Summer of Fear?

This summer is in many ways shaping up as a scary one. As Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller recently warned, everyone and everything could be the target of a terrorist attack, which could happen at any time. Rightly skeptical as one may be of any statement coming from a Bush administration official, only a fool would deny that these are indeed dangerous days.

My question, though, is this: how threatening are those who simply want to make their case for a more peaceful, more equitable world? According to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, very.

From May 24 through June 20, Perdue has placed six coastal counties in Georgia under a “state of emergency” because of protests against the G-8 summit slated for June 8-10. Fittingly enough, the summit is being held on Sea Island, a private island where world leaders will hold private talks; like global trade policy, the island is off-limits to the public and protesters. Sonny Perdue’s edict also makes it impossible for any protest group to obtain a permit to hold a demonstration in nearby Savannah and Brunswick. In the words of one Charlie Daniels, “the South’s gonna do it again.”

Here in the sophisticated Northeast, the Bill of Rights, is alive and well, right? Well, in Boston, a place some may still call the “Cradle of Liberty,” no less than 40 miles of road closures are planned for the week of the Democratic National Convention in late July. Those who wish to plead a case against war and occupation—a stance that John Kerry has shown no interest in taking—will face several obstacles in getting anywhere near the convention. My only advice is not to travel through South Boston on your way there, as it is an area generally unreceptive to peaceniks of any sort.

What will happen during the Republican invasion of NYC in late August is anybody’s guess. According to Bill Dobbs of United for Peace and Justice, “stalling” on matters of permits and other logistics is a tactical move on the part of Mayor Bloomberg and Co., who are trying to diffuse protest planning. Meantime, the route UPJ has proposed—up Eighth Avenue past the RNC site at the Garden and on up the West Side to Central Park—is designed to “minimize disruption.” But by rejecting the Central Park permit in the name of “lawn care,” Dobbs says, the Mayor “is flirting with—if not inviting—chaos.”

The hundreds of thousands of protesters expected to come to the city would be unlikely to flock to the city’s proposed alternative site, in Flushing Meadows. After all, as Dobbs puts it, it’s “many miles—and possibly another world—away from the RNC.” Streets overtaken by protesters would contradict the image of a well-ordered city that Mayor Bloomberg and Co. seek to project, yet such may have to be the case. Democracy, in any even, must begin at home.

                                                                                                —T. Hamm

Contributor

Theodore Hamm

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