Dave Rice 1:52 p.m., May 23
Protesters Say Defense Bill Will Gut Bill of Rights
Members of various local progressive groups gathered this morning for a “sit-in” at the Democratic Party’s local headquarters in protest of President Obama’s indication that he would sign the controversial National Defense Authorization Act. The act includes provisions that the demonstrators, united under the "San Diegans to Save the Bill of Rights banner, believe will undermine the ability of citizens to express dissent, given that it allows for indefinite detention without charge or trial of Americans suspected of having ties to terrorism, a term that some have said could be broadly defined to include many peaceful protesters.
On arrival at the Democratic Party, the group found the offices closed and a note on the door announcing reduced hours during the holidays. Instead of a sit-in, the 40 or so present picketed in front of the Democrats’ offices on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. Around noon, a majority decamped to relocate their protest to representative Susan Davis’s office. Davis, along with both California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, voted to send the bill to Obama for approval.
“No one cares to point out that this is a national crisis of our civil liberties, an end to the posse comitas laws, and at the time when the Occupy Wall Street movements have challenged the establishment, this bill would allow our troops to sweep up dissenters in public parks across the country, by calling them ‘suspected terrorists’ — like occupy protesters were called in London recently,” said Frank Gormlie, a local MoveOn council chair and publisher of the progressive local news site OB Rag in a release. “It represents nothing less than civil war against dissent, a destruction of the Bill of Rights, and is a mechanism previously limited to totalitarian governments of the 20th Century.”
Feinstein sponsored an amendment to the bill (which passed 99-1) that preserves the application of current laws concerning U.S. citizens, lawful resident aliens, and others captured within the United States. She argues that existing law does not allow for indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, although the Obama administration believes otherwise. After initially threatening a veto, Obama has since indicated that he is inclined to approve the bill.