I was reading “After Glow of Games, What Next for China?” in this morning’s New York Times and the following paragraphs caught my eye:

Meanwhile, eight Americans were among a group of foreigners jailed after they tried to demonstrate about China’s Tibet policies. The authorities released the Americans on Sunday and placed them on a flight to Los Angeles as the closing ceremony began.

“For the Chinese authorities to sentence them at all shows the government’s insecurity and intolerance of even the most peaceful challenges to its authoritarian control,” Students for a Free Tibet, a New York-based advocacy group, said in a statement.

The nerve! But, let’s think about this for a moment. Obviously, you don’t have to go to China to risk detainment for attempting free speech, as was demonstrated in New York City in April of 2003. At that time, fifty-two anti war activists were arrested without regard for their civil rights. At least justice was served five years later.

NY to pay $2M to activists arrested at war protest

NEW YORK – The city has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit claiming 52 anti-Iraq war activists were unjustly arrested, lawyers announced Tuesday.

The activists were arrested in April 2003 outside the Manhattan offices of a military contractor, the Carlyle Group.

Lawyers who represented the activists said that the tactics used by police at the demonstration were similar to those used a year later when hundreds of activists were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden.

The city and police department faced backlash after the convention, with critics claiming the aggressive response showed a blatant disregard for the demonstrators’ civil rights.

Lawyers said that in both instances, people were arrested without police warning or without providing an opportunity for anyone to leave.

Yes, the 2004 arrests have become legendary. The site of the detainment, Pier 57 is often referred to as Gitmo on the Hudson. Here’s an account of that fiasco from Wikipedia:

On August 31, 2004, during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, around 1,200 anti-RNC protesters were arrested and sent to a makeshift detention/processing center at Pier 57. Over 1,800 were arrested during the entire event. Medical activists reportedly treated many people held at Pier 57 for chemical burns, rashes, and infections that resulted from direct, prolonged exposure to the motor oil, asbestos, and other contaminants.

That lawsuit is still pending. Meanwhile, the City of Denver prepares for the Democratic National Convention:

City readies warehouse for mass DNC arrests– New lockup has chain-link cages, stun-gun warnings
Some protesters arrested at the Democratic National Convention could be jailed in a city- owned warehouse, complete with metal cages and barbed wire, CBS4 News has learned.

Although the contractors have decided to soften the look of Denver’s holding pens:

No razor wire at Denver convention holding cells
Police have dropped plans to top the holding cells in place for use during next week’s Democratic convention with razor wire after some groups started comparing the site to the detention facility for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“We rethought those plans and came up with a way to put a lid on the cells instead of the razor wire,” Denver Undersheriff William Lovingier said Wednesday as he led reporters on a tour of the cells in a city warehouse that will be the “Temporary Arrestee Processing Site.”

The cells will be topped with chain-link fencing, the same material used to make the cell walls.

Apparently, the Denver police are frothing at the mouth and already on the go. Check out this blog post:

Greetings Fired up supporters,

Yesterday I was verbally assaulted and unlawfully detained by the DENVER POLICE for about an hour for simply walking with a basket of OBAMA BUTTONS on the 16th street mall in downtown Denver. more…

All evidence taken into consideration, I conclude that free speech is as hard to come by in the United States as it is in China.

Police try to stop Mario Savio, leader of the Free Speech Movement from speaking at the Greek Theatre, in Berkeley, 1964.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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