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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Federal police, ICE violate freedom of speech during rifa march? Intimidation through videos? Are we really free?

I had the great honor of marching around the Federal Courthouse in Denver, Colorado with the Reform Immigration For America ( RIFA ) march on May 1, 2010.  In Spanish, they call it Reform Migratoria Pro America.

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I didn’t realize it until later but something disturbing passed at the federal court house.  There were three federal officers in front dressed for battle.  One of them had what looked like a large camera bag on his side.  It was big enough to be a small gym bag.

When the officers saw my eyeing them they came running towards me.  They were at least 50 yards away and I decided they were getting close enough.  I diverted my eyes.

early arrivals

As we rounded the corner and marched along the side of the court house I saw the officer with the large bag making a bee line for the side fence.  He was fast.  He got over the fence and stood on the curb with a steely glare.  I tried to catch his eye just to say “no offense intended”.  He didn’t make a move!

He didn’t make a move!  Third time.  He didn’t make a move!  He was frozen just like I had been frozen in place a few moments before.  I wanted to get a good video shot of the crowd.  I think we were being video taped by federal law enforcement! For what reason?

It is one thing for us to take pictures of the court house and the officers.  This was an event to remember!  It is another thing for law enforcement to take pictures of us.  I doubt it is a moment to remember.  More likely, it is information to be analyzed by the government and maybe used against us.

Freedom of speech is recognized by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution!  Limitations on freedom of speech are associated with repressive governments like that of Cuba.  The United States has long held Cuba to be a closed society with limitations on what can be said.  Reports from Mexican friends who have visited the island nation 90 miles off our coast tell me it is indeed a repressive government.  That is especially true when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Most communist governments are not fans of religion.

Some question, if we are in a public place don’t we all have the right to take pictures and videos?  Legally, yes. 

If that is the case, why is it wrong for ICE or the Federal police to take picture?  Why is that a limitation to freedom of speech? 

Because, without a legitimate reason to take the videos, like a threat of harm, taking videos of a peaceful march is nothing short of intimidation.  Despite having over 15,000 at the march on Saturday, there were many who did not show up out of fear the U.S. government would take pictures.  They don't want to put family members, friends or even themselves are risk. 

When our government intimidates us and makes us afraid to speak out then we become a closed society like Cuba!  Marching and chanting are forms of speech.  When we are afraid to march because we are afraid of intimidation then the Government has limited our ability to speak.  The same thing has happened with sheriff "Little Joe" Arpaio in Maricopa County in Arizona.  He uses the power of his office to silence negative press.

That has been the problem with immigration reform from the start.  After 911, people have been afraid to speak out!  Those who bash immigrants have had the bully pulpit.  For years, the arguments for and against immigration reform were one sided, all against.  Immigrants have been demonized unfairly.  The average "main stream" American has idea no idea why immigration reform is needed or what the Comprehensive Immigration Reform ( CIR ASAP ) proposal entails. 

In addition to freedom of speech, we have a right to freedom of association under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!  Under the theory of freedom of association, we have the right to associate with other people to further a cause.  The Declaration, an international agreement, was signed by the United States.  We are obligated to support it’s principals.  Freedom of association and the freedom of assembly is also contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution!  If I want to march with my Latino brothers in solidarity then I should not be intimidated by Federal police from doing so.

Turn off your cameras, ICE.  Why are you trying to intimidate us?  A free government will not silence us.  A totalitarian government will.  Of course, the government is not likely to admit it is taking videos of us.  That is why we have the Freedom of Information Act. ( FOIA ).  Presumably, in a free government, we should be entitled to information collected by our government.  Personally, I think a request for a copy of any video taken should be filed forthwith.  Maybe I am bitching for nothing.  Maybe I am not!

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