U.S. Constitutional Rights
--by Donna (Report of Cheney protest in Estero, Florida, October 31,
According to the
First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or
the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government
for a redress of grievances."
No matter what side of the debate you may be on regarding support
of or opposition to, the current administration, please be alerted to
the fact that what I witnessed is not democracy.
Yesterday, Oct. 31, my son and I participated in a protest during Vice
President [sic] Cheney's visit to Estero, FL. at the corner of S-41
and Coconut Road. The protesters numbered less than 30 people; 1/3 of
whom were elderly. The organizers of the protest had obtained all necessary
permits from the county, as well as gaining clearance from the Secret
Service. The gathering was entirely peaceful, and the only action anyone
took was to hold up their signs. Even when people in passing vehicles
shouted abuse at the protesters, no one responded in kind.
At approximately 5:45 EDT, our small group was suddenly converged upon
by approximately 30 officers from Lee and Collier Counties. We were
ordered out of the area, and threatened with arrest if we did not immediately
comply. In fact, they confronted one elderly gentleman, a retired Navy
Admiral, and pushed him into a Lee County Sheriff's patrol car.
We questioned their right to evict us from public property (we were
on County easement), and stated our First Amendment rights. Within 10
minutes or so, another police officer (in charge) told us we could stay
on the south side of the road, way back off the road, but if we moved
down to the road, we would be arrested. During this confrontation and
intimidation, we believe Cheney's caravan may have passed us and proceeded
to the Hotel at the end of the street.
Such an exercise of power by authorities, threatening and intimidating
peacefully assembled Americans, should NOT be accepted by anyone
who believes in the Constitution of the United States and democracy.
A quote from Samuel Adams (signer of the Declaration of Independence):
"The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution,
are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them
against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from
our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger
and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care
and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present
generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested
from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them
by the artifices of false and designing men."
The media coverage
here was very incomplete... and none of the press were around when we
were "attacked" by the police. They did show up a little while later
and interviewed a few folks, but none of it was covered in today's papers.
One of our local news TV channels (Channel 5, WINK) stated that "some
of the protesters claimed that they had been given a 'hard time' by
Lee County Deputies; a spokesman from the Lee County Sheriff's office
stated that they were 'simply dealing with issues around security for
VP [sic] Cheney's visit and sometimes public property isn't public."
This is a very
Republican area... and the press reflects that as well. Though I do
have to give kudos to the young reporter who did manage to get anything
on the air about the confrontation.
November 1, 2003