Thursday, March 12, 2009

Richard Walton Is Right: "This is Appalling"

Richard just sent me the following email (which I have edited only very marginally!-grin!)

Hi: This is appalling. ANSWER is being hit with big fines for putting up
posters for March 21 anti-war posters. Peace. Richard.

ANSWER Fined $7000 for March 21st Anti-War Posters
Take Action to Stop These Repressive Fines!

Dear Mark[?--friend of Richard's I'm guessing],

Free Speech rights in Washington D.C. are under attack and we need you to take action.
The outcome of this struggle will have an impact on all progressive groups.

In the last weeks, the ANSWER Coalition has been hit with nearly $7,000 in fines for posters announcing the March 21 National March on the Pentagon that have been put up in Washington D.C. Just today, we received another $1,850 in fines for 12 posters.

The government is trying to effectively eliminate ANSWER's and any group's ability to engage in postering for Free Speech protected activities or dissemination of posters and flyers. The message is this: If you are an anti-war group or a progressive grassroots organization and you hand out or put up a poster, as you may have always done in the past, you can now expect heavy fines and long court battles that are designed to divert money and resources -- or shut you down completely.

The posters for which we were fined are lawfully posted. The District is also issuing fines against ANSWER regardless of who put up the poster -- they are just sanctioning us for being organizers and supporters of the political anti-war demonstration being publicized. Unlike many of the politicians, concert promoters and other corporate entities that put up posters in DC, the ANSWER Coalition even sends out teams of volunteers to remove posters following the conclusion of a demonstration or event.

Many individuals come in and take posters and leaflets from the office or download them from the website. As we have done for the past eight years we provide copies of the DC regulations to people that indicate how to poster in conformity with lawful regulations.

A big shift happened prior to the September 15, 2007 Bring the Troops Home Now mass demonstration that was led by veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We were targeted in an unprecedented campaign and hit with $55,000 in fines.

When we held a press conference in Lafayette Park to protest the postering fines, the news conference was attacked by the police on horseback. Three people were falsely arrested and the media was scattered by the police. Nearly 100,000 people watched the attack on YouTube and support for the demonstration grew rather than diminished. That was an important lesson about how we can resist and win.

We announced then that we would file a lawsuit to defend our constitutional rights. That lawsuit was brought on behalf of ANSWER and the Muslim American Society Freedom (MASF) by attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice is continuing and is now before the federal D.C. Circuit court.

We also stated that under no circumstances would we pay these illegal fines.

Tens of thousands of people sent letters to the DC government supporting our Free Speech rights and condemning the obvious targeting of the anti-war movement. Today, those massive fines and the new and ever mounting fines are being held over our head and really over everyone who is engaged in traditional grassroots organizing.

Our leaflets and posters are our voice. Neither ANSWER nor any other grassroots movement has corporate backing and financing that would allow for mass media advertising. We have to firmly defend our rights in the face of an attack that comes from the DC government but not from it alone. In DC and elsewhere during the Bush-years, national and local law enforcement agencies fine-tuned the coordination of their efforts to suppress Free Speech and harass activists.

We are urging that you send a send a letter today to Washington DC Mayor (Adrian M. Fenty) and to the Director of DC Department of Public Works (William O. Howland, Jr.) demanding an end to the fines, harassment and repression of the anti-war movement. We have a right to publicize the March 21st March on the Pentagon. Fining the anti-war movement tens of thousands of dollars for putting up Free Speech-protected literature makes a mockery out of the First Amendment.
This Free Speech fight comes at the very moment that we are in the final stages of preparing for the demonstration and carrying out the many logistical and mobilizational tasks and obligations. We are organizing on many fronts simultaneously and we also need to raise tens of thousands of dollars in the final week.

Please make an urgently needed tax-deductible donation to help us pay the huge costs associated for a National March by clicking here.


Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition National Coordinator


> A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
> National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
> New York City: 212-694-8720
> Los Angeles: 213-251-1025
> San Francisco: 415-821-6545
> Chicago: 773-463-0311

"The only way out of our crisis (terrorism) is to reduce the anger of the most
rational, thus also reducing the constituency of the least rational." Sam Smith.

"When they come for the innocent without crossing over
your body, cursed be your religion and your life." Anon. But
often quoted by Dorothy Day.

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