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Dan Johnson

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DNC Rules Raise Danger for Protesters

Posted: 09/05/2012 5:58 pm

With the RNC completed, it's time for the Democratic National Convention to take center stage. And take center stage it will. With appearances from John Kerry, Bill Clinton, Julian Castro and the president himself, the DNC is set to be quite the event. But the DNC will also make news in another way -- the quasi-police state set up around its perimeter. Since 9/11, many national events and conventions have placed restrictions on certain actions within the event area. The 2012 RNC, for example, banned sticks, strings and masks from the convention area, while the banned list for the 2008 RNC convention looks like a TSA do-not-bring list.

Ordinances adopted by the Charlotte City Council for this year's DNC prohibit even "a container or object of sufficient weight to be used as a projectile," which could include anything from an orange to a bottle of water. These vague terms have many civil liberties advocates like me extremely concerned. If there is the potential to arrest someone for having a container, there is nothing stopping local authorities from using a "stop and frisk" policy to search and arrest protesters who disagree with the message being presented.

As Russia Today noted: "people in Charlotte could face arrest for carrying water bottles, socks, markers, and other seemingly unthreatening items."

Secondly, there is a good possibility that "free speech zones," declared constitutional by an appeals court last month, will be utilized at the DNC this year. These free speech zones were used at the 2012 RNC and "caged" free speech zones were used at the Democratic National Convention of 2008. These zones undermine the very foundation of our Constitution, which was built on free speech. And since these zones have been used in conventions and events previously, it has heightened fears they will be used at this year's upcoming convention.

Thirdly, at least 55 TSA officers will be present at the convention and surrounding area as well as the Secret Service.

As WSOCTV reported: "The TSA said another 55 other officers will help the Secret Service with screening at Time Warner Cable Arena, the Convention Center and Bank of America stadium."

Both agencies are known for detaining suspicious persons without warning, and regularly trampling on Constitutional rights. Back in April, the Secret Service reportedly detained a correspondent from The Daily Tarheel for asking then-presidential-candidate Newt Gingrich the wrong question. Even more recently, the TSA detained and interrogated Congressman Ron Paul and his family while they were leaving from Clearwater, Fla., after the RNC.

Finally, we are seeing the militarization of police across the country, and the impact it will have on those protesting the DNC will be easily felt. Take the 2011 Wheeler Block Party at Western Illinois University, for example. This Wheeler block party is an annual event, and a nearby street had been described by David Letterman as "One of the top party streets in America." During the party last year, WIU officials decided a change was needed and called in the "Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System Mobile Field Force."

Within minutes, the streets went from quiet to chaos. Police dressed in riot gear and armed with tear gas and batons started marching down Wheeler Street, and the party started looking more like the riots in Greece than a college town.

This sounds like a story from a third-world nation, but it happened right here in America. It happened at the NATO Summit in Pittsburgh, Pa. And it could happen again at this year's DNC as the Department of Homeland Security ordered more riot gear for Charlotte Police.

Charlotte, N.C., has many things in store for convention attendees. But between item restrictions, free-speech zones, airport-style security and the militarization of convention police, Charlotte will have many other things in store for those willing to disagree. And the city seems almost poised to land itself in the news for abuses of police power.

 
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