In a nation already at war with itself...
By Brad Friedman on 8/20/2013, 1:57pm PT  

By now, you've certainly heard of the outrageous 9-hour detention of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport under Great Britain's supposed "Terrorism Act" over the weekend. As Rachel Maddow amazingly, but justifiably, found it necessary to point out loudly last night, "journalism is not terrorism", and both the British government and U.S. government (which has admitted receiving a "heads-up" about the planned detention by British authorities in advance, but didn't stop it from happening) should be ashamed of themselves and held accountable for the outrage.

Many have opined, since the detention of Miranda, what an outrage something like that would have been had a similar harassment and the seizure of personal property of, say, a New York Times journalist doing his or her job, occurred in this country or by a country so closely allied with the U.S.

Well, before we took our short break last week, I had been covering some of the increasing citizen protests in several states around the U.S. in reaction to the extreme and radical Republican policies being put in place by states where the GOP has recently taken control of state government. I covered the ensuing arrests of an 83-year old Korean War vet peacefully demonstrating for voting rights in NC (as he did with MLK in Selma, AL in 1965) and of an 80- and 85-year old couple in WI arrested in a crackdown by Republican Gov. Scott Walker's Capitol Police for participating in a daily protest sing along in the state capitol building.

While I was gone, it seems, things have gotten worse in Wisconsin, as an elected official was also arrested for singing along, and even the editor of a progressive news magazine was arrested for having attempted to record it...

From John Nichols at The Nation who, comparing the WI crackdown to President John Adams' ill-conceived arrest of dissenters (which earned him the disdain of his own Vice-President Thomas Jefferson and removal from office two years later), charges that Walker, a GOP Presidential hopeful, is now going "All 1798" on those demonstrating against his radical policies at the capitol building in Madison...

The arrests escalated on Thursday. And, though Walker plays on a small stage, those familiar with the basic outlines of American constitutional history will note a certain historical irony in the drama the governor has scripted.

First, an elected official, Madison Alder Mark Clear, the former president of the city council, was arrested for joining in the singing of “This Land Is Your Land.”

Then, just a few minutes later, Progressive magazine editor Matt Rothschild was detained when he attempted to record what was happening. Rothschild informed the arresting officers that he was a journalist and that he had every right to cover the story.

Clear and his fellow singers can point to a US Constitution that guarantees that Americans may assemble and petition for the redress of grievances—and to a Wisconsin Constitution that is even more explicit, declaring, “The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

Rothschild can point to a US Constitution that guards against any abridging of the freedom of the press—and to a Wisconsin Constitution that is even more explicit, declaring that “no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”

While many are justifiably infuriated about the detention of journalist Greenwald's partner, who was held under British "terrorism" laws for nine hours while on journalistic duties paid for by the UK's Guardian, much of the same thing seems to be going on in states around our own country to much less notice. In this case, it was a journalist simply doing his work of covering peaceful, supposedly Constitutionally-protected demonstrations inside the rotunda of a state capitol building and the ensuing crackdown on that activity by state police against those, including an elected official, daring to take part in that demonstration.

This is not meant to downplay the outrage of what happened to Greenwald's Brazilian partner Miranda in Great Britain and our own government's at least acquiescence, if not full complicity, in it. This is meant to say that much the same thing --- or disturbingly close to it --- is already happening right under our collective noses in our own country by state and local authorities who seem to have little concern for the First Amendment rights of citizens petitioning their government for redress of grievances and of the media's right to freely report on it.

Also disturbing is the seeming lack of concern that those authorities seem to display that they will ever be held accountable, in any substantial way, for their outrageously unconstitutional actions.

We area already a nation at war with ourselves. Al-Qaeda couldn't have asked for anything more.

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