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1/6/2004

Where’s the outrage?

Filed under:General — eric @ 12:42 pm

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I’ve been too busy lately to care much about politics. It’s an election year, so I was going to get caught back up in a hurry, but at present, it just wasn’t something I had time for.

My mistake. Take a look at this article in American Conservative Magazine (if you’re a conservative) or the San Francisco Gate (if you’re liberal). It documents the White House’s practice of setting up “Free Speech Zones” in cities where the president is visiting, and putting anyone with signs critical to the administration within those zones. The zones are (of course) no where near the president, so all he sees are those praising him. Those who manage to slip critical signs along the “parade routes” have been arrested on charges including trespassing, obstructing without violence, and disorderly conduct. In one case, a mother and her crying five year old daughter were arrested and taken away in separate squad cars. One man in South Carolina, Brett Bursey, was arrested for holding a “No Blood for Oil” sign amid hundreds of pro-Bush signs on the roadside and charged him with trespassing. Five months later, a South Carolina judge threw out the charges, saying that you can’t charge someone on public property with trespassing. Right away, US Attorney Strom Thurmond, Jr. filed charges against him for the Justice Department. The charge: “entering a restricted area around the president of the United States”. (Never mind that he was one of hundreds there.) If convicted, he faced six months in prison and a $5000 fine. The federal judge denied Bursey’s request for a jury trial, stating that this was merely a petty offense. The verdict in Bursey’s trial is expected this afternoon, and you can find most of the court documents thus far and links to news sources here.

You may want to specifically look at the two latest briefs from the trial. Bursey filed a brief claiming he is the victim of illegal selective prosecution. Seems straightforward enough — he is the only one of “thousands” of people within the so-called restricted area to be prosecuted. The Justice Department’s response is beyond maddening. More so than perhaps anything else in the last two years, my government has embarrassed me with this filing. In short, it claims that the prosecution is not selective because since Bursey was told he was in the restricted area and told he had to leave but didn’t, he knowingly violated the restricted area and thus committed a crime. The other thousands of people didn’t know they were in a restricted area, and thus had no intent and thus committed no crime. I can’t fathom how Strom can sign his name to such a brief and feel good about it.

I’ll stop here, at least until the verdict gets announced today.

UPDATE: He’s been found guilty. Nothing good can come of this.