trick or treat politics

Last week I wrote something here about the Bush administrations use of what are being referred to as free speech areas, enclosed pieces of land where protesters are being corralled when either the President or Vice President are speaking in public. These areas, you might not be surprised to learn, are usually located some distance away from the administration official doing the speaking. (Of course, the folks waving signs saying God Bless You, George are encouraged to stay right there with the President, where the camera crews can get good shots of their enthusiastic response.)

Chelsea Lowe and I had been discussing this new phenomenon for a while. (As were both kind of fans of free speech, it pissed us off a bit.) Neither one of us very much liked the idea that people could be herded into free speech areas against their will. I guess you could say, it rubbed us the wrong way In the words of one of the men last threatened with arrest if he didnt go willingly to his convenient, fenced-off free speech area, we thought this whole country was a free speech area.

So, angered by this, as well as a number of other unfriendly acts toward the Bill of Rights (the Patriot Act, the Total Information Awareness project, etc), we started brainstorming as to creative ways in which we could get the word out. We started by talking about t-shirts. We tossed around ideas for slogans like, Do You Know Where Your Free Speech Area Is? Or, America: the land of free speech. where designated. Or, perhaps just the quote – I thought this whole country was a free speech area.

The backs of these shirts would then have details about the practice of the Bush administration of detaining peaceful protesters under threat of arrest where they can’t be seen or heard.

The idea grew from there Chelsea brought up the possibility that we might be able to somehow tie our campaign into the upcoming Halloween holiday.

Then the floodgates opened.

What if we got the word out that people protesting these assaults against freedom of speech were carving jack-o-lanterns with no mouths this Halloween!? Would the ACLU help us get the word out? Would we get the story picked up by mainstream press?

What if we made a website with a list of costume ideas? We could get a white sheet, transcribe the Bill of Rights onto it and then toss it over a kids head. Hi, Im the Ghost of the Constitution. Or, we could make up an Old Man Ashcroft costume, complete with a constantly running tape loop saying things like, thats immoral, Im scared, cover those boobies, and anoint me in oils. We could have photos off all these things and encourage other people to send in ideas. We could even offer a prize, like one of those George Bush action figures.

We could create a downloadable PDF off a handbook on Haloween Activism for Free Speech. We would have flyers that you could print out. We could list the phone number for the White House, encouraging people to call up and say, You know whats really scary? Designating free-speech areas is scary.

I was really excited about all of this stuff when I went off to New Orleans last week. Id gone with every intention of working on the idea the whole time there. I thought Id have days of just sitting around, sipping coffee and working on this. Unfortunately, thats not what happened. Instead, I had fun. I went out and met people. I was uncharacteristically social.

So, in conclusion, there will probably be no revolution this Halloween. I was too busy eating red beans and rice and running up and down Frenchman Street Sorry.

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