Burning The First Amendment

The freedom of assembly “is the individual right to come together with other individuals and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests.” This is a widely recognized human, political and civil right. It is explicitly guaranteed in many international human rights conventions, and many national constitutions, including the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

However, it is often the case that governments see the personal freedoms of their citizens as impediments, liabilities, and threats to its power. This thrust is usually labeled “maintaining order.” To this end, governments will organize specialized units of labor called police into enforcement agencies, equip them with instruments of coercion, and shield them with legal protections. Admittedly, the realities of human nature, and the wide spectrum of observed human behavior justifies some of this effort.

In our capitalist societies, the maintenance of social order has become both an industry and an infrastructure. When these operate to protect and even advance individual freedoms, human rights and personal safety, then they justify their methods and their existences. This is not uniformly the case, as is too painfully obvious to many who have witnessed or endured the abuses of police and prosecutorial powers by careerists advancing their personal agendas. For this reason, society justly demands that there be a rather intrusive oversight of police, judicial and prosecutorial professionals, and many restrictions on the technologies and methods they are allowed to use. The purpose of a justice system of authentic social value is to achieve 100% success at safeguarding the rights of the innocent; it is not to achieve 100% success at ensuring the punishment of the guilty. The latter goal demands a continuous and significant sacrifice of innocent people. Such sacrifice is unconscionable in any justice system that includes capital punishment.

Just where is the boundary between lawful freedom of assembly and the unlawful “right to riot?” (As an aside, we must allow for the logical possibility — even the social necessity in extreme cases like the Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza Strip — of a lawful right to riot). The traditional police technologies for containing unruly assemblies, lawful and unlawful, include: megaphones (public address systems), truncheons (sticks), plastic shields and body armor, deployment on horseback, high pressure jets of water, tear-gas and small arms fire. In more recent times, lightly armored assault vehicles (police tanks) have also been deployed.

Over the years, police responses to public assemblies have caused fatalities of innocents, spurring research to arm police with minimally-lethal technology that is effective at social control. From such efforts came the mechanical technologies of water jets (fire hoses), tear-gas bombs and sprays, rubberized truncheons, and most recently rubber bullets. Also, electrostatics was exploited to devise the Tasers in use today. Viewed from an authoritarian perspective, these are certainly improvements over straightforward military firepower, but still, people have been badly injured and killed by these “softer” forms of coercion.

The conundrum of finding gentle coercive force technologies against public assemblies is now seeking its answer through electronic technologies, specifically microwave and laser broadcast power. The National Institute for Justice, the research arm (or “Q Branch,” in James Bond parlance) of the US Department of Justice, is now testing candidate systems of assembly dispersal and control. Police forces will eventually be equipped with centimeter-wave microwave beam broadcast systems, similar to one devised by the US Army, to heat skin at a distance and elicit a flight reaction.

A second, and better developed device of remote control torture is a bulky “rifle” that combines visible light and infrared lasers to incapacitate people by blinding them for a period of time (“dazzlers“), as well as being able to heat skin uncomfortably.

Obviously, any non-lethal form of coercion is more easily used as an instrument of torture, for example during arrests, interrogations, and in prisons. The surreptitious and deniable misuse of such weapons by rogue law enforcement individuals would be harder to detect because of the minimal aftereffects.

Both the convenience of remote control torture and the absence of lasting physical evidence of its occurrence make these insidious weapons of authoritarian control over personal freedom as envisioned by the contemporaries of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.

The best protection against such weapons would be the elevation of the social consciousness and political maturity of the citizens, generally, to achieve a greater sense of community, to both: ensure popular political power over the control and enforcement agencies of government, and to populate those agencies with individuals whose first allegiance is the protection of people’s freedoms rather than the protection of government power and its careerists.

Otherwise, we are burning away the actuality of the First Amendment. We are trimming our right of assembly to self-contained gatherings that cause no political disturbance, to virtual assemblies on the internet that create little notice, that cannot offer the challenge to entrenched power that is carried by the actual massed presence of our physical selves, united.

Manuel Garcia, Jr. is an occasional writer who is always independent. His e-mail address is: mangogarcia@att.net. Read other articles by Manuel, or visit Manuel's website.

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 30th, 2009 at 9:48am #

    if the votes in recent US election for prez were accurately counted, this wld mean that about 98% of amers have approbated all US crimes comitted to date.
    and these crimes are indeed awesome. thus, it is unlikely that amer plutos wld be any time soon worried to any degree about (un)lawful assembly.

    the guilt for these crimes can be stratified across the broad spectrum of US pop. lowest classes wld be guilty ?solely for evaluating untruths as truths.
    but in case of slavery and genocide of natives, it is nigh impossible not to asses lowest classes at least 30C of blame on a scale of 1- 100C.

    ruling class, i educe, is fully aware of this. it can easily cow the lower classes into silence.
    but once US develops a strong working class party (probably the only vehicle that might travel) the new tools might be used against members of an antipodal party.
    it cld be noted that working people cld manufacture own weapons and use them against the state if state wld turn ugly towards them.

    it is ulikely that the ruling class will give up via democratization its two opiates: supremacisms (national and personal) and wealth.

    it takes power to dislodge or even only budge another power. thnx

  2. Don Hawkins said on January 30th, 2009 at 11:29am #

    The fight is on. On the one side in the dark trunks is the right. As we all know they know how the World works and our looking out for America. On the other side in the gray trunks is the left or liberal thinking commie distribute the wealth utopia thinking socialists. I always’ wanted to say that. Who’s going to win probably nobody. I think Bill O’reilly nailed it last night on his show. He said we need jobs now not money for research or clean energy these are things that can come later and are in this Bill because there are many with this utopian crazy idea they got from some place. I know one thing for sure if nothing else the going’s on in the Senate and all that knowledge and wisdom I got to see.

  3. Ugly Deaf Muslim Punk Gurl! said on January 30th, 2009 at 1:18pm #

    Police forces will eventually be equipped with centimeter-wave microwave beam broadcast systems, similar to one devised by the US Army, to heat skin at a distance and elicit a flight reaction.

    Unbelievable. It’s such an outrageous thing to do when people are just trying to exercise their freedom of speech. I understand that riots (or protests) can get out of control, but this is going too far.

  4. Rahb said on January 30th, 2009 at 3:27pm #

    One day people will realize that corporations like Lockheed-Martin (the bigger the worse) are unelected governing bodies. They determine the wealth distribution of communities (via wage) they thereby determine the products available to that community (sometimes more directly, as in walmart). They often determine resource distribution like oil, metals, even water. Nestle pulls so much ground water out of the US that farms, wells, and communities generally around their sites often suffer tremendously, from which there is no recourse; meanwhile, they distribute the water at a fee having paid no royalties etc. to the community – leaving the citizens the option to work at Nestle where they are reminded that it’s a good thing Nestle is there to provide “good” jobs for them (that’s small potatoes compared to what happens and has happened in less wealthy countries too). I live in Alberta Canada, most people here don’t understand why Canada has to buy oil from other countries or why the rest of our country despises us – All 3 of our major pipelines go fairly directly to the US, ignoring the middle and eastern half of our country, this because we are more interested in profit than our own people, there are virtually no royalty fees or taxes for the corporations to compensate us for the ravaging of our province and we thereby need Federal subsidies – which is obviously ridiculous. We are again reminded that the corporations provide “good” jobs ignoring the cost to the community in which inflation and credit use is rampant – Alberta has a pretty gross number of people working full-time and are still homeless. Again that’s small potatoes…)
    Once we recognize that these unelected, non-democratic (unless you hold 10% + of shares you have no say in the companies activities; therefore, the company will never reflect the values of the community) governments are operating within “democratic” societies maybe we will begin to be able to hold them accountable. The elite of wealth and power cannot then, allow us to demonstrate or riot, or the whole system would “collapse”, well maybe not the whole system but certainly their bank accounts and that’s what matters most right? Where else could investors make money? Peace!

  5. joed said on January 30th, 2009 at 3:29pm #

    http://www.counterpunch.org/garcia06022008.html
    How to Protect Yourself From Raytheon’s Pain Gun
    Don’t Get Burned!
    By MANUEL GARCIA, Jr.

    fuck the pigs!

  6. John S. Hatch said on January 30th, 2009 at 4:05pm #

    There are times when force must be met with greater force. The folks at Raytheon should never sleep peacefully.

  7. armchairpunter said on January 30th, 2009 at 4:25pm #

    “(As an aside, we must allow for the logical possibility — even the social necessity in extreme cases like the Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza Strip — of a lawful right to riot).”

    If by “riot” you mean engage in the uncontrolled destruction of property and/or attack of persons with no regard for the safety of the innocent, then no, we musn’t.

  8. joed said on January 30th, 2009 at 7:37pm #

    people are gonna’ get thumped on by the pigs! even the mahutma said you have not only the right but also the duty to defend your self physically. your self includes loved ones, friends and people in general if they are in need of self defence. of course you can always just stay here in the FREE SPEACH ZONE and hope everything is gonna’ be ok, and continue to write your neat little ideas about how you can’t sacrifice anything right now. or you can do something to create real change. of course, real change come at a very steep price. what is it worth to you to have habeus corpus back or to be able to march in protest with out being turned into criminals. you kids let this happen to you and it will only get worse. the pigs are creating the situation and you aint gonna’ excape.
    hit the streets kids, and hit’em hard. fuck the pigs!

  9. kalidas said on January 30th, 2009 at 7:45pm #

    What we have and have had for a good long while is the 1st amendment (BUT), the 2nd amendment (BUT), the 3rd amendment (BUT), etc., etc.

  10. Rahb said on January 30th, 2009 at 7:50pm #

    There are greater forces than violence. Also it’s important to remember that separating too greatly into “us and them”, ignores reality and maintains the status-quo’ (particularly where force means violence or riot without regard for safety of the innocent). Low level employees, likely work for Raytheon that are just doing what they are qualified for in order to provide for their families, and/ or have been manipulated into truly believing that it is for the greater good, just as we believe that eliminating such weapons is for the greater good, you may have noticed it’s getting tougher to find work… The division of the masses is what the elite of wealth and power want, it keeps them wealthy and powerful. It creates in-groups and out-groups, and which ever side you’re on is invariably the “right” side/ people almost always agree with who ever supports their beliefs, and forget again to think independently . The superior or “right” side tends to grant themselves more supremacy (for the greater good) which only leads to a shift in power which, over time if not immediately, will again move towards tyranny. It’s just tyranny of the other “out-group”. Tutsi vs. Hutu for instance, are reminded of how awful the other side is and act out… It also maintains other inequalities, which ever group has more physical strength (and money for weapons etc.) will be the victor in physical confrontations. Which ever group has more education about their position (which also equals more money) will win verbal debates.
    1st we must change ourselves. Let’s also use our rationality, the freedoms that we do have etc., legal recourse if possible, demonstration of peaceful resistance (sadly, likely to have martyrs as with anything) broadcast in our open media/ internet and any liberal press gains respect and attention from the masses, let’s use our ability to think outside of the box (exemplified by our even being on this site) in a non-violent way, so as to refuse falling to “their” level and continuing the cycle. It’s not us and them it’s us and us/ humans vs. earthlings, as misguided as we may be at times… An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Peace!

  11. Rahb said on January 30th, 2009 at 8:00pm #

    “hit the streets kids, and hit’em hard” – agreed, and agreed that you have the right to defend yourself, that doesn’t necessarily mean attacking others either…

  12. joed said on January 31st, 2009 at 7:42am #

    hello Rahb,
    i don’t suggest attacking anyone or using violence to get something. like Mr. X said, we are non-violent with those that are nonviolent with us. what you kids need to do is shut down your shitty country. stop traffic on the freeway etc. of course this requires sacrifice and hardship that you kids aint willing to commit to. and without that sacrifice you may as well stay in your FREE SPEACH ZONE here at DV and continue to see your liberties die. you guys are letting this happen.
    hit the streets kids, and hit’em hard.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/odd_expressway_shoes

  13. joed said on January 31st, 2009 at 7:52am #

    Rahb,
    jonathan schell’s book, “The Unconquerable World”, tells about survival in police state. says, to create the community you want to live in and ignore the govt. as much as possible. sorta’ like the Taliban in Afghanistan. but, if you kids aint gonna’ stop the govt. insanity then stop your crying and whining and create the community you want to live in. your crying and whining in the FREE SPEACH ZONE is of no value, in fact it strenghtens the governments claim of legitimacy.
    sacrifice and hardship are the key.
    hit the streets kids, and hit’em hard.

  14. Anton said on January 31st, 2009 at 10:17am #

    I have had it with giving respect to any kyke, spic, polack,
    nigger, mick or any ethnic or clutrual slur that applys to any-
    one who gives bush any respect. That is your name if you don’t
    prosecute now. Not tomorrow, not after breakfast, Now!

    Bullies fuck their mothers with a pully. Mayor daley of Chicago
    had a birthday party for the nazi and chief so that makes him the
    mick murderer mayor.

    Words for words, actions for actions. If you have to do everything
    everything on sneak, your a lier who fucks their mother/father ev-
    very on the sneak, every week. Don’t hide behind propriety like the
    house nigger/serial killer and chief. If you have the absolute truth,
    then you fight back with 100% certainty of death.

    You can do anything you want, long as you get hit first. If mick
    murderer cheney were mightier everyone, then stop a bullet un-
    natrually to showcase your immortality. Can’t do it because you
    aren’t immortal. Cheney fuck his mick momma too.

    If I am sanctioned in any form other than personal dislike: any
    loss of job, denial of rights disguised as lawbreaking, I will pro-
    portionally respond as mentioned at the beginnig of third para-
    graph.

  15. Rahb said on February 1st, 2009 at 2:45pm #

    joed, you kids seem confused I ain’t saying to sit around in the “free speech zone”, it ain’t all that free anyway- again, most people in the world haven’t even made a phone call much less used the internet. Hit the streets yes, and we need to encourage more to do so or it’s fruitless. Also to just assume the superiority of our ideas over others without even trying to understand the view of others, engaging in dialogue, and subjecting our own thoughts to criticism, than we are no better than the current elite of wealth and power (happens the “free speech zone” is about the only place to do that safely). Be careful not to fall into the trap of simply shifting power from one group that supposes its superiority to another. Cutting off highways etc. is a great idea, again we need enough people participating which means that there is still a lot of educating to do and minds to free. Keep in mind too that there are legitimate times not to hit the streets. What’s a paraplegic supposed to do when the teargas comes? If I’ve got no money and nobody to help what am I supposed to do with a kid? I’d be way the hell outta line to bring a 6 yr old to come get pepper-sprayed with me, and no doubt taken away over issues that the kid neither understands nor has the capacity to have an opinion on (it would surely lead the kid in the opposite direction from my views, once old enough/ the kid would only be able to associate pain with improvement and the lavish pleasures with capitalism = look at those rich capitalist kids they sit around in fancy houses with parents that love them….) The list goes on. So believe me kid you’re on the right path, even though you’re sittin’ around in the “free speech zone”, sadly though we need time. Like I say, we’re not going to succeed against 100 armed pigs with 12 protesters, what we will do is maintain the status-quo which is what the powers that be want anyway. Peace.

  16. Rahb said on February 1st, 2009 at 2:48pm #

    joed, btw – creating the community we want (getting off the grid, moving away from compliance etc.) is exactly what I’ve been workin’ on here, it’s hard to get people involved -they’re so brainwashed by the current situation, they just don’t get it… Nonetheless, keep up the fight!

  17. The Angry Peasant said on February 1st, 2009 at 7:44pm #

    Manuel, you hit the nail on the head. What good are protests when they are “peacable?” The whole point is to shake up the system, and if that means shaking up a quiet neighborhood, so be it. Activists in the 60′s didn’t accomplish anything by being quiet and reserved. And we need their conviction and courage now more than ever. Revolution!!

  18. Ramsefall said on February 2nd, 2009 at 8:18am #

    Thanks for your contribution, Manuel.

    That which seems to be all too obvious, is clearly laid out in your article…protest and dissidence is tolerated to the most minimal extent despite domestic and international laws. Whatever technological advances or legal loopholes that can be used to prevent such occurrences, will be used.

    An ascension in social consciousness is key; something I often repeat, but in which I almost always fail to receive response. From afar, it seems at times that this phenomenon is currently on the rise, at other times such as when the false hopers scream out on their Obama band wagon, I recant that assertion. People need to save themselves not only from the system, but also from themselves and the blind faith they have in their corrupt, plutocratic leaders.

    Let’s not forget that not all forms of revolution are based on violence. The greatest revolution needed in humanity, as Krishnamurti indicated, are the billions of inner revolutions. When that objective is sufficiently overcome with success, we as a collective species will realize that there is no need for governance, and as such no need for protest. Once we are each at harmony within, our external environment will begin to reflect this. So long as we perpetuate our inner chaos; what to buy, what to do, who to blame, which environment to disregard for what sake, when to begin something new or end something old, etc, we only contribute to creating that same chaos around us. Change happens one person at a time, and each of us holds our own individual responsibility.

    Best to you.

  19. Brian Koontz said on February 2nd, 2009 at 9:15pm #

    “Such sacrifice is unconscionable in any justice system that includes capital punishment.”

    So the sacrifice would be ok as long as the justice system doesn’t include capital punishment? Is that why so many liberals so vehemently oppose killing the merely double-digit number of (mostly) criminals each year?

    There are 30,000 easily preventable deaths each *day* caused by malnutrition and disease which is caused by the global economic system constructed by and dominated by the West, including the United States. Yet for liberals this is a minor issue relative to the American state killing 60 criminals a *year* in the prison system. Such curious users of logic, these American liberals.

    There are a lot of great comments to this article.

    “if the votes in recent US election for prez were accurately counted, this wld mean that about 98% of amers have approbated all US crimes comitted to date.”

    Only about half of eligible Americans vote. Most leftists (real leftists) don’t vote. Only a small percentage of non-voters are leftists, but that should be considered.