THE POLICE STATE

by Julian Heicklen

Appeared in the Centre Daily Times, State College, PA, July 16, 2000

and the Souderton Independent, Souderton, PA, July 19, 2000

The National Governors' Association (NGA) held its annual convention at Penn State University from July 7-11, 2000. Redirect 2000, a student protest group, organized protest demonstrations and workshops.

The police-state manifested itself everywhere. On July 8, two members of the PA Abolitionists, a group opposed to the death penalty, were followed for some time, stopped by the followers (plain clothes police), and detained. The police asked to search their car, but they refused. They were cited for making a right turn without signaling and released.

On July 8 and 9, protesters and pedestrians were forced off the entrance road shoulder to the NGA conference into a pit by about 40 state troopers, who surrounded them. The protesters were not visible from the road, but the police were. Several police on horses were clearly visible on a bluff overlooking the pit.

On July 9, fifteen PA Abolitionists, who were chained together, approached the area where the Governors were meeting. They were marching on the side of the road and chanting anti-death penalty slogans. They were about 100 feet before the check point when about 30 state police and several squad cars forced them to stop marching. The PA Abolitionists spread across the road, which had already been blocked by the squad cars, and were placed under arrest. They were dragged to the side of the road, and two of them were pepper sprayed. The protesters were completely non-violent. The police cut the chains, handcuffed the protesters, and led them away for booking. They were charged with blocking a highway and disorderly conduct. Bystanders were forced into the pit, under threat of arrest.

The students had been given permission to use Osmond Laboratory as headquarters for their convention. They had a large banner hanging from the building over the weekend in an approved banner location which read "The Peoples Convention / a socially responsible alternative to the Governors' Convention / July 7-9."

On July 10, the Governors were going to have an affair in the building across the street. The students were holding signs in front of Osmond Laboratory, which is a designated free-speech area. The police told the students that they would be arrested if they held signs or spoke.

I was called to the scene by Justin Leto, the organizer of Redirect 2000. I stood in front of Osmond Laboratoy and lectured the police, governors, and bystanders with an electronic bullhorn about the rights of free speech for nearly two hours. One student stood next to me with a sign. The police did not approach us. About 18 months ago, Diane Fornbacher and I were arrested for using an electronic bullhorn on campus. As a result, the municipal anti-bullhorn ordinance was declared unconstitutional, and our charges were dismissed. We sued the Borough of State College, and it has just settled out of court for $8,000.

The police ordered the students to remove their banner from Osmond Laboratory. The students refused. Five of them were arrested, and the banner was cut down by the police. The charges were defiant trespass and disorderly conduct.

The five students went limp and were dragged away. They refused to give their names or any identifying information. They refused to be fingerprinted or photographed. At the arraignment the police demanded that they be given identifying information and allowed to fingerprint and photograph the students before they were released on bail. Magistrate Lunsford ignored their demands and released all five students on their own recognizance, after he arraigned them as Jane and John Does.

I am the Libertarian Party Candidate for Attorney General of Pennsylvania. If I am elected, I promise that the right to peacefully petition your government will not be infringed.