Repression Against Political Protests

August 24, 2004

In early August officials from the FBI admitted that they have questioning political activists across the country, and in some cases even subpoenaing them, in an aggressive effort to "prepare for protests" at the Republican National Convention in New York.

Recent media reports also revealed that federal agents and city police across the country are "keeping tabs on activists and others they believe might try to cause trouble." They are making unannounced visits to people's homes, conducting interviews and monitoring Web sites and meetings.

In recent weeks, for example, FBI "counterterrorism" agents and other federal and local officers have conducted interviews in six states with people who have "protested in the past." They have not only conducted unannounced interviews with protestors, but also with their family members and friends. In Missouri, a number of young men were trailed by FBI agents for days and then subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury. In New York, federal agents questioned a man who reportedly made "critical remarks against the president" and insisted he respond to questions about his political affiliation and whether or not he planned to attend the convention protests.

This news comes on top of far-reaching repressive measures planned for the RNC convention at the end of August. Tens of thousands of New York City police, as well as special federal paramilitary squads, are being mobilized. The city will spend more than $75 million on convention "security."

In addition, New York officials have refused protestors the right to stage an anti-war rally in Central Park on August 29. City officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, rejected the rally permit, citing "security concerns," due to the expected size of the demonstration. Government officials insisted that the protestors instead stage the rally on a remote section of the west-side highway, far from the site of the convention. The mayor of New York, as well as the corporate-owned newspapers, radio and television stations, have also been stirring up a media-sponsored fear-campaign by issuing reports of "potential violence and trouble" in an effort to keep people away from the demonstration.

Similar repressive measures were carried out last month during anti-war protests at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Protest rallies and marches were continually surrounded by thousands of city and federal police, and numerous arrests were made against peaceful demonstrators. Boston city authorities established an official "protest pen" surrounded by police and enclosed by 12-foot tall fences and barbed-wire. Throughout the convention, numerous city streets were closed and intersections were blockaded by city trucks and armored vehicles. Inside the Convention, anti-war activists were kicked out of the building simply for displaying their anti-war sentiment with buttons or signs.