Tuesday, January 15, 2008
"It was when I got to the Constitution that a security woman said to me, "Miss, you need to go see that man over there.' I asked why. She said it was because of my t-shirt. I asked, 'Why my t-shirt?' She simply responded that I couldn't wear it in the building. At this point the big, burly security guard that she wanted me to go to, approached me."
"I said, 'What happened to the First Amendment?' The security woman told me to lower my voice. I raised my voice. Susan from Code Pink came over and offered me a jacket to cover my shirt, and I stayed."
Suzanne Haviland reported that a guard told her, "The reason I'm stopping you is that you are wearing something that criticizes the President. I'm a federal employee, and I'm not allowed to criticize the President."
I have lived in DC all my life, and have seen everything from choirs of LaRouche supporters singing on the street while aggressively handing out literature, to banners protesting the School of the Americas and demonstrations against the Shah of Iran. I have never heard of people being forced to leave a public street for having a spontaneous protest. It never would have occurred to me that we would face such problems. My biggest worry about the march was that people would just say, "So what?" No wonder there is a perception that there is no support for impeachment when this very well behaved little rally (it was like a Unitarian Church picnic) was stamped out at every turn.
Sometimes when I hear about somebody having their right to free speech or assembly violated, I think that there must have been some extenuating circumstances. Maybe they were loud, and preventing people in offices from doing their work, or blocking a sidewalk or picking fights and arguing with them. But in this case, because we removed all other factors that could have been pointed to as a potential threat to safety, and had even walked through metal detectors and left all our signs inside, and were not even clustered together but were rather 'picked off' signly by the guards, I have to believe what the guard told Suzanne. Our crime was "criticizing the President." If the guards had been Chinese and not English-speakers, there would have been nothing to distinguish us from the other tourists but the opinions expressed on our shirts, including language from the very Constitution we were prevented from viewing.