The Criminalization of Political Opposition in America
By Patrick Martin
May 12, 2014
“While the current rash of anti-democratic measures largely targets non-citizens, mainly of Middle-Eastern descent, they constitute a fundamental attack on the basic rights of the entire population. These attacks will be extended to American citizens, especially those who oppose the government’s policies, sooner rather than later.”
So declared the World Socialist Web Site more than a dozen years ago, commenting on the passage of the Patriot Act and establishment of military tribunals by the Bush administration. The actions of the Obama administration, whose “anti-terror” policies represent an escalation of the assault on democratic rights under Bush, fully vindicate this warning.
The past month has brought the criminalization of political dissent in the United States to a new stage, with the May 5 conviction of 25-year-old Cecily McMillan for assaulting a policeman during the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, and the April 25 sentencing of three anti-NATO protesters to long prison terms for taking part in discussions about violence initiated by two Chicago police infiltrators.
The circumstances of both cases are outrageous, with severe penalties being imposed on individuals who are not criminals, but political opponents of the policies of the Obama administration and corporate America, for which they have become victims of police violence and provocation. The cases involve people who took part in peaceful, legal protests in New York City and Chicago, only to be framed up and convicted on felony charges.
Cecily McMillan faces a jail term of up to seven years in prison because she inadvertently elbowed a New York City cop as he was manhandling her during the police operation that broke up a demonstration in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park on March 17, 2012. This occurred at the tail end of the Occupy Wall Street protests against corporate greed and social inequality. Sentencing is set for May 19.
The trial judge barred presentation of evidence on McMillan’s injuries while allowing the prosecution to show an anonymous, grainy YouTube video of the incident, which, according to the prosecution, supported the police version of events. So flagrant is the injustice in McMillan’s case that nine of the twelve jurors who convicted her wrote to the judge asking that the she be given probation rather than a prison sentence.