Citing first amendment, activists will defy police threats over freeway bannering

[via Backbone Campaign]

Citizens in Seattle have been threatened with arrest if they display signs or banners on overpasses or near state or interstate highways. The Backbone Campaign will test that threat this morning at a Seattle overpass above I-5, between 11 AM and 1 PM. Call 206-356-9980 if you'd like to participate in pre-action training.

The image to the right shows the warning given to Backbone Campaign affiliated activists who were preparing to resume a Wednesday morning vigil in Seattle that they kept faithfully for eight months in 2006 on the Yesler overpass. The same notice was delivered to AM 1090, Seattle's popular progressive talk radio station that had joined activists during the 2006 vigils.

"What's strange is that they seemed to know that we were going to begin again, and they were ready for us," said Jayn Foy an unassuming mother of two and resident of the Leschi neighborhood. "1090 had emailed that they received a warning and we thought it was strange, but ignored it - but then when the police arrived before we even were able to unroll our banner - handed us the same note - and said they'd arrest us for trespassing if we came back...well that's when it got a little spooky," Foy concluded.

Freeway bannering was the first tactic adopted by the group of artists that preceded what later became the Backbone Campaign. Similar efforts to intimidate people using this communication method failed in 2002. At one point the activists used a non-functional Walkman to convince the police that their efforts were being recorded and they'd be held accountable. The face-off lasted for more than an hour and by the end the Yesler overpass had seven SPD and State Patrol vehicles and more officers trying to convince those bannering to leave - but who refused until they were shown an actual law that they were violating and given a ticket to dispute in court.

In the end it was the police who had to do an about face while the Sergeant in charge agreed with the demonstrators that it was a freedom of speech issue and that as long as nothing was attached to the overpass or draped over the overpass - that they could set up their banner and continue their vigil.

"These threats will be couched in language of public and traffic safety. These are issues we take very seriously and would never do anything to endanger passers by" says Bill Moyer, Executive Director of the Backbone Campaign. "The fact is that we also take our Bill of Rights quite seriously. There are many distractions while driving including giant sexy billboards, bumper stickers, cell phones, children and more, but none of those are going to be made illegal. There is a tradition of this kind of speech by candidates, businesses, and demonstrators of all types. The fact is that our activities are legal, and the only reason we are being confronted is the nature of our message. Well folks, regular people don't have access to Clear Channel billboards, the corporate media ignore the messages we are delivering, and even the political parties have so constrained debate that there are very few venues for us to reach each other. The overpasses are one of the last and we plan to stand firm as long as there are people that love what America claims to stand for- Freedom."

Today, April 28 is National Impeachment Day - with thousands of actions to "Put impeachment back on the table." The Backbone Campaign is just one of hundreds of endorsing organizations encouraging its members to get involved in impeachment related activities. A map of activities can be seen at A28.org.

The impeachment movement got perhaps its biggest boost this week when Rep. Dennis Kucinich filed articles of impeachment against VP Dick Cheney for conspiring to lead the nation into an invasion and occupation of Iraq, an effort that has had the effect - according to a recent US intelligence assessment - of increasing the threat of terrorism against Americans.

With the cost reaching thousands of American lives, perhaps more than 600,000 Iraqi lives and an estimated long term price tag of $1-2 trillion dollars in all, oil companies are making record profits. Ironically, even the Democrats' supposed anti-war appropriations bill that allocates $124 billion to fund the war, includes a benchmark that demands that Iraqi's privatize 81% of their oil reserves. It should be remembered that Cheney's first scandal was his refusal to disclose documents and information pertaining to who participated in his Energy Task Force. Judicial Watch - the same conservative organization that haunted President Clinton - won the release of some of those documents, which included maps of Iraqi oil fields.

article originally published at .

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