Target: President Obama and Presidential Candidate Romney
Goal: To have presidential candidates in the 2012 election condemn attempts to suppress speech and assembly.
The ability of citizens of the United States to protest the government is one of the most vital rights guaranteed under our constitution. Unfortunately, spanning our country’s history, there have been numerous cases where this right has not been respected by state and federal authorities. In preparation for the 2012 election cycle, and in the face of numerous impending protests, there must be a bipartisan agreement that the suppression of free speech should not be tolerated–regardless of the partisanship of the protesters.
The protection of free speech is an American value, not a partisan one, so hopefully both presidential candidates–President Barack Obama and Candidate Mitt Romney–would be willing to agree upon two important ideals. First, free speech is absolute and, as long as the protesters are not posing a danger to others or an unreasonable obstruction to society (ex. impeding operations at a hospital), protests should not be suppressed. Also, indirect suppression tactics should not be used to mitigate protests: “free speech zones” should not be used to corral protesters, aggressive crowd suppression tactics (ex. pepper spray) should not be used on peaceful protesters, curfews and public land use restrictions should not be enforced, and zoning and permitting fees should not be used to tax free assembly.
This petition is intended to elicit a public bipartisan agreement between President Obama and Candidate Romney that they condemn all suppression of free speech, regardless of whether or not the protests support or attack them. While non-binding, this public agreement could reduce the tendency of local police to aggressively attack protests during the next election cycle.
Dear President Obama and Mr. Romney,
We as a country have many differences of opinion on policy and ideology, but I would hope that we can all agree that the first amendment must be protected. In the face of a coordinated crackdown on “Occupy” protests during the summer and fall of 2011, we have seen authorities suppress free speech in many locales across the country. In some cases, the protesters caused property damage or engaged in civil disobedience, but in a majority of the cases where there was significant police action, there was no justifiable reason for a breakup of the protest (ex. UC Davis pepper spraying, Scott Olson shooting, and the arrest of 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge). The rights to assembly and free speech are not based upon convenience, but rather a deeper need to allow citizens to protest their government–a right which should be protected by all elected officials.
I am sending both of you this petition to encourage you to set aside partisanship on this one issue and sign a united pledge to condemn all suppression of free-speech during the next election cycle. If recent political unrest is any guide, it appears that this next year will bring numerous protests, by a variety of groups, and it is everybody’s best interests to protect the rights which will allow these protests. Tea Party and Occupy alike must be protected from restrictions on free speech, because constitutionally protected rights must be universal to have any meaning.
Suppressive tactics which I would ask you to condemn would include: the setting up of “free-speech zones” in order to cordon off protesters, the use of crowd control devices on peaceful protesters, the setting up of time limits and curfews on protests, the targeted withholding of permits to protest groups, as well as any other tactic which may be used to limit the ability of citizens to utilize their First Amendment rights.
[Your Name Here]