Saturday, September 26, 2009

In Time for G20, CCR Re-Issues Its Pamphlet, "If an Agent Knocks"

Just in time for the G20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has issued a new edition of its 1989 pamphlet, If an Agent Knocks (PDF).

Bill Quigley, legal director at CCR, describes in an article at Alternet the circumstances surrounding the G20 summit and accompanying protests:
The recent decision of Federal Judge Gary Lancaster in Pittsburgh allowing protests at the upcoming G20 summit is an important one because, since 9/11, protesting against the government has become quite a bit harder.

Six peace and justice groups sued local state and federal government officials over severe restrictions on protesting at the gathering this month of the industrialized world's leading Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors -- precisely the sort of public event that free speech rights were designed for. The case, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Pennsylvania ACLU, resulted in the government giving more permits to protest and the court allowing a tent city protest.

.... government has poured billions into law enforcement with the result that their response to protests are in many cases no longer civil law enforcement but now quasi-military, a chance to both show off their new toys, and an opportunity for security forces to practice their mass response actions.... federal forces have taken over the leadership for security at any large protest so that local and state law enforcement have less and less to say in how the event is managed.

Additionally, local and state law enforcement forces have been given billions of extra dollars to fight terrorism. Hundreds of millions of these dollars have gone into special riot control and high tech security equipment. This means all police departments have lots of extra headgear, shin guards, shields, batons, pepper spray, tasers, bigger weapons and communication equipment. Most big city police departments have new armored vehicles and helicopters to fight terror. Every big police department has an anti-terrorism squad now. At big protests it is now common to see local police dressed up like and acting like military commandos. This militarization of law enforcement clearly inhibits the free exercise of the First Amendment right to protest.
As an email announcement for the re-release of If An Agent Knocks (PDF) explained:
Right now, thousands of activists who have gathered in Pittsburgh to protest at the G20 summit have been met with what we have come to expect: overreaction by authorities and illegal preventive tactics by law enforcement officials at all levels. A secret communications hub with "electronic eyes" has been established by the Secret Service, working with over 40 other agencies to infiltrate, spy on, and disrupt all forms of opposition. Raids and arrests are mounting, and the aggressive and well-planned system of cracking down on dissenting voices and reducing media coverage is strongly in effect.

CCR has responded to the increasing threat to dissent in a number of ways. For months now a CCR board member and cooperating attorney, Jules Lobel, has worked with on the ground organizations to secure permits and challenge restrictions to protests. Last week, in collaboration with the ACLU, he successfully represented several organizations in court and secured the right to demonstrate in a city park during the G20 gathering. And in a filing on Monday, we charged the local police with illegal searches, vehicle seizures, raids and detentions of Seeds of Peace members aimed at preventing them from providing food to protestors. CCR's legal director, Bill Quigley, is in Pittsburgh advocating on behalf of the protestors, and CCR will continue its support....

Since its original release in 1989, CCR's "If an Agent Knocks" [PDF] has been widely circulated in progressive activist communities across the country. This guide includes both the timeless advice included in the original version and extensive updates to reflect the current state of the law and law enforcement tools. It also includes a comprehensive discussion of today's technology, including cell phones, e-mail and Web browsing.

"If An Agent Knocks" is an invaluable tool for activists in a time when efforts to repress expressions of opposition are intensified. We want to get this publication into as many hands as possible. To obtain a free copy, please email You can also download it in pdf form. Tell your friends and fellow activists about "If An Agent Knocks," and urge them to place an order too.

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