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SOAW and ACLU lose injunction

Looks like the SOAW dems will include metal dtectors and will exclude items such as large crucifixes and other props. A newly-appointed Bush judge ruled on the case after brief consideration.
SOA Watch vs. City of Columbus
by mali 5:52pm Fri Nov 15 '02 (Modified on 8:58pm Fri Nov 15 '02)

The ACLU of Georgia along with SOA Watch filed suit against the city of Columbus today, challenging the city's plan to conduct mass searches of the demonstrators on Sunday, November 17th.

The ACLU of Georgia along with SOA Watch filed suit against the city of Columbus today, challenging the city's plan to conduct mass searches of the demonstrators on Sunday, November 17th. Having attained the proper permits for the weekends events, SOA Watch was only informed late last week of the new security action including searches with metal detectors.

Jeff Winder, a long time peace activist and current SOA Watch Staff member, commented before the hearing that the reasons for bringing the city to court were larger than the annual protest, he was personally concerned about people's rights to converge and voice their political opinions. With all the new laws created, he questioned "are we going to equate dissent with terrorism?" The ACLU and SOA Watch focused on fourth amendment rights which say persons can not be searched without warrants, probable cause, or consent. The ACLU became involved with the case because they felt that the searches would restrict people from attending the demonstration, therefore infringing upon their first amendment right to speak freely and peaceably assemble.

SOA Watch and the ACLU's attorney William Quigley focused on the non-violent history of SOA Watch and especially the annual November demonstration at Ft. Benning. He then spoke about the several techniques SOA Watch implements to maintain their non-violent stance. These include a pledge of nonviolence, nonviolence training workshops, and trained peacekeepers that attend the demonstration. The pledge of nonviolence includes no weapons, no vandalizing, and no assault, among other commitments that foster a respect for all people. The pledge is read several times throughout both days of the demonstration. The nonviolence workshops are held throughout the U.S., and SOA Watch encourages all participants to attend one, preferably before traveling to Columbus, GA. Quigly then cited case law that had allowed for mass searches because there was a history of violence, dangerous weapons present, or evidence of anticipated violence. The ruling in U.S. vs. Davis allowed for searches of airplane passengers - the previous year there had been 40 attempted plane hijackings this history of violence was enough to create new laws that allowed for bypassing the fourth amendment right. Other examples include a KKK rally in which participants had threatened to bring weapons. This constituted evidence of anticipated violence and thus allowed for mass searches of the participants. SOA Watch has had a long history of non-violence: in twelve previous November demonstrations, there have been no arrests or reports of violence or assault.

This brought up the question of what is violence and whether unlawful conduct and civil disobedience constitute violence. The defense felt that public safety was the number one concern and that the protestors did not respect the law and therefore were a hazard to public safety. They felt that by doing mass searches they could create a safe environment for the public, demonstrators, and officers. Officers testified that in recent years the demonstration has escalated and the past year came close to a riot situation. IN support of this contention, one officer claimed that one of the signs that a situation was going to escalate to a riot is the appearance of bare breasted women - of which there were four last year. Also the police noted that last year was the first time that the protesters acted out "against the City of Columbus" when they chose to sit in the middle of the road into the base and impede traffic after the expiration of their permit.

The defense used these two incidents to show that the demonstrations have been escalating in recent years and warranted the use of mass searches in order to protect public safety. The defense also argued that since SOA Watch does not know which groups will be attending the gathering and what their stance on nonviolence is, there is no way they can guarantee that no acts of violence will occur.

Apparently, the Judge agreed with these arguments; he ruled against SOA Watch and denied their request for an injunction against the city.

add your own comments

by Jay O'Hara 8:58pm Fri Nov 15 '02

I am absolutely astounded that this went through. They didn't do searches at this years IMF/World Bank protest, why on earth do they think that SOA is going to pose a public safety problem? I feel the cold hand of Big Brother reaching in. The presense of metal detectors will probably cause more tension than has every been present at this event. PATRIOT ACT Here We Come!
Knitting 16.Nov.2002 06:51


How are you going to do your knitting??

Honest, any report on how this changes the protest landscape will be appreciated.

Fight back 16.Nov.2002 06:54


The reason that they dont attempt to use metal detectors and searches at the anti-globalization protests is many faceted. First, the protesters are not under one big egis, and the state would have to win injunctions (and respect of authority) on every affinity coming to be able to effectively do this. Secondly, there are lots of participants who wont passively submit, they will fight back. All it takes is a couple of coordinated affinity groups to destroy the surveillance get up--look at the innaguration. Imagine if there were thousands participating in the resistance. Third, many people go to anti-globalization protests to destroy and stop the meeting, what do you think will happen to a few metal detectors that get in the way? So if you want to stop this crap, you dont go to their court, you organize organically and not top down. That way people come independently and not under one big umbrella. You are much less vunerable this way. There is no leader to target, no well funded organization to hold liable, etc.

Stream is Right 16.Nov.2002 07:06

Get up, Stand Up

Know thyself.

Resistance is useful; violence is not 16.Nov.2002 10:59


The regime WANTS violence. Creative resistance is essential. 10,000 naked people with the names of victims of SOA graduates written on their bodies might get someone's attention. It might get the point across. Please, no violence. They have the big guns. And they will not hesitate to kill us all.

SOAW is not the problem here 16.Nov.2002 11:46


I don't think that blame in this situation should be put on the SOAW for organizing in the way that they do (though in other discussions I certainly would be willing to join in the criticisms). The reason that this went through and will likely happen (unless people organize against it and take direct action (not necessarily violent, as some may assume) against the invasive actions of the state) is because the state, unchallenged, can and will crush dissent. Even if this had been organized by no central umbrella group, the state could have picked any group participating in the demo to attack in this way and then made the arguement that because they do not know who is a member of that group, they have to assume everyone is "in the interest of public safety" and search everyone. So, I don't think that the solution to this problem is a change in organizational methods (though that certainly would help to solve many problems in the left). I would suggest that the solution is making any demo that this occurs at contain two messaged attack, one on the initial reason for the protest (here the SOA) and, two, the government's increasing attempts to quash dissent undermine democracy. If we do not act on this now, we may not be able to make them in the future and keep our lives.

All good 16.Nov.2002 12:39

me, clarifying

Audre Loude 101: Do not use your master's tools.

(So that includes not using violence! ha)

I like the naked demo body idea. Note also that the Georgia local judgery had everything to do with this. Regionalism is going to have a lot of sway in this fight. Might be something to understand.


True enough 16.Nov.2002 16:06

anne frank

It will be even more of a challenge after George II moves the SOA to Costa Rica!

contact info 16.Nov.2002 19:24


Does the original poster of the article or anyone else know if there's a way to contact this judge? This ruling is ridiculous, and this isn't a precedent we should just allow to be set. Can anyone help me out with some info?