Other rally attendees were apparently allowed to shout "Four more years!" with impunity. She was charged with defiant trespass.
  • Just this Tuesday, Cindy Sheehan was arrested at the US Capitol before the State of the Union address, an event she had a ticket to and was attending legally. Her offense was also the wearing of a t-shirt, this one bearing an unspecified anti-war slogan. She was charged with unlawful conduct.

Yes, George Bush loves free speech. He just doesn't like it when it's used to say things he doesn't agree with. The second and third incidents listed above can be directly blamed on the Cowboy In Chief. The first is representative of the response that law-enforcement officials throughout the country have to his policies and practices, and is perhaps more troubling, in that it demonstrates a systemic problem.

Apart from the first amendment (freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly), using the excuse of "homeland security" he and his policies have also trashed the fourth amendment (unreasonable search and seizure, requirement for warrants), the fifth amendment (requirement for indictment, right to due process), and the sixth amendment (speedy and public trial, right to confront witnesses, assistance of counsel). One might note that the second amendment still appears to be in fine shape, though; the president, after all, has sworn to uphold and protect the constitution.

No comments: