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July 28, 2004 12:58 AM   Subscribe

Free Speech Concentration Camp Zone
posted by limitedpie (61 comments total)

 
(via Cynical-C)
posted by limitedpie at 1:10 AM on July 28, 2004


I saw the "freedom cage" on TV and it was, indeed, very very sad.
posted by scarabic at 1:19 AM on July 28, 2004


Before anyone freaks out... yeah, I kinda thought twice about the wording "concentration camp" as well, but really, look at the damn razor wire and snipers. This is freedom of assembly?
posted by scarabic at 1:21 AM on July 28, 2004


I long to visit your country, and taste your Freedom Fries. Mmm, Freedom.
posted by chrid at 1:31 AM on July 28, 2004


Land of the Free (market)! Doesn't matter, protesting often seems counter-productive these days....
posted by Onanist at 1:32 AM on July 28, 2004


I should note, that the phrase "concentration camp" is from the judge who reviewed the "free speech zone." From the text of the link:

The words of Judge Douglas P. Woodlock reviewing the case on July 22, 2004, "I at first thought, before taking a view (of the protest zone), that the characterization of the space being like a concentration camp was litigation hyperbole," he said. "Now I believe it's an understatement."
posted by limitedpie at 1:35 AM on July 28, 2004


on the other hand, it's not mandatory for the protestors to wear orange jumpsuits, so it's not that bad, probably
posted by matteo at 1:50 AM on July 28, 2004


The wording in the article It now reads:

Woodlock said he had initially assumed that activists were exaggerating when they likened the protest zone near Canal Street to an
internment camp. But he said that after touring the area for 90 minutes Wednesday, he concluded that comparison was "an understatement."

posted by euphorb at 1:52 AM on July 28, 2004


Your free speech isn't taken away from you just because you have to scream your protests from the insides of a Siberian salt mine, though.

C'mon. Be reasonable.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:15 AM on July 28, 2004


Blame this on the "protestors" who think fucking the place up and breaking shit, etc. is part of their right to free speech.
posted by Witty at 3:09 AM on July 28, 2004


This has been going on for a couple years now. Almost exclusively for Bush protestors. Now that the right gets a taste of their own "anything for security" medicine, they're blaming the dems?

Hopefully, they'll taste what a beanbag to the face feels like or some tear gas. Or pepper spray applied directly to the eyes. The left has been dealing with this shit for so long and the response from the right and the corporate media has always been apathy or outright disgust that "shaggy protesters who break starbucks windows" could have a valid opinion on free speech.

Where was the outrage two years ago? A year ago?

Concentration camp? Wow, limitedpie, you really know how to devalue a word. Talk about a self-godwin thread.

At least they aren't a third of a fucking mile from the event.
When Bush came 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. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, though folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president’s path. 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.”
http://www.amconmag.com/12_15_03/feature.html

And the message matters too:
"...Brett Bursey, of South Carolina, attended a speech given by the president [George W. Bush] at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. He was standing among thousands of other citizens. Bursey held up a sign stating: 'No more war for oil.' ...Bursey did not pose a threat to the president, nor was he located in an area restricted to official personnel. Bursey wasn't blocking a corridor the Secret Service needed to keep clear for security reasons. He was standing among citizens who were enthusiastically greeting Bush. Bursey, however, was the only one holding an anti-Bush sign....He was ordered to put down his sign or move to a designated protest site more than half a mile away, outside the sight and hearing of the president. Bursey refused. He was then arrested and charged with trespassing by the South Carolina police....However, those charges were dropped. Understandably, courts across the nation have upheld the right to protest on public property....Instead, Bursey was indicted by the federal government for violation of a federal law that allows the Secret Service to restrict access to areas visited by the president. Bursey faces up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine." [2]
http://www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.phtml?title=Free_speech_zone

These guys in Boston have it easy. Its no excuse but I doubt some double-standardized cries of oppression are going to change anything when the GOP uses the politics of fear on a daily basis to keep these people against Kerry/Edwards. If anything its a pathetic attack on the dems. I find it hard to see it as anything else because these people and the media have been silent on the issue for so long, but when the dems throw their convention suddenly we're all up in faux-outrage.
posted by skallas at 3:14 AM on July 28, 2004


Heh, I thought it was the Dems trying to confine the extreme left protesters, which did sound weird but it didn't occur to me that they might be right-wingers - if that is the case, I say give 'em a taste of their own medicine!
posted by Onanist at 3:27 AM on July 28, 2004


If you truly believe the zone is like a concentration camp then I suggest you visit the Holocaust Museum in DC or talk to any survivor of the camps or read a book or two....just for openers, you can leave this zone and go home. In a camp, touching the fence would electrocurte you.
posted by Postroad at 3:36 AM on July 28, 2004


matteo ... it might be a good idea for the protestors to wear orange jumpsuits ... think how that will look ... but to whom? ... sigh

the democratic party is awfully quiet about this aren't they?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:32 AM on July 28, 2004


How do you balance freedom of assembly and freedom of speech with the need to complete the convention as part of the democratic process in America? Imagine, if you will, a repeat of the Seattle '99 WTO protests. Instead of disrupting the WTO meetings from completing, the protests prevented the Democratic national convention from completing. Would we be happier as a nation if the political parties were able to nominate candidates legally and publicly or would we be happier if protesters prevented the conventions from completing and the candidates we choosen behind closed doors by a few? I'll take the former, but compromise is needed to ensure it.

The razor wire might be a bit much, but allowing protesters to roam the grounds freely would be a bit much as well. I don't think our nation would be better served by the potential for a second chicago 68.
posted by kurtosis at 4:36 AM on July 28, 2004


“As far as I’m concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone.

Argue semantics if you want but this statement is everything that needs said.

Blame this on the "protestors" who think fucking the place up and breaking shit, etc. is part of their right to free speech.
posted by Witty at 3:09 AM PST on July 28


And what does that have to do with law abiding citizens who wish to peacefully protest? Arrest the vandals but vandals are no excuste to take my Constitutional rights. I think we've heard the same argument before. Now where and when was that? Oh, yeah! Civil rights protests in the South!
posted by nofundy at 4:48 AM on July 28, 2004


kurtosis, you're under the assumption that protesters are going to willfully submit to this crap. If they want to riot, they'll riot. If they want to disrupt the DNC, they will. If you think they'll all walk single file into this prison crap that's been set up for them, you're painfully mistaken.
posted by banished at 4:55 AM on July 28, 2004


We're also talking about groups aligned with and support doctor killers and abortion clinic bombings. I'm dont know anything about how to secure a convention in a major city, but at least they aren't HALF A MILE from the event like the Bush people have been doing with their "protect the president (that includes dissent) at any cost" and "9/11 changed everything" approach. Like I said, the Boston protestors have it easy. They are within view, getting media attention, etc. That's a dozen steps up compared to what lefties have been dealing with in the past couple of years.

It looks like a lesser of two evils argument, and the dems are the lesser in this case. Obviously, security is a big deal right now. Killing dissent with 'free speech zones' half a mile away is just unacceptable. Adjacanet to the event and frree from police brutality doesnt sound so bad now does it?
posted by skallas at 5:03 AM on July 28, 2004


kurtosis: Maybe Bush can take a cue from Dick Nixon and use violent protest to score political points. See: "We shall have order in the United States."
posted by PrinceValium at 5:16 AM on July 28, 2004


Ho hum... yaaaaawwwnnn.

Where are the protesters from Seattle's WTO summit? Now those people knew how to protest!

I think protesting these events is irrelevant. Neither party gives a shit about what you have to say, unless of course, you are waving your checkbook !!
posted by a3matrix at 5:52 AM on July 28, 2004


It's just further proof of the PR ineptitude of the Dems--take a page from the "cynical manipulation" playbook that the Republicans have mastered, and totally mess it up.

If anyone on the left had a clue how to represent themselves attractively--not even being underhanded, just avoiding stupid screw-ups like this--November would be a foregone conclusion.
posted by LairBob at 5:54 AM on July 28, 2004


What's the surprise? Democrats are the party of banning violent video games and two live crew.

Democrats: censoring what they don't like since lord knows when.

But it's ok, says some MeFites - they're just stiffling dissent, not shutting up the people who have things to say that matter.

(Don't believe me? Ask Onanist)

Welcome the new boss, same as the old boss!
posted by swerdloff at 6:01 AM on July 28, 2004


I think protesting these events is irrelevant. Neither party gives a shit about what you have to say, unless of course, you are waving your checkbook !!

Said tongue-in-cheek, but I can't help feeling this is the fundamental reason why people are protesting in the first place.
posted by salmacis at 6:05 AM on July 28, 2004


Err Skallas - It seems the original link used the words 'concentration camp'.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:14 AM on July 28, 2004


Two points: First, I don't think the majority of protesters are right-winger types. From what I understand, there's a healthy dose of Lyndon LaRuche and left-of-left types.

Second, NPR did a piece the other night indicating that the protests had been far less than expected, and that people were being allowed to protest outside of the designated area -- including to within arms length of the delegates entering the Fleet Center.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:23 AM on July 28, 2004


We both heard the same show, pardonyou?.
posted by tenseone at 6:55 AM on July 28, 2004


I noodled around a bit for a link to the show, but I have found myself lacking the requisite memory of within which program the report was made.
posted by tenseone at 6:59 AM on July 28, 2004


Now that the right gets a taste of their own "anything for security" medicine, they're blaming the dems? [...] Hopefully, they'll taste what a beanbag to the face feels like or some tear gas. Or pepper spray applied directly to the eyes. [...] Where was the outrage two years ago? A year ago?

skallas (and swerdloff): I am probably naive. It *never* occured to me as I posted this that this could be seen as having a conservative slant! To me (a very liberal, proud member of the ACLU) the problem is with the restriction, not with the location. To me, that it was happening at the Dems convention was irrelevant. And I not only was outraged about this years ago, I am still outraged about it. I posted this because the pictures are worth a thousand words-- to see photos of the cage made visceral how wrong it is, left or right. It just hits in the gut when you see it versus reading about it.

Regarding the "concentration camp" phrase, this came from the actual link (and the judge reviewing the "zone",) which I clarified in a comment within an hour of the original post. I should have put it in quotes, my bad. Having said that, I actually regret using it all after reading Postroad's comment-- its true meaning is too horrible, sad and tragic to invoke it for mere political outrage.

Kurtosis and Witty: Wow. Are you proposing we have to destroy the village to save it? Is your position, 'Lets save liberty from these vile protesters by getting rid of it!'? Or: What nofundy said better.

a3matrix: I think it matters because of the media coverage of these events. When Bush protesters (for example) are swept from the event, the impression 100 million viewers get is that everyone is on board.
posted by limitedpie at 7:09 AM on July 28, 2004


Concentration camp? Wow, limitedpie, you really know how to devalue a word. Talk about a self-godwin thread.

Adding to the perspective on this phrase: Prior to the end of WW-II, "concentration camp" was not synonymous with either "gulag" or "death camp." What are now nigh-universally described as "internment camps" for Japanese-Americans were at the time interchangeably referred to as "concentration camps."

The euphemism has a particularly germanic ring to it, to my ear -- the idea is that you gain efficiencies by "concentrating" the forced-laborers into a larger camp -- but it could have come from anywhere. I know the term was used (in the west) to describe Soviet labor camps during the 1930s, and I've heard it used in military histories from as late as the 1960s to generically describe mass-internment facilities.

That said, it does have a particular ring to it that seems to me clearly counter-productive. We are lacking some good rhetorical devices to describe these things. Lesser terms, like "internment facility" or "Restricted Speech Zone" would probably be more effective, since they lack the automatic association. Also coming to mind: "[Zones / Cones] of Silence", "[Thought / Meme / Truth]-Quarrantine Areas"... I'm sure people can suggest others.
posted by lodurr at 7:36 AM on July 28, 2004


...people were being allowed to protest outside of the designated area -- including to within arms length of the delegates entering the Fleet Center.

It will be interesting to see if people are allowed to protest to within arms length of Republican delegates.

It's true, it doesn't matter in principle if these tactics are applied to liberals or conservatives, they're reprehensible. But they become a particularly potent weapon when they're applied selectively to enforce the status quo.
posted by lodurr at 7:40 AM on July 28, 2004


These cages are a disgrace - what sane person would voluntarily enter one? It's not only humiliating but potentially dangerous.

It would only take one or two nutballs - either from the protesters or the cops - to begin trouble, and protesters would be trapped and at great risk with such limited egress. Panic and trampling could ensue.

Nor do I care who the protesters are - right or left. When rights are abridged, it diminishes us all. Democracy gets messy sometimes - we have to find sane ways to accommodate dissent.

I very much wish the dems could have shown leadership in this area.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:49 AM on July 28, 2004 [1 favorite]


It's a shame that nobody's making use of the cage, though. Think of how compelling and poignant the images would be if there were a lone protester, holding up their sign, in the middle of the cage.

Heck, make a mockery of it. Set up a little booth or table where a protester's picture can be taken in the cage. On the way out, hand 'em the print and a button with their image and the words, "I protested at the DNC!"

Of course at the same time, I can't help but thinking that we should let the deathmatches begin. Toss in Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly... Let the games begin!
posted by warhol at 7:50 AM on July 28, 2004


tenseone, here's the link, and here's npr's summary:

July 27, 2004 -- Protestors at this week's Democratic Convention have decided not to use the designated space -- better known as the "cage" -- for their actions. Instead, many are lining the path into the convention hall, singing, chanting and shouting their messages to the delegates entering the hall.

The zone designated by officials for free-speech protests has largely become a site for the curious, left.

NPR's Robert Smith reports that the messages from the protestors are varied, bizarre and aimed at getting as much attention as possible.

posted by pardonyou? at 7:55 AM on July 28, 2004


Second, NPR did a piece the other night indicating that the protests had been far less than expected, and that people were being allowed to protest outside of the designated area -- including to within arms length of the delegates entering the Fleet Center.

yeah, living in Boston, I can tell you that the only folks who are actually in the "Free Speech Zone" are chumps or folks who are subverting the idea to make a point about free speech. With that said, it's also a misnomer to believe that the only folks who are protesting the DNC are "right-wingers who deserve to be penned in" (mmmm ... smell the hypocrisy ... taste the double standard ... rejoice in being no better than your enemy)

The Boston Globe has a handy rundown of all of the 'official' protest events surrounding the DNC, and participants include antiwar activists who oppose Kerry's continued support for involvement in Iraq as well as anarchist groups who are opposed to the two party system.

I'd also say that I'm pleasantly surprised with the demeanour of the most prolific anarchist crew, the Black Tea Society, who run counter to the vandal impression that Witty's continues to harp on. Instead, Black Tea has been organizing picnics and local bazaars, managing logistics for visiting protest groups and encouraging non-violent direct action. Might not agree with their message, but the kids know how to mobilise, and they bake some decent cookies.
posted by bl1nk at 7:58 AM on July 28, 2004


would we be happier if protesters prevented the conventions from completing and the candidates we choosen behind closed doors by a few?

Wait, aren't candidates already chosen behind closed doors by a few party insiders?
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:11 AM on July 28, 2004


Bravo: remarkable manipulation of semantics. Together, we can obscure, minimize and denigrate the horrid associations of “concentration camp”. Gold stars for everyone!
posted by naxosaxur at 8:16 AM on July 28, 2004


The cages are a disgrace. While I support the right to protest however, I also feel that any protest that would interfere with the delegates getting their work done is an assault on the democratic process and shouldn't be tolerated by anyone, regardless of where you find yourself on the political spectrum.
And I don't care if a judge used the concentration camp reference, it's just wrong.
posted by 2sheets at 9:15 AM on July 28, 2004


... obscure, minimize and denigrate the horrid associations of “concentration camp”.

My, that was clever.
posted by lodurr at 9:19 AM on July 28, 2004


My comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Knew I should have put that damn emoticon in.
posted by Onanist at 9:30 AM on July 28, 2004


Blame this on the "protestors" who think fucking the place up and breaking shit, etc. is part of their right to free speech.

Yeah, it sucks how we all had to relinquish our free speech rights cuz that one guy shouted "fire" in a crowded theater....
posted by rushmc at 9:49 AM on July 28, 2004


"Blame this on the "protestors" who think fucking the place up and breaking shit, etc. is part of their right to free speech." - I assume you're referring those police in riot gear who bash in the heads of peaceful citizens who are trying to exercise their democratic rights ?
posted by troutfishing at 9:56 AM on July 28, 2004


The euphemism has a particularly germanic ring to it, to my ear...I know the term was used (in the west) to describe Soviet labor camps during the 1930s, and I've heard it used in military histories from as late as the 1960s to generically describe mass-internment facilities.

"The term 'concentration camp' was first used by the British military during the Boer War (1899-1902)." -- From an interesting Wikipedia article.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:00 AM on July 28, 2004


Hopefully, they'll taste what a beanbag to the face feels like or some tear gas. Or pepper spray applied directly to the eyes.

Yeah, that'd totally rawk! More violence will always fix a problem!
posted by Stauf at 10:12 AM on July 28, 2004


What upsets me about it being at the Dem convention is that I would expect Democrats to come out and say "NO! Not in our name!" rather than to just walk by the pen.

That the Republicans want the area around them purified is no great surprise...but for the party that theoretically represents populism to allow this travesty of constitutional rights...in the town of *Boston* for Ghad's sake...well, that's just wrong.

If I hadn't already resigned my position in the party...this would have surely pushed me over the edge.
posted by dejah420 at 10:29 AM on July 28, 2004


Since protesters weren't limited to standing in the cages, I see this as being way overblown.

But at the same time I attended a protest in Los Angeles where the SWAT team hurded everyone into a smaller area than was reasonable and then spent an hour videotaping the crowd. Which, IMHO, is total bullshit.

Of the (admittedly few) protests I've attended in the last few years I've found that the regular police are very reasonable, and even helpful, but the other security folk can be way too draconian.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:35 AM on July 28, 2004


Couple of things here's a post I made from Sept 2003 about free speech zones. It's been used fairly regularly by both sides, and surprisingly enough I still haven't found a case of it being used before Gore created one in 2000 at Columbia.

I wish both sides would denounce "free speech zones", but noone's interested in actually listening to the other side. Political discourse is as dead in America as it is on Metafilter.
posted by betaray at 10:59 AM on July 28, 2004


Meanwhile, in Texas: For the next round of protests, the DPS has new toys
posted by homunculus at 11:02 AM on July 28, 2004


betaray - nothing like good 'ol liberal repression.....except a little skull-cracking and high voltage shocks thrown in for yucks.

But why all the fuss anyway ?

We have our voting rights. That's where it really counts, at the voting booth.
posted by troutfishing at 11:11 AM on July 28, 2004


We have our voting rights. That's where it really counts, at the voting booth

ironically, it took head bashing and Ben Franklin to get those voting rights.
posted by clavdivs at 11:33 AM on July 28, 2004


I am thinking that if you have a message contrary to whatever is going on around you, you may well be better off not protesting in person.

Buy a billboard. Send a mass mailer. Write letters to your local newspaper and/or elected officials. Blog your message. Heck, spam your message, your message will be heard by more people than the message of those who entered [twilight_zone_music] The Ironically Named Free Speech Zone.


(ilsa does not now nor has she ever endorsed the use of spam for political purposes)

Curious, too, that Ann Coulter refered to it (see yesterday's links) as the "Truth Free Zone" outside the "Spawn of Satan Convention." Apparently she reviles them both.
posted by ilsa at 11:51 AM on July 28, 2004


Greetings from Lockdown City
posted by homunculus at 12:22 PM on July 28, 2004


surprisingly enough I still haven't found a case of it being used before Gore created one in 2000 at Columbia.

There was a similar free speech zone at the DNC in Chicago 96.
posted by thirteen at 12:31 PM on July 28, 2004


from wikipedia:

A concentration camp is a large detention centre for political opponents, specific ethnic or religious groups, or other groups of people.

i think that's a definition most rational people would agree on.

so ... all you whiners, STFU. the Free Speech Zone is *exactly* what a concentration camp is. put all the troublemakers in one place so that they can be controlled.

just b/c some of you equate concentration camps to Nazi death camps doesn't make this attribution incorrect.

and the fact that it's not being strictly enforced doesn't make it any less embarrasing for the Democratic Party.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:46 PM on July 28, 2004


so ... all you whiners, STFU.

Yeah, STFU, you whiners! This is all about, um, free speech and stuff.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:56 PM on July 28, 2004


yeah! no one who disagrees with me deserves free speech!
posted by mrgrimm at 3:02 PM on July 28, 2004


I vote we agree to call it the happy fun zone. Okay?
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:37 PM on July 28, 2004


the Free Speech Zone is *exactly* what a concentration camp is.

No. It's not. A concentration camp is a place where people are placed after they're yanked out of their daily lives and FORCED to stay there. Protesters can come and go as they please.
posted by dhoyt at 4:12 PM on July 28, 2004


>Protesters can come and go as they please.

No they can't.

If a protester leaves the concentration camp, they're no longer a protester, are they? Well, that is, they're not protesters unless they want to go to jail.

As long as someone wants to be a protester, they'll be in the concentration camp.

I'm willing to bet that if a Japanese Canadian renounced their ties to Japan seriously enough when Canada put them in Concentration Camps, they might be let out, too. As long as they weren't Japanese on the outside. The minute they'd mention their Japanese heritage again, back in the slammer you go.

Oh, by the way, you'll notice that Canada made and named their Concentration Camps after WWII broke out, and they weren't anywhere near as harsh as the Nazi ones. So that puts the kibosh on the idea that a Concentration Camp *has* to be a Death Camp.

(Bet you didn't know that about Canada, did you?)
posted by shepd at 2:29 AM on July 29, 2004


shepd: I'm with you on the definition, and I think the judge was with you, too. That's why he was able to say they were "worse". (BTW, I don't know that I agree with that; I can reverse-engineer some rationales, but "worse" was a bit much, I think.)

That said, and as I said, I think "concentration camp" is not a good term to fasten on. Its associations are too extreme, and the extreme associations make it essentially linguistic white-space that people fill in with whatever they want.

And, incidentally, one of those "whatever they wants" that rightists will fill in is "whackjob liberals crying 'Hitler'".

So I think we need to practice a little creative Lakoffism (Hoffmanism?) and create our own terminology.

BTW: I haven't spent a ton of time in Canada, but the little I have -- it doesn't surprise me. We have a tendency, some of us, to see Canada as a land of sweet alternative liberal-minded freedom, forgetting that it's historically been much less ethnically diverse and has fewer baked-in civil liberties protections than the US. Walking around on the streets for a while, hanging in bars and coffee shops, I tuned in pretty quick to the fact that Canada seems to be run primarily by people who don't like to scare the horses. Prostitution may be legal; but we dare not speak of it in polite company. There may be a dozen sex shops in this block, but the sidewalks are clean. We may be losing a dozen hookers a year to an unrecognized serial killer, but... the sidewalks are clean.

No offense intended. Just my take. I could find similar things to say about the US. We all could.
posted by lodurr at 5:51 AM on July 29, 2004


The curious saga of the Boston FBI's 'unconfirmed reports' of a right-wing threat to the media
posted by homunculus at 3:30 PM on July 30, 2004


Boston Police to Retain New Search and Surveillance Powers
posted by homunculus at 4:12 PM on July 30, 2004


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