The American Conservative reports:
The feds have offered some bizarre rationales for hog-tying protesters. Secret Service agent Brian Marr explained to National Public Radio, “These individuals may be so involved with trying to shout their support or non-support that inadvertently they may walk out into the motorcade route and be injured. And that is really the reason why we set these places up, so we can make sure that they have the right of free speech, but, two, we want to be sure that they are able to go home at the end of the evening and not be injured in any way.” Except for having their constitutional rights shredded. Marr’s comments are a mockery of this country’s rich heritage of vigorous protests. Somehow, all of a sudden, after George W. Bush became president people became so stupid that federal agents had to cage them to prevent them from walking out in front of speeding vehicles.
People who refuse to go to "free speech" zones are arrested and taken to court. The federal government is pursuing one case, against Brett Bursey, for violating a rarely enforced federal law on "entering a restricted area around the President of the United States." Evidently, the federal government is trying to make an example out of Bursey so that they will have a precedent in other cases, thus justifying their power to make sure that the president and the media don't see dissent.
The Homeland Security Department has even gone so far as to tell local police departments to regard critics of the war on terrorism as potential terrorists themselves. Some police have responded positively to this, going after protestors with gusto - and violence. The federally funded California Anti-Terrorism Task Force injured quite a few people when it fired rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd of peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders at the port of Oakland. The American Conservative quotes Mike van Winkle, spokesman for the unit, as saying:
“You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that protest. You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act. I’ve heard terrorism described as anything that is violent or has an economic impact, and shutting down a port certainly would have some economic impact. Terrorism isn’t just bombs going off and killing people.”
All of this should be highly disturbing to both conservative and liberals - but it's not. Some welcome the effort to stifle criticism of the administration. The neoconservative newspaper New York Sun is quoted as suggesting in February 2003 that the New York Police Department "send two witnesses along for each participant [in an antiwar demonstration], with an eye toward preserving at least the possibility of an eventual treason prosecution" because everyone participating were guilty of "giving, at the very least, comfort to Saddam Hussein."
It's a lot easier to eliminate freedoms when you have people like this happy to give them up willingly. Of course, they think that they are only helping to get rid of the freedoms of others - of those who don't "deserve" freedom in the first place because they use that freedom to propagate the "wrong" ideas. But it's sheer lunacy to think that this would only stop with war protestors.