Weekend Roundup: Civil Liberties Out the Window

Two stories about people whose civil liberties were not just infringed upon but totally ignored in the past few weeks. No surprise this came as they protested(or didn't protest) Republican events. First, a woman was dragged out and arrested after she protested in a Laura Bush campaign stop in New Jersey:

During Bush's salute to the men and women in Iraq, Sue Sapir Niederer, of Hopewell, N.J., was pulled outside the firehouse after she staged a war protest. Sapir Niederer's son, Army 1st Lt. Seth Dvorin, 24, was killed in Iraq. He died in February while trying to disarm a bomb. Niederer was wearing a T-shirt with the words "President Bush You Killed My Son".

As shouts of "Four More Years" subsided, Sapir Niederer, standing in the middle of the crowd of about 700, continued to shout about the killing of her son. Secret Service and local police escorted her out of the event, handcuffed her and placed her in the back of a police van.

"Excuse me, what are you charging me with," Sapir Niederer repeated to officers as they arrested her.

Sapir Niederer was charged with defiant trespassing, even though she had a ticket to the rally.

As the first lady continued speaking, several people shouted back at Sapir Niederer. One woman yelled, "Your son chose to fight in that war."

How insensitive are these people the let into Republican rallies? First of all, trying to drown her out with changes of "four more years," then that no-class idiot who said her son "chose to fight" in the war? Correct me if I'm wrong, but most people, unless they just now joined up, didn't get into the army to go to Iraq and die. The joined to get college educations, to get life-skills and a number of other reasons. They don't join so they can go overseas and kill thousands of people, criminals and innocents alike.

Moving on to a story that I think deserves more recognition, here's an story of what really happened in NYC, during the RNC, to "protestors":

Summer Starr, a graduate student in political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, was among 1,821 people arrested during the convention last week.

According to reports, New York police allegedly corralled people who were walking down the street so they could not move, then arrested all of them, often without first ordering them to disperse and giving then a chance to do so.

The New York Civil Liberties Union is compiling stories from protesters who say they were arrested for no reason, detained for unnecessarily long periods or held in unsafe conditions. The group is also considering suing the city over police conduct.

“I went up to New York initially to protest the Republican National Convention. Actually at the time of the arrest, I wasn’t physically engaged in protest,” Starr said in a telephone call from Manoa on Monday.

She said a group of people were cornered by officers near Bryant Park in Manhattan and were arrested on Aug. 31. They has been at the New York Public Library protesting when police made them scatter toward Bryant Park, Starr said.

“They didn’t inform us why we were being arrested,” she said. “At least I didn’t hear it.”

Starr said the arrest “was not justified in anyway. We weren’t violent. We were absolutely peaceful.”

...Following her arrest, Starr said all of the people with her were placed in plastic cuffs and were bused to Pier 57, a large, dirty building with concrete floors. The holding area was a former bus terminal.

“It was absolutely inhumane and not a proper place to be holding people,” Starr said.

One of the individuals being held was a girl dressed up in a black dress. Starr said the girl had been stepping out of her apartment to go out when she was swept up with a group and arrested.

Starr said about five others from Hawaii were among the people arrested.

In news reports last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaking on his radio show, seemed to imply that the arrests of innocent people were inevitable.

“You can’t arrest 1,800 people without having somebody in the middle who shouldn’t have been arrested. That’s what the courts are there to find out afterwards,” he said.

...Summer Starr’s personal belongings were taken away from her when she was arrested.

She said that she and others were kept at Pier 57 for about a day.

“Every single one of us were covered in black grease,” she said about being held at the former bus terminal.

Starr said did not eat because she is a vegetarian and the only food provided was a meat sandwich.

“I wasn’t expecting to be treated like a queen, (but) I wasn’t expecting to be treated like a political prisoner,” she said.

On the day after the arrest, Starr said she was taken to a Manhattan jail where she and others were regularly moved from cell to cell. She said they were told they were going to be released soon and that the fingerprinting process was slow.

She said she was released around 10 p.m. on Thursday, about two days after she was arrested.

It was on that day that Judge John Cataldo of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan ordered the city to release more than 550 protesters who had been detained, in some cases, for as long as 60 hours.

The moral of this story? Don't even think about protesting at or around a Republican event. I hope the ACLU pursues the charges brought by these former prisoners because it seems to me that we can't operate on the idea that a few innocents will be arrested. No one should be arrested without reason, and it seems to me that an innocent person is in that, innocent, and there should be no reason for arrest.
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