Another Blow Against Civil Liberties and Human Rights
By Bonnie Weinstein
Ordinance 20303, which takes effect December 24 in Eugene, Oregon, prohibits the gathering of 25 or more people in the downtown activity area. The area extends from High Street to Lincoln and from 6th Avenue to 11th Avenue. It includes City Hall, but does not include the Federal Building (under federal jurisdiction). Fines for violating the ordinance start at $500. Penalties for willfully violating the ordinance are $1000 fine and/or one year in jail.
Having received this public notice from a friend, I am appalled to hear of the attempt to restrict freedom of assembly in the city of Eugene, Oregon. The government carried this out on a large scale in New York both for the Million Youth March a few years ago in Harlem and the giant February 15th march and rally to Say No to War in New York City. Demonstrators were penned in last February and barricaded block by block and prevented from marching because there were too many demonstrators!
I was under the impression that the purpose of freedom of assembly and speech was to have the right to organize mass demonstrations and marches in order to get as many people out as possible. I was under the impression that who ever desires to march can join in. I dont know where in the U.S. Constitution it says that the freedom of assembly only applies to small demonstrations. Then does freedom of speech only apply to the small elite group of people that control the government and the mass media? Is that what they mean by freedom of speech? Does the freedom of assembly only apply to the soldiers our government assembles for war and to oppress people in countries around the world and sometimes right here in our own back yard? Does freedom of assembly only apply to the police in our communities?
The whole movement must stand in solidarity with one another to demand our rights as put forward by the constitution. Sometimes it seems we forget that our Constitution does not even go far enough to support democratic rights. That is why we need to fight in the streets in mass demonstrations for all peoples civil and human rights.
The labor movement across the country has had their rights to fight for decent wages and conditions on the job grossly curtailed by such things as the Taft-Hartley Act that prohibits labor solidaritythe only tool able to defeat the bosses!
Our constitutional rights were not graciously granted. These were hard fought! Lives were lost! And hard time spent in prison for daring to advocate such freedoms and rights! These concessions were granted because it became clear that the bulk of the American people demanded them and were fighting in the streets for them.
We must not relent! We must keep to the streets! We must build the movement into a massive and powerful movement for freedom, equality, social justice and an end to war!