As one of the members of the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance who has been spied on by the Maryland State Police, I feel it important that people understand that we in the Pledge of Resistance are the most peaceful, non-terrorist type folks you could ever hope to meet. We are committed to raising awareness about the destructive forces of violence in our society and our country, which is one of the reasons we have protested the invasion of Iraq since before it occurred. It is because we love and value this country so much that we work to make it better, and we start by insisting that those in power obey its laws. It is because we are profoundly anguished by our government's illegal actions and what it has done to us and to our brothers and sisters around the world that we continue our peaceful work.
This spying and infiltration of the Pledge of Resistance and the Baltimore Coalition to Stop the Death Penalty cuts to the core of what we are as a country. Does the First Amendment of our Constitution really mean what it says when it guarantees freedom of speech, assembly and to petition our government, or is it something we learn about in school but never really understand and then forget? Do we as a people tolerate the tactics that countless dictators, past and present, use to terrorize their citizens to perpetuate their power? Or do we recognize spying on peaceful people who are trying to make this government and this country a truly free and harmonious place for what it is - repression in its rankest and most dangerous form that must not be tolerated in the United States of America?
The author of this article is an idealist, not that there is anything wrong with that. The problem comes when the idealist expects that the powerful in this country, or any other, are like-minded thinkers. They aren't, as a rule, idealists in the general understanding of the definition of the word. If they have an ideal at all, it is the acquisition and keeping of power. Those who lust for power all share one fear. They fear those they have wronged in some way, even if the fear is irrational. For example, the DIA (Defense intelligence agency) have shown a great deal of interest in typically non-violent groups of activists, like Quakers, during the Bush administration. Any number of groups of non-violent activists have been and are being surveilled.
Actually, as someone who has been around for awhile, as someone who is not a "professional activist" but rather a "rainy day activist," while it does sicken me to my core, I was not in the least surprised to learn that Americans were and are being surveilled. The only thing that surprised me, at all, was the massiveness of the surveillance program, and that is only what we know about at this time.
A no-less-important issue is that in these dreadful economic times, the resources of our state were diverted to fund this illegal activity. I find it ironic, and would be laughing if I weren't so upset, that my tax dollars funded my surveillance. And your and my tax dollars have been diverted from dealing with real crime (of which there is no shortage), and real criminals who do mean us harm, to investigating two groups that by the repeated admissions of the infiltrators were engaging in nothing criminal and were completely nonviolent.
I am not only outraged but also sickened to my soul that because I do not agree with some of the policies of my government and work peacefully to change them, someone with power and authority decided that I have no First Amendment rights and labeled me a security threat and worse.
This is not what this country stands for. This is not who we are. Whatever side of the political or ideological spectrum people find themselves on, this issue cuts across all those boundaries. No one who is working peacefully and nonviolently should ever be surveilled - it is a simple and fundamental truth.
Much has happened in the last almost eight years (and during other periods of time) that do an extreme disservice to this nation and to its people. The Bill of Rights has been being chipped away almost since the moment of its inception. Ordinary people, be they activists or not, must understand that a major part of our responsibility as citizens of this very young Democratic Republic, is to recognize the constant struggle between those in power and the rest of us and join in that struggle. The nation depends on it.
We in the Pledge of Resistance need to know who ordered this surveillance and why it was ordered. We also need a full accounting of the surveillance because we are almost certain we were infiltrated earlier than the documents suggest, and we want to know what steps are being taken to ensure that the surveillance is halted and never started again. The state police and Gov. Martin O'Malley owe this to every citizen of this state and certainly to us in the groups surveilled.
The First Amendment is the United States of America. I believe it and live it. Do you?
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.