A downward trend for free speech

From the First Amendment of the United States 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.

The entire First Amendment has been increasingly ignored in recent history, and things have become especially worse during the Bush administration. This is no surprise, considering what President Bush himself blatantly revealed of what he thought about the Constitution of the United States:

Stop throwing the Constitution in my face! It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!

Here I would like to concentrate on the erosion of the latter half of the First Amendment. The sarcastically named "free speech zones" were bad enough, with the way it eroded the people's right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances. But the recent overly aggressive suppression of protesters during the Republican National Convention is a sign of how bad things have become.

The interview of Jeff Guntzel by Glenn Greenwald highlights how the police aggressively suppressed protesters indiscriminately, even ending up arresting journalists and uninvolved bystanders. No doubt at least a few of the protesters were violent and deserved to be detained, but the response of the police seemed to reach much further than that. This could be due to directions from the highest levels of the government, maybe even reaching the White House, flagrantly disregarding any considerations for civil rights, or it could simply be the local police being thrust into a very unfamiliar situation. Whatever the case may be, something like this should not have happened.

When things have gotten so bad that things like this happen, where a reporter is forcibly pushed to the ground despite screaming that she's part of the press:

It makes me afraid that we might see something like this in the United States in a decade or two:

If you think a shooting like this where soldiers fire wantonly on civilians could never happen, then think again. This actually happened. It's a recreation of an actual event in a movie, and while the details are uncertain, such as whether the protesters were so peaceful or much more violent, it is an undeniable fact that the first fatality had already occurred, with a civilian unrelated to the protests being clubbed to death by soldiers even before this incident, and that live ammunition was fired on civilians.

I dearly wish I was being alarmist, but considering that it is still unknown to this day exactly what prompted the live gunfire, whether it was a panicked soldier with a happy trigger finger or a cold-blooded order by the military command, I wouldn't rule out something like this happening in the United States in the not too far future. It doesn't even have to be on purpose: an overly armed riot police and simple incompetence could cause something that makes the so-called Kent State massacre look trivial.

The good and bad thing about trends is that they tend to go up and down, so let's hope that the trend for free speech goes up again before it goes down too much. Let's hope that I've written hyperbole, not a prophetic vision of the future.

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