New England mobilizes against the surveillance state: Updates from ME, NH and RI

In the states and the cities of New England, unparalleled, cross-partisan, cross-racial coalitions are forming, bringing together libertarians, Tea Party people, technologists, peace and environmental activists, Occupy folks, veterans’ groups, people of color, religious groups and progressive Democrats. The nation may never have seen people of such disparate views united under one banner.

Three examples from just this last month:

In Providence, RI last month, the Rhode Island Coalition to Defend Human and Civil Rights held a rally against surveillance that involved the ACLU, the Green Party of Rhode Island, Occupy Providence, the NEA and the Rhode Island Black PAC. They petitioned Rhode Island’s federal legislators “to immediately sponsor laws rolling back the power of government and business to spy on us electronically, through tracking or recording our phone calls, emails, texts and data.”

Local activist Amber Collins commented to the press,

“As a member of Occupy Providence, I never had any illusion that my email was private. If the government wasn’t watching me, I would think my activism was weak. If we were doing the activism we should be doing, there is no power that can stop us.”

In Concord, NH, the City Council voted to approve a grant for the Concord PD to purchase a Bearcat – a large armored vehicle – to respond to the “daily” terrorist threat allegedly posed by the Free State Project and the Occupy New Hampshire movements. Those “terrorist” groups, like terrorists tend to do, started mobilizing citizens to run against the existing City Council members and overturn the decision (in Ward 1, Cassandra Rasmussen; in Ward 2, Tim Bauman; in Ward 4, Kevin Bloom; and at-large, Timothy Willis).

We have covered before the insidious lure of DHS funds for local communities to buy military-style equipment that can only realistically be used to put down an armed revolt rather than for ordinary policing, and we’re glad to see local people organizing against it. An editorial in the Concord Monitor argues plaintively, “This election is surely bigger than a BearCat”, but once you understand this as part of a much larger national pattern, you understand that this is a trend that must be resisted town by town. Head over to the good folks at No More Bearcats for more coverage on this campaign.

In Maine, Veterans for Peace organized a 10-day march from Limestone to Bath to protest domestic drone surveillance, in partnership with a group of Buddhist monks and nuns from the Nipponzan Myohoji order. Walkers came from across the state, from as far away as Lubec to Bangor and Winterport. The starting point in remote Limestone was selected as it has been the center of a debate for several months about a potential drone test site coming to the former Air Force base. Maine is one of 37 states to apply with the FAA to become a test and launch site for UAVs, or drones. As our wars wind down overseas, the drones are looking for new homes and new uses here at home.

Earlier this year, Sen. John Patrick of Oxford, Maine wrote a bill to regulate drones, which passed the legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage in July, citing “no current drone problem” in Maine. This march builds on that momentum.

For those who are watching, who are in positions of power, take heed. As the prophet Hosea said, those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. What did you think would happen? Did you think what you were doing would remain secret forever? Did you think that, when it was revealed, we would be so dead to what was right that we actually wouldn’t mind? Do you still think that you can get away with simply being more transparent in your oppression? Get on the right side of history now. We have woken up, and all the patronizing propaganda in the world is not going to put us back to sleep.

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