As hundreds of thousands of earnest people arrive in New York for a variety of creative protests, many worry that conflicts in the streets televised across the world will be used to Bush’s advantage.
Keeping demonstrations peaceful is urged.
But the gentlest intentions may not be enough.
On January 20, 2001, the Bush-Cheney Presidential Inaugural Committee coordinated with the D.C. Police and federal law enforcement to send out government agents provocateurs – undercover agents (caught on tape - see PBS' "Now with Bill Moyers") walking through groups of peaceful demonstrators, covertly squirting pepper spray at close range into the faces of innocent people.
Not just to intimidate, but to provoke violence and arrests.
And that was before 9/11. According to Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice, a public interest law firm in Washington, D.C.:
This is an effort to criminalize dissent. It's an effort from the Ashcroft Justice department specifically since September 11th. . . They're targeting people purely based on people standing up and saying they oppose government policy.
Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard and her husband, Carl Messineo, have several lawsuits filed against D.C. police and the federal government regarding this abuse of civil rights. (The D.C. Police had to admit that the pepper sprayers on Inauguration Day were indeed their own officers.)
Now, under John Ashcroft, the Justice Department allows FBI agents to go undercover to monitor citizen gatherings, whether or not there is evidence or suspicion of criminal activity.
So local police are doing their part as well.
In April 2003, the Colorado Coalition Against War in Iraq, a non-violent group, appropriately contacted police to notify them that they intended to go to U.S. Senator Wayne Allard’s office to present a resolution calling for an end to the U.S. presence in Iraq and an independent inquiry into the truthfulness of the justifications for the military action.
The night before their intended presentation, the group found themselves shocked by the suggestion of an eager new participant who said they should they up the ante and storm the building. Fortunately, wise leaders prevailed, and the new guy was later found to be with the Sheriff’s Office.
Recent terrorist alerts in Washington and New York have shown Bush and his administration anxious to display a sudden burst of diligence. Now, at the Republican National Convention in New York City, amidst new reports from Abu Ghraib, revelations of an Israeli spy in the Defense Department influencing Middle East policy, the Census Bureau reporting a growth in poverty and the uninsured, and scornful words from the Iraqi soccer team, Bush needs an enemy he can crush, especially on prime time television.
Demonstrators in New York should be very careful, and observers need to watch for Bush distracting from serious issues by focusing on turning peaceful dissenters into dangerous, crazy, Kerry-supporting terrorists he must crush for the safety of the American people.
To verify/research, Google "Bush +protest +pepper".