Demonstrators outside of Clinton's NYC Office Dec. 10, opposing S 1959

Demonstrators outside of Clinton's NYC Office Dec. 10, opposing S 1959

A demonstration took place outside of Senator Hillary Clinton’s New York office Dec. 10 to encourage her to vote against the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act (S. 1959) if the bill should make it to the floor of the senate.

“I believe the bill is a threat to our rights to freedom of speech,” said Patrick Moroney, a freelance graphic designer who spent his lunch hour handing out fliers to people walking down the sidewalk near Clinton’s office, 780 Third Avenue (at East 48th St). “Our country and Bill of Rights are in crisis right now and it is important for people to get active and have our voices heard.”

The House version of the bill, H.R. 1955, passed Oct. 23 by a vote of 404-6 under the “suspension of the rules,” a provision that is available to quickly pass bills considered “non-controversial.” Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) was one of the six to oppose the bill. (More on the bill below.)

“I am troubled by anything that smacks of thought crime,” said Harvey Newman, another demonstrator. “The idea of preventing an act of violence is a scary concept to me. …There are so many issues that have to be dealt with to ensure that we have the right to dispute what our government is going and to have a say in government.”

Building security would not let a small group of demonstrators up to Clinton’s office to talk to staff and hand out informational fliers. Eventually, Case Button, Clinton’s Aid for Government and Community Relations, came down to the lobby to meet with Newman, after making it clear that he would only meet with one demonstrator, not the entire group.

Clinton’s press secretary did not return The Indypendent’s call requesting comment.

While most of the outcry against the legislation revolves around perceived attacks on the Constitution, Richard Degen attended the demonstration to challenge the idea of government altogether. “Politicians are passing police state legislation … the police are not workers, they are organize crime,” Degen, a native New Yorker, atheist and green anarchist, explained. “The government is responsible for the assassination of our own citizens and the earth and I don’t believe the government can provide freedom or that the Constitution protects rights … only revolution protects rights.”

Rob Jereski said he hopes to see politicians take action. “I’d like to see bold, audacious leadership from Hillary Clinton and some seasoned diplomacy and opposition from Senator Obama,” he said.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is on the 17-member Senate Committee for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs where S. 1959 was introduced by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) Aug. 2. If the bill makes it out of committee, then Clinton will be presented with the opportunity to vote on the proposed legislation.

According to the automatic email responses constituents are receiving from his office, Obama appears to be straddling the fence between preserving civil liberties and being tough on terrorism. “The American people understand that new threats require flexible responses to keep them safe. They also insist that our responses to threats respect the constitution and do not violate the basic tenets of our democracy,” Obama’s email said. “I will keep your important comments in mind as I work with my colleagues on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. I will work to ensure that this legislation helps to achieve our domestic security objectives while protecting civil liberties and constitutional rights.”

Approximately fifteen people attended the demonstration at Clinton’s office. Many continued the protest at Senator Charles Schumer’s office just down the street at 757 Third Avenue. Future demonstrations are being planned around the nation, including Chicago and Maine.

For more information:

Read Jessica Lee’s Nov. 16 article on HR 1955/ S. 1959:
“Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the United States.”
 http://www.indypendent.org/2007/11/19/homegrown-terrorism/

Blog Update Dec. 10 — Obama Supports Homegrown Terrorism Bill
 http://www.indypendent.org/?p=1407&preview=true

Blog Update Dec. 2 — Kucinich Opposes H.R. 1955
 http://www.indypendent.org/2007/12/02/kucinich-on-hr-1955/

Blog Update Nov. 27 — Opposition to the Bill and how the Legislation would Target the Internet
 http://www.indypendent.org/2007/11/27/homegrown-terrorism-update/

Democracy Now! on HR 1955, November 20, 2007:
 http://www.democracynow.org/2007/11/20/homegrown_terrorism_prevention_act_raises_fears

Read the proposed Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act:
H.R. 1955:  http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-1955
S. 1959:  http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-1959