Many are harmed when some are silenced.

Alysia's picture

Today and tomorrow the City of Pittsburgh hosts the G-20 summit.  There, the leaders of 20 industrialized and developing global economies representing a collective 80% of world trade and 2/3 of the world population come together to discuss the international financial system. 


In addition to the G-20 participants, Pittsburgh is also hosting groups of individuals committed to publicly exercising their first amendments right to free speech and free association.  


In today’s Time article, one protester says that the moment he arrived in the moderate, working class city he felt like “the repression [had] already started.”   Members of advocacy and resistance groups, from the most to least radical, report discriminatory and oppressive treatment by the government resulting in at least two lawsuits.  [for more info follow links: Seeds of Peace Collective, et al v. City of Pittsburgh, et al or Code Pink vs US Secret Service]


The groups, in an attempt to make themselves heard by - have organized marchs, rallies, and other actions calling for job creation and environmental safeguarding.  Seeds of Peace even set up mobile kitchens and delivery trucks to feed protesters for free.


The lawsuits filed by ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Center for Constitutional Rights sought to stop Pittsburgh in the first case from unjustly turning down march permits, and in the second, from detaining, searching, and harassing protesters and their supporters.  Oppressive state actions such as those harm targeted individuals by violating their core rights of free speech and right to dissent.


However  - in silencing the individual voices of dissention, the state also causes deep harm to society at large.  Public debate is at the heart of constitutional democracy.  Actions that stifle protesters cheat all of us of the ideas and changes that stem from open expression. 


As pointed out in the Time article, public fear surrounding the G-20 protests and potential reaction from an estimated 4000 members of law enforcement have created a virtual ghost town in the city.


I have tremendous respect for those who, today and tomorrow, in spite of what they face, peacefully raise their voices to fight for what they believe. 


It is those on the front lines, actively exercising the full measure of their rights – who help protect all of us from a creeping curtailment of civil liberties.   


For more information - The ACLU of PA is tracking and publishing complaints about problems between G-20 protestors and law enforcement which you can read here.

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