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King George visits his subjects...

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  • King George visits his subjects...

    The King made a royal visit to Wisconsin last week, and as is common when monarchs travel, individual liberties were suspended.

    King George Bush's bus trip across western Wisconsin closed schools and roads, prevented residents from moving freely in their own communities, and prevented citizens from exercising their free speech rights.

    All in all, it was a typical George W. Bush visit.

    But there's a slight twist.

    People in western Wisconsin, who hold to the refreshingly naive notion that they live in a republic as opposed to an imperial realm, are objecting.

    "There's a pattern of harassment of free speech here that really concerns me," says Guy Wolf, the student services coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. "If they're going to call it a presidential visit, then it should be a presidential visit - where we can hear from him and he can hear from us. But that's not what happened here, not at all."

    Wolf and other La Crosse area residents who wanted to let the president know their feelings about critical issues came face to face with the reality that, when King George travels, he is not actually interested in a two-way conversation.

    Along the route of the Bush bus trip from Dubuque to La Crosse, the Bush team created a "no-free-speech" zone that excluded any expressions of the dissent that is the lifeblood of democracy. In Platteville, peace activist Frank Van Den Bosch was arrested for holding up a sign that was critical of the president. The sign's "dangerous" message, "FUGW," was incomprehensible to children and, no doubt, to many adults. Yet, it was still determined sufficiently unsettling to the royal procession that Van Den Bosch was slapped with a disorderly conduct ticket.

    Up the road in La Crosse, the clampdown on civil liberties was even more sweeping. Wolf and hundreds of other Wisconsinites and Minnesotans who sought to express dissents were videotaped by authorities, told they could not make noise, ordered not to display certain signs and forced to stand out of eyesight of Bush and his entourage. Again and again, they were told that if they expressed themselves in ways that were entirely protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, they would be "subject to arrest."

    "Everyone understood the need for basic security for the president, but none of us could understand why we had to give up our free speech rights," explained Wolf.

    La Crosse Mayor John Medinger shares that concern. The Bush-Cheney campaign leased a portion of a local park where the royal rally was held. Yet, Wisconsinites who wanted to protest Bush's visit were told they could not use a sound system in a completely different section of the park.

    "I want to find out why the whole park was used when only a portion was leased," Medinger told the La Crosse Tribune. "So when demonstrators were told they couldn't have (sound) systems, the question is why."

    The Bush-Cheney campaign paid a $100 fee to use one part of the park, but disrupted much of the city. Medinger is now assessing the full cost of the royal visit and hopes to deliver a bill to the campaign, which State Elections Board attorney George Dunst says the Bush campaign should pay. Other communities, including Prairie du Chien, are looking at following Medinger's lead.

    But the challenge should not just be a financial one. The Bush visit attacked First Amendment rights up and down the Mississippi. A lot of people are owed apologies.

    In a monarchy, of course, the King never apologizes. But in a democracy, the president is supposed to be accountable to the people.

    By pressing demands that the charges against Frank Van Den Bosch be dropped and that the White House and the Bush-Cheney campaign apologize for participating in an anti-democratic endeavor, residents of western Wisconsin can, and should, take up the cause of this country's founders. It is time once more to challenge a King named George.

  • #2
    It was taking a bit to post so I hit the button twice. Sorry all.

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    • #3
      I would suggest mass disobedience of these orders, but without resistance to arrest, and a campaign of financial support for those arrested. The more 'ordinary decent looking' people are arrested, the more embarassing it becomes. Look back at 60s Civil Rights activism - embarass your enemy by making them look like the ones with no dignity or civil values.

      (Of course you could do what the UK police did and arrest people to break up a demonstration but then not charge them with the offence for fear of exactly what would happen should such a case get in a courtroom - leaving you the option of suing for wrongful arrest).

      And thinking back to last years visit from the Emperor of China, who'd have thought a Republican government would be preventing demonstrations against a Communist murderer?

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      • #4
        ... or that a "socialist" Prime Minister would hold Margaret Thatcher up as a role model. As elsewhere, they are all politicians of whatever hue, and disappointingly seem interested in holding onto power rather than using that power to achieve their vision.
        \"Killing me won\'t bring back your apples!\"

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        • #5
          This makes me uncomfortable as well. I am okay with the constitutional limits to free speech (i.e. that the government can limit the time, place, and manner of speech if they can show a compelling interest in the limitations). I do doubt the objectivity of some of the observers (like Wolf; no axe to grind there), but generally, Bush has tread dangerously close - if not crossed over - the line on this issue. Arresting the sign holder, is, on its face, a restriction of content, which under these circumstances is not subject to limitation.

          Why not let the dissenters speak? Make them do it from across the street, fair enough, but to effectively stifle the message altogether? That's wrong.

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