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socialists confront "private-property" politician

July 28, 2009

Brian Moore is trying to do what few people are willing to these days—stand up for what he believes in. Moore, last year’s Socialist Party U.S.A. presidential candidate and chair of the Nature Coast Coalition for Peace and Justice (NCCPJ), believes that we need to bring our troops in Iraq home immediately, and that we need a health care plan that covers everyone, regardless of class or employment. He also believes in the right to public assembly, but local authorities in Florida’s 5th district aren’t making it easy for Moore to exercise this right.

Back in April, Moore and other members of the NCCPJ attempted to hold a protest against the war in Iraq and for universal health care in front of Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite’s new office, but were barred from protesting in front of her office because she claims that her new office is on private property. Instead, demonstrators were forced to hold their demonstration 50 feet away, in a ditch, next to the busy Spring Hill Drive. Moore tried to negotiate the closing of one lane of the road arguing that the conditions of the location were not safe to hold a demonstration, but his negotiations were unsuccessful.

On June 24, Moore and several fellow activists attempted to once again hold a demonstration promoting health care reform in front of Brown-Waite’s office. They were again denied access to the property by a representative from Regent Properties, the company in charge of managing the site, the Sheriff’s Office was called in and demonstrators once again found their demonstration relegated to the busy Spring Hill Drive.

In response to this denial of assembly rights Moore, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, is currently in the process of building a case against Congresswoman Brown-Waite. In Moore’s words, “We need to keep the pressure on all of Congress and the President.” But how is that possible when the general trend is to marginalize real activism? As Moore puts it, “If you say you believe in freedom of speech, of assembly, of dissent, then why are you stopping such actions? Why are you saying you are a public servant, but then use private property as an excuse to hide behind?”

Moore is committed to the principles of democracy and vows to continue to fight against this blatant attack on political activism and free speech: “We might be able to pressure Congress to formally establish the policy that all elected representatives of the U.S. Congress should occupy public facilities, or, if private, they must … assure constituent access publicly.” Moore and the NCCPJ will continue to oppose the Congresswoman’s denial of access both through the legal system and in the street, even if, for now, that means holding demonstrations in a ditch along a busy Florida road.

(Edited version of an article I wrote for the July/August issue of the Socialist.)

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