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DISSING AMERICA'S RIGHT TO DISSENT
by Jim Hightower
October 22, 2003

When George W was governor of our state, we Texans learned first hand of a deep, anti-democratic flaw in his make-up: He abhors dissent and is totally dismissive not only of dissenters, but also of the people's right to dissent.

As governor, as presidential candidate, and now as president, Bush's unconscionable (and, I think, unConstitutional) disrespect of our fundamental right to question authority and confront power has surfaced again and again in an alarming "Bush Doctrine of Contained Dissent." What this amouts to is an imperious decision that any and all protestors must literally be corralled -- kept in protest pens well beyond the sight and sound of his eminence... and of the media.

In Texas, Governor Bush's security police suddenly swept down on a group of peaceful picketers who were on the public sidewalk in front of the governor's mansion -- a sidewalk that historically has been the site of protest. At this time, George was launching his presidential run, and he simply didn't want these dissenters to his environmental policies getting between him and the TV cameras and so he had the state police move them to a designated protest zone in a faraway parking lot.

At the Republican presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia in 2000, candidate Bush created a fenced in, out-of-sight protest zone that would only hold a few hundred people at a time. And, as president, his autocratic games continue -- for example, last year at the Columbia, South Carolina, airport, a protester with a "No War for Oil" sign stood in an area where Bush supporters stood. The protester was ordered to move a half-mile away. He refused, so Bush's police arrested him.

This is not America, the Land of the Free, but a new land of Bush autocracy. Four groups have now sued the secret service for systematically shutting out the people's protest. To learn more, call the American Civil Liberties Union in Philadelphia at: 215-923-4357.

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