Stephen Philion Lecturer/PhD Candidate Department of Sociology 2424 Maile Way Social Sciences Bldg. # 247 Honolulu, HI 96822
On Sat, 1 Apr 2000, Michael Hoover wrote:
> forwarded by Michael Hoover
> > Police Crack Down on IMF/World Bank Activists
> > Jason Vest, http://SpeakOut.com (via AlterNet)
> > WASHINGTON -- It was around 8 o'clock last Thursday evening when the
> > buzzer rang in activist Adam Eidinger's apartment. Thinking that some of
> > his fellow activists had arrived a bit early for a postering party, Eidinger
> > buzzed the door open and stepped out into the hall.
> > As one of the organizers of protests against the World Bank and
> > International Monetary Fund scheduled for April 16, Eidinger is used to
> > people dropping by in the evenings.
> > But upon glimpsing the police badges hanging around the necks of his
> > two visitors, Eidinger quickly realized they weren't looking for a bucket of
> > adhesive wheat paste and reams of posters that read "Mobilization for
> > Global Justice."
> > Instead, the visit was part of an effort by Washington's Metropolitan Police
> > Department to intimidate protest organizers -- even though District of
> > Columbia municipal code makes it clear that their activities aren't
> > criminal.
> > According to Eidinger, the detectives said that "they were monitoring our
> > e-mails," had read one about a "poster night" at his house, and wanted to
> > know "what that was all about."
> > "Since we've been doing a lot of organizing on the net, many of our e-mail
> > lists are public," said Eidinger, whose day job is doing public relations
> > work for Rabinowitz Communications.
> > "We know the police are looking at our e-mails, which isn't surprising,
> > since they've been coming to meetings since day one."
> > But, Eidinger adds, he was taken aback by what one of the officers,
> > Detective Neil Trugman of the Gang Intelligence Unit, told him, that the
> > postering activities of his group were illegal and must cease immediately,
> > and any further activity would likely be cause for arrest.
> > "He said, 'I was against the war in Vietnam, I protested, we don't want to
> > cause any problems for you, but you can't hang up posters, because it's a
> > violation of the law,'" Eidinger says.
> > The discussion went on for about a half-hour, and inevitably veered toward
> > police concerns about violence.
> > "I told them if I knew of any violent people coming to town, if I knew of
> > anyone coming here to trash anything, I would tell them, because I don't
> > want that," Eidinger recalled.
> > "I think I calmed them down, yet they insisted that hanging posters was
> > illegal, and that if anyone was caught, they would be arrested and charged
> > with destruction of public property, and that they were looking out for us
> > on the street."
> > Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch, one of the organizers of Seattle's
> > anti-World Trade Organization protests last November, was appalled.
> > "There seems to be an undue amount of zeal in stifling debate as
> > compared to focusing on the substance of World Bank/IMF policies,
> > which need to change," Wallach said. "If the police have all this spare
> > time to crack down on people exercising their First Amendment rights,
> > maybe they ought to check into corporate criminality of the WTO and IMF,
> > too."
> > What the Law Says
> > According to Fritz Mulhauser, legal program administrator of the American
> > Civil Liberties Union's National Capital Area chapter, the police
> > explanation was at best a stretch. Although commercial posters on
> > lampposts are illegal, Section 108 of Title 24 of DC's municipal regulations
> > protects political postering, with certain caveats.
> > "They can't be up for more than sixty days, they have to have on them a date
> > when put up, they should be put securely to the lamppost to avoid being torn
> > or disengaged by weather, and may not be fastened by adhesives that prohibit
> > complete removal, and you can't put up more than three copies within one
> > block," Mulhauser explained.
> > Detective Trugman wouldn't comment on the matter without permission from
> > D.C. police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile, who declined to meet our deadline
> > request for a conversation.
> > Activists and others are supposed to provide copies of the posters, along
> > with a name, address and phone number, to the mayor's office. But it doesn't
> > take but a short walk through some DC neighborhoods to discover that this
> > regulation isn't the police department's -- or anyone else's -- highest
> > priority. Multiple posters of a commercial bent can be found all over town.
> > "I've never heard of anything like this before," said Sam Smith, a lifelong
> > DC resident and veteran activist on causes ranging from the Vietnam War to
> > the environment and D.C. statehood. "The only times political posters have
> > been an issue in DC is after campaigns, when all the anal compulsives want
> > the politicians to take posters down as quickly as possible."
> > Eidinger's case is not entirely unprecedented, however. In 1998, when a
> > number of DC residents mounted a campaign to stop the building of a
> > convention center, their leader, Debbie Hanrahan, received scores of tickets
> > from the D.C. Department of Public Works for hanging anti-convention center
> > posters. After brandishing Title 24, Section 108, Jim Drew, a longtime
> > Washington attorney, got the city to withdraw the tickets. But the incident
> > was, he says, chilling.
> > "I got a sense this was being directed by a higher authority -- my strong
> > assumption was that the individual enforcement officer wasn't acting on his
> > own, in the same way I don't think the individual police officers in this
> > case decided to do that," he says.
> > "These regulations are extremely selectively enforced. They're only enforced
> > when they're in opposition to a huge economic force, like the convention
> > center or the World Bank. You don't have them enforced for anything else --
> > the circus, a rock concert, a yard sale."
> > What Price Postering?
> > The meeting with the cops left Eidinger shaky. When his postering crew
> > arrived Thursday night, "I explained that we'd been told we'd be arrested,
> > and I was really spooked.
> > "Even though I think I'm doing the right thing, I really don't want to get
> > arrested and fight this out in court," says Eidinger, whose worry was
> > understandable. Last year, he was arrested for manipulating a Bill
> > Clinton head puppet at an anti-NATO bombing protest.
> > "As I was explaining this [situation], we noticed a police officer in his
> > car outside my house. People were thinking, 'Are we going to walk out
> > of here and get arrested?'"
> > "After about 20 minutes of this, we started yelling at the cop, and
> > eventually he drove off, but I felt like I was in China, or somewhere
> > they don't protect freedom of speech."
> > While Eidinger and a handful of others hung back, over a dozen others
> > went forth and postered -- with no interference from the police.
> > A former associate editor on US News & World Report's business and
> > investigative staffs and former Village Voice writer, Jason Vest is a
> > national correspondent for Speakout.com and In These Times. He is
> > also a Project Censored 2000 award-winner.
> > AlterNet is a project of Independent Media Institute