Pecking away at the First Amendment

Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao both knew that in order to control the populace, you needed to control the public discourse of ideas. That is why they were very careful about quelling dissent at the earliest possible point. Of course, Stalin and Mao are historically notorious for their brutality in squashing the naysayers and protestors. We haven’t yet reached that level here in the U.S. As Confucius is colloquially credited with saying, however, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

The Bushies are off and running:

Teachers’ T-Shirts Bring Bush Speech Ouster

by and AP Staff

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — Three Medford school teachers were threatened with arrest and thrown out of the President Bush rally at the Jackson County Fairgrounds Thursday night, after they showed up wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Protect our civil liberties.”

Three Medford school teachers who were thrown out of a Bush rally because of their t-shirts.

All three women said they were carrying valid tickets for the event that they had received from Republican Party headquarters in Medford, which had been distributing event tickets to Bush supporters.

Teacher Janet Voorhies said she simply wanted to bring a message to President Bush, but did not intend to protest.

“I wanted to see if I would be able to make a statement that I feel is important, but not offensive, in a rally for my president,” said Voorhies, 48.

The women said they were angered by reports of peaceful protesters being thrown out of previous Bush-Cheney events. They said they chose the phrase, “Protect Our Civil Liberties,” because it was unconfrontational.

“We chose this phrase specifically because we didn’t think it would be offensive or

degrading or obscene,” said Tania Tong, 34, a special education teacher.

The women got past the first and second checkpoints and were allowed into the

Jackson County fairgrounds, but were asked to leave and then escorted out of the

event by campaign officials who allegedly told them their T-shirts were “obscene.”

Democrats were quick to pounce on the incident and claimed the GOP has routinely sought to disclude anyone from public appearances by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney who might question the administration. There was no immediate comment from Republican officials.

“Thursday’s actions in Oregon set a new standard even for Bush/Cheney – removing and threatening with arrest citizens who in no way disrupt an event and wear clothing that expresses non-disruptive party-neutral viewpoints such as “Protect Our Civil Liberties,” said Adam Green, a spokesman for the Oregon Democratic Party.

When Cheney visited Eugene last month, the Register-Guard newspaper reported that Perry Patterson, 54, was cited for criminal trespassing for blurting out the word “No” after Cheney claimed that the Bush administration had made the world safer.

In a separate and unrelated case Thursday, two protesters were arrested in nearby Jacksonville, outside the historic inn where President Bush was spending the night.

A few hundred people were demonstrating peacefully there, but police moved to disperse the crowd after a few protesters allegedly put their hands on police officers. City officials said police fired projectiles known as “pepper balls” — similar to paint balls, but filled with cayenne pepper to break up the demonstrators.

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