Ah, it’s almost August — time for another quadrennial flowering of America’s glorious democratic process, otherwise known as the presidential nominating conventions!
This grand testimonial of our citizens’ rights and liberties will begin with the Republicans in Tampa, Fla. Flags are being mounted, majestic music is arranged, uplifting speeches are being scripted — and, as has now become normal for these spectacles of democracy-in-action, heavily armed police repression of our cherished First Amendment rights is being ordered.
Of course, the delegates, candidates, lobbyists and billionaire funders inside the GOP’s convention bunker will be perfectly free (as they should be) to gild the promises and lies that will frame their presidential campaign. They will not be bothered by the riot-geared police authorities deployed around Tampa. However, any citizens who come to practice the hallowed freedoms of public assembly and speech can expect to be welcomed by a thoroughly un-American, weeklong police state.
In May, at the behest of national Republican officials, Tampa’s mayor and council passed a temporary ordinance to suspend our First Amendment and authorize a crackdown on protestors. Warning ominously that a few vandals might get out of control, the ordinance tries to force all citizen demonstrations into a few restricted parade routes and what amounts to “protest pens.” Pre-emptive detainments, indiscriminate mass arrests and police infiltrations of peaceful protest groups can be expected. Ironically, that’s the kind of autocratic excess that led to the American Revolution itself.
The city’s top lawyer recently barked that “troublemakers … will not be tolerated.” But the real troublemakers are those inside the hall — and inside a police system that’s being used to stomp on the very freedoms that America is supposed to embrace and encourage.