You have got to be kidding me. According to columnist James Brovard in this SF Chronicle opinion piece, protesters at presidential appearances are being cordoned off in “free speech zones” or “protest zones,” sometimes well away from the actual spot where George W. Bush will be. Meanwhile, people with messages of support are “permitted to line the president’s path.”

When Bush went to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, “The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us.”
The local police, at the Secret Service’s behest, set up a “designated free-speech zone” on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush’s speech. … Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign.
Neel later commented, “As far as I’m concerned, the whole country is a free-speech zone. If the Bush administration has its way, anyone who criticizes them will be out of sight and out of mind.”
At Neel’s trial, police Detective John Ianachione testified that the Secret Service told local police to confine “people that were there making a statement pretty much against the president and his views” in a so-called free- speech area.

“Free speech zone.” Vintage doublespeak. Right up there with the “Clear Skies” initiative [pro | con] and the “U.S.-VISIT” program [DHS | ACLU]. “VISIT” by the way, stands for “Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology,” but I think it’s simply a play on the well-known adage, “It’s a nice place to visit. …”
Like Mr. Neel suggests, if only certain patches of land are free speech zones, what does that make everyplace else? And who decides?

1 Comment

  1. Jed, nice blog… LOL when i read this one. I was in Philly for the 2000 R convention and they did it then. Call it what it is: cordoned-off crowd control to keep the media from reporting on dissent. Nobody to disturb the homey images… Remember Potemkin?

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