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Letter: No free speech at convention

Apparently we are downsizing from preemptive wars to preemptive raids.

During the weekend before t1he Republican National Convention, the FBI and local police performed preemptive raids on "activists" who were planning to protest. Teams of 25 to 30 men in riot gear with semi-automatic weapons burst into the houses. The potential protesters had to lie on the floor and were handcuffed while the place was searched. They seized computers, journals, video equipment and political pamphlets. Lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild were also handcuffed. Bruce Nestor of the NLG said, "Seizing boxes of political literature shows that the motive of these raids was political."

I-Witness Video was a targeted group with raids before and during the convention. I-Witness is a watchdog group that makes videos documenting police actions during dissent. Working with lawyers from the NLG, their unedited videos have caused the acquittal or dismissal of charges of over 400 people arrested in New York at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Journalists were targets of police attention with over two dozen arrested on various charges. Chief John Harrington said that it was impossible to differentiate between protesters and reporters. That's hard to believe when the producer continued filming and you hear her shout, "Press" and the policeman's continued orders to lie on her face.

Reporter Amy Goodman, who was interviewing people on the conference floor, was notified about her two producers' arrests and raced out to the police to protest their arrest. The police immediately handcuffed her; all three wore their credentials with security clearance around their necks. It seems as if it would have been possible to differentiate between journalists with credentials and protesters -- that is until a Secret Service person took their credentials without returning them.

Dissent is American -- its history stretches from the Boston Massacre to the streets of St. Paul. The number of dissenters -- 10,000 Ron Paul dissenters and another 10,000 in the streets -- overwhelmed the police but their reaction to the violent protesters was inflicted on the majority of peaceful dissenters and independent journalists also.

When will our "free speech zone" be all of America again?

Barbara M. Edwards