Report from the Front:
Anti-Bush protest, Pittsburgh, PA
Labor Day, 2002

Dear Mike:

I will try to describe the incident (my citation) as it occurred. My sister and I arrived at the area at about 12:45PM. There was a small gathering of sign-carrying protesters displaying their signs from behind a sinister chain link fence. Some of the fence was topped with barbed wire.

It had the appearance of a prison compound and the people behind the fence given the cast of "evildoers" and outcasts. As if peaceful protest is somehow un-American. At a glance, the image was one from my World War II childhood newsreels of concentration camps or, even more frightening, a prophetic look at a the promised Ashcroft internment camps. I was to be sentenced without trial for carrying a sign.

I reacted to the sight by remaining on the free side of the fence with my back less than a foot from the chain link. I was standing on a grassy area about two feet behind and a foot or so to the left of that pole. In front of me, people were walking in a southerly direction well beyond the pole and on the wide berm of the street. I, in no way, interfered with or disrupted the progress of the pedestrians.

An Allegheny police officer approached me and told me to get behind the fence since that was the free speech zone. I refused saying I didn't recognize such limits on my First Amendment rights. He asked me my age and I replied sixty-five.

He responded with what appeared to be genuine disappointment to find a man my age engaged in such disorderliness. He asked me several more times to move behind the fence. I refused each request, finally he took my sign, handcuffed my right hand and lead me away toward the fire station. He was joined by another officer. They cuffed my hands behind my back, with one holding each arm and led me toward the fire hall.

At this time my sister Joyce came running from the compound to be with me and they charged her also. In the fire hall, they removed the cuffs, took personal information and had us wait until they could get the proper forms to charge us both with disorderly conduct.

After about two hours, they completed the forms, released us to go, but confiscated my protest sign. They told me I could get the sign at the hearing.

The police officers acted properly at all times within their duties. I think we were all doing our duty today. In honor to our founding fathers, I cannot let the First Amendment become impotent without challenging its desecration to protect such weak leadership.

I interfered with no one during my short moment outside the fence. My only apparent crime was carrying a protest sign.

Letter to CLG Founder and Chair, Michael Rectenwald, by:

Bill Neel
Pittsburgh, PA

September 2, 2002

 

 

  

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