Now, does that comport with the first amendment? No, of course not. Arresting Cheryl in this particular case who was a reporter covering the event was absolutely in violation of her rights - not only her right to be there as she was a licensee in that area as everyone who was invited into that particular location at the mall and this particular Army center is inside the mall so those individuals who were there to protest were invited into the mall to protest, she was there as a member of the press covering the event so her place there was completely protected and sanctioned not only by their initial action of inviting everyone in but by the first amendment. She was there to cover the event.
So, their actions in arresting her obviously become a much more important, I think, important struggle for all of us to have the truth revealed. Because, if you start to eliminate the press from any particular location based on arbitrary police decision making then you have essentially allowed them unfettered control of that particular event whether it's a protest, whether it's a march, whether it's a picket, whatever it might be it is essentially an area in which the press has a right to be, a right to view that event, a right to cover it, document it, record it and then disseminate it to the public and that is all that Cheryl was trying to do that day. And, unfortunately, she became the victim of excessive police activity.
In this particular case it looks as if based on the photographs that I have seen that she had been targeted by one civil affairs official and directed by one official to another official to actually go over and make the arrest of her because she had a camera.
Rob: This is what I saw, for example, when they threatened the TV crew and bullied them into leaving that is exactly what it was all about.
Paul: Let's mention that a little bit. Tell me about that part of it. You said that there was a TV crew there that was covering the event and what were they told by the police and who was the TV crew?
Paul: Yea, absolutely, I agree with that 100%. I think it is a systematic policy in any situation where there is a protest or demonstration and as I've said this began and it was very clear in 2000 that when arrests were unfolding that the police did not want the press documenting those arrests. Like I said, I think it's a general police policy but it's much more clearly effectuated in cases where it's a high profile political demonstration where the police acting on whatever prompting they have either from those individuals who were the focus of the demonstration, the Army in this particular case or whether it might be a particular governmental entity whether it's prompted by them or by the police themselves at a certain point when they take action they do not want it documented so you're right. It's not an accident. It is a systematic thing.
Rob: Does this happen all over the country would you say?
Paul: Well, it does happen. What's more important though and I want to make this clear that the kinds of tactics that have been used by the agencies that have investigated protest groups in this country are very much systematic. That they are, for example, following the Seattle protests in 1999 what was awakened was a very dangerous sleeping giant and that was the sleeping giant that had been foreshadowed by the COINTELPRO investigation done by the Church Committee in the 1970s which was a series of frightening abusive tactics by the federal government, by the FBI and other federal entities such as the defense department and the CIA and other evidence of domestic surveillance and intervention and illegal conduct by those agencies in an effort to undermine the first amendment rights of political activists in this country.
What 1999 did in Seattle was really reawaken this as I said this sleeping giant of domestic surveillance and the joint FBI terrorism task force was established and what began in Seattle continued in Washington DC in 2000 during the demonstration, I think it was the G-8 summit there in 2000 and then, of course, it came clearly into view, the tactics that were used in 2000 here in Philadelphia during the Republican National Convention.
What they did was and there is a series of things that they've done and they've refined their tactics, they refined it in 2004 during the conventions in the presidential conventions, one in New York and they did it again last year in 2008 and what the common denominator of the police agencies have been are several. One is what they would do is create protest zones where people were allowed to protest far from the situs of their particular protest so if the convention center was holding...
Rob: That's what's happening this week in Pittsburgh at the G20.
Paul: That's exactly right.
Rob: They've been designated...
Paul: That's right.
Rob: Is that legal?
Paul: Well, that's a very good question. Let me explain to you, it really cuts to the heart of this whole issue and this battle over the first amendment because what was developed was a strategy, for example in 2000, the Republican National Committee I believe at the behest of the federal authorities and swallowed up all of the public spaces with permit requests so all of the public spaces where protest groups would want to protest in either the center of the city or near the Wachovia Center where the convention took place, they were swallowed up by these permits so there was only one public space that the City of Philadelphia authorized for a demonstration by protesters. Everything else was swallowed up by these permit requests. That was one strategy.
The second one was to create so there are these non-protest zones which are areas where the City says okay you're off limits and they've done this in Pittsburgh. They've done the same thing in Pittsburgh.