Editorial: Spying on protest groups serves no one well
July 11, 2000
Beware. Big Brother is watching.
That seems to be the message being sent to people planning to protest
during the Republican National Convention July 29 through Aug. 3 in
Philadelphia. Scenes reminiscent of George Orwell's ominous tome "1984"
have been reported by activists who have said they have been observed and
photographed during meetings that were announced on the Internet.
Specifically, men with long camera lenses were spotted standing on top of
a building across the street from the site of one group's meetings.
A welfare-rights organization planning to hold a downtown rally July 31
reported that a police van has been parked in front of its offices for
more than a month.
Philadelphia police officials said they are not responsible for the
Without taking any responsibility for the foreboding figures, FBI
officials said only they would use "any means necessary to gather
To what end?
We hardly think the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom,
one of the groups whose officials have noticed they are being watched, is
a threat to national security.
The league is conducting training sessions for protesters, presumably
about peaceful protest considering the group's mission.
Another organization called The Ruckus Society is also training
protesters, not how to destroy property, but about their legal rights, how
to react to police aggression and how to effectively package its messages
for TV sound bites.
One of the lead organizers of the Unity 2000 march planned for July 30,
Mike Morrill, said in his 20 years of organizing demonstrations, this is
the first time he has been the target of surveillance in the United
"I've been arrested and harassed in other countries, but not in a country
that's supposed to be free. I haven't experienced this kind of harassment
before," he said.
Maybe Morrill and the other potential "rabble-rousers" have been under the
watchful eye of Big Brother all these years without knowing it.
Maybe, for some reason, Big Brother wants to be noticed this time.
If so, it can only be perceived as an intimidation tactic that should be
an embarrassment for not only the Republican National Committee but for
all residents of the Delaware Valley including Delaware County.
Law-enforcement officials should be ready to manage crowds of any kind,
protesters or spectators, to ensure that they assemble in an orderly
But to treat potential protesters like enemies of the state by tracking
their every move, flies in the face of what this country stands for,
namely, freedom of speech.
In fact, such behavior can only breed contempt among hotheads on both
sides of an issue who may not have a clue about the difference between
civil disobedience and rioting.
One would think we would have learned something in the 30 years since four
students were shot to death by National Guardsmen during an anti-war
protest at Kent State University.
The Daily Times 2000
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