Should Home Protests Be Outlawed?
Dec 1st, 2010 by Will Potter
The Washington, D.C. city council has approved a bill that allows police
to arrest activists who are non-violently demonstrating in front of
someone's home if they have not notified the police, if the protest takes
place at night, or if they wear masks.
'Residential Tranquility Act' had been an on-going effort by Ward 3
Councilwoman Mary Cheh. Activists with
Defending Animal Rights Today and
Tomorrow had been protesting in Dupont Circle to pressure Goldman Sachs
executive Michael Paese as part of the campaign against the animal testing
lab Huntingdon Life Sciences.
Dupont residents had said they felt
'terrorized' by the protests. However, the protesters weren't breaking the
law. They were within their rights. Or, as
Cheh told the Examiner, they
'beat the system.' The new law was passed to criminalize their First
Home protests and wearing masks at protests are
both controversial, but should they be outlawed? The news coverage of this
has been incredibly superficial. Mask-wearing protesters are depicted as
terrorists. But the press has ignored the fact that the reason many
activists wear masks is precisely because of these draconian crackdowns on
protests. [For more on this, see "5
Reasons for Activists to Cover Their Faces at Protests."]
And home protests may make people uncomfortable,
but that's the point. Protests are supposed to make people uncomfortable.
Otherwise, it's ineffective. The local
ACLU office wrote an excellent letter of opposition elaborating on this. If these activists are committing crimes,
the ACLU said, the police can arrest them. If not, don't restrict their
First Amendment rights just because you don't agree with their issue or you
don't like them in your neighborhood.
In some ways, Mary Cheh is
right. These activists are 'beating the system.' The system allows free
speech up to the point it is effective. The fact that these protesters are
making executives uncomfortable, and the police have largely been unable to
stop them, is truly what makes them a threat.
Respect Animals -- Don't