Monday, October 27, 2008

Redress of grievances

As the Washington Post and several other newspapers reported Thursday, the Maryland State Police recently distributed letters to 3 members of the nonprofit group, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, indicating that the state had maintained records and gathered intelligence on those 3 individuals as suspected terrorists.
This organization seeks to educate citizens and advocate for clean energy in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. It’s based just a short Metrorail ride from my home in the MD suburbs of DC. And while I’ve never been affiliated with the group, I have known several people, mostly high schoolers in need of service learning hours, who have volunteered with them. CCAN describes itself:
“The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is the first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Our mission is to educate and mobilize citizens of this region in a way that fosters a rapid societal switch to clean energy and energy-efficient products, thus joining similar efforts worldwide to halt the dangerous trend of global warming.”
A nonprofit group with an office in Takoma Park, MD, which recruits volunteers to write letters to the editor, send postcard mailers, hold peaceable rallies at the Statehouse during critical votes, or pass-out fliers about wind turbines and light bulbs, doesn’t seem like a terrorist breeding ground to me. Even recognizing that members of the organization engaged in an act of civil disobedience (several members were given citations for laying in a roadway to block access to a coal-fired power plant in MD), this is not the kind of organization that engages in monkeywrenching, let alone violent terrorism. The CCAN members on the list as potential violent terrorists have no criminal records.
I’m generally concerned that the state government seems to be indulging in the fiction that environmentalism is somehow intrinsically linked to terrorism. It’s not. That’s worth restating, in no uncertain terms: Environmentalism is not a fringe or radical movement and it is not a front for vandalism or domestic terrorism. Suggestion to the contrary is not only profoundly ignorant, but insults thousands of Marylanders who work or volunteer their time to improve their communities.
I’m concerned that the actions of the Maryland State Police may not have been this general or accidental. Among the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s platforms has been opposition to the Inter-County Connector, a planned multibillion-dollar stretch of highway in the Washington, DC area. Pushing the ICC through was among the central platforms of Maryland’s former governor, who was in office during the period that the CCAN members were labeled suspected terrorists. This concern over abuses of power becomes more pronounced, in light of similar listing and surveillance of members of other groups that opposed the governor’s politics, such as anti-death penalty, anti-war, and pro-choice groups. The appearance that politics may have been the motivation behind black-listing these individuals is troubling.
I remind my government:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The right to peaceable assembly, the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and freedom from unreasonable searches are outlined in the US Constitution. I believe Maryland’s government owes its citizens an explanation.


Pat Jenkins said...

let's be clear erd, the environmentalist movement is violent!! and they will do whatever they can to HARM OTHERS in order to force their agenda on us!! but if these folks have been unjustly characterized with the "outspoken" element of their cause, then i hope for their acquittal!!!

E. R. Dunhill said...

Where is this violence? Who are these people who "will do whatever they can to HARM OTHERS in order to force their agenda on us"? Can you offer any evidence for your outlandish generalization?
Also, there is no need for acquittal. No one has been charged with any crimes. The issue is that the Maryland State Police apparently violated the 4th Amendment rights of a number of people whose only commonality seems to be speaking out against the policies of an elected official.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

A few articles of interest:

...and the list goes on.

E. R. Dunhill said...

I've never denied that fringe groups exist that commit crimes in the name of the environment. In fact, I've written about them on this and other blogs. That hardly speaks for the overwhelming majority.
Your inference that the actions of a fairly small number of people somehow speak for the motivations of environmentalists as a broad group is tantamount to describing Christians as terrorists because on the whole, they are pro-life, and people have committed murder and vandalism in the name of the pro-life movement.
Is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation a terrorist organization? The National Audubon Society? The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, or the Evangelical Climate Initiative? Sierra Club and Greenpeace, both of which have had members implicated in crimes, have memberships in the hundreds of thousands (SC = about three quarters of a million, GP in the low millions, depending upon how one counts). If violence really were a central tenet or even a broadly accepted method, wouldn't there be a much higher body-count and much more destruction of property? If these millions of people were really bent on violence, wouldn't we in fact be engaged in a civil war?
A few extremists among millions of well-meaning, law-abiding people are hardly cause for what MSP did. By their own admission, MSP lacked any evidence of wrongdoing.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

ERD: I never implied that all environmentalists were extremists. Nor did I imply that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was a terrorist organization. To quote you: 'PJ,
Where is this violence? Who are these people who "will do whatever they can to HARM OTHERS in order to force their agenda on us"? Can you offer any evidence for your outlandish generalization?' I merely offer evidence that there are those who fit your description and create the image that PJ references. Such organizations can cause a knee-jerk reaction by authorities against others whose actions might be construed as leaning toward extremism. It doesn't justify violation of constitutional rights.

E. R. Dunhill said...

If I was unclear that I was seeking some evidence that supports the sweeping generalization in PJ’s comment (his assertion that "the environmentalist movement is violent"), I apologize.

Sue said...

On a much lighter note -- I'm reminded of a bumper sticker I saw locally here in Eastern Kentucky.

we'll mine the other planets later.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

we'll mine the other planets later."

I like it. Asteroids are next....anybody seen Lando Calrissian??

ERD: Actually, you seem a bit defensive -- sort of like I am about agriculture. :)

E. R. Dunhill said...

Forgive me if I'm more polemical than usual on this issue, and if I'm defensive to a fault. This issue hits close to home for many of us in the environmental community in Maryland. The innocent people at the center of this controversy move in similar circles to those my colleagues and I do. I've volunteered and attended environmental events with people involved with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. I have a lot in common with them.
While I'm by no means the organizer or the firebrand that many others are, I am an environmentalist in Maryland, I have written and spoken against certain policies, I do organize people for environmental causes, and I intend to do more of this. I hate the fact that this incident has caused me some hesitation, even if only for a moment. I know others who feel the same way.
I am compelled to be and remain angry about this. It doesn't take much harassment or risk for many people with kids, stable jobs and mortgages to conclude that it's time to call it quits. For those who work for the federal government or for a government contractor (as many people in Maryland do), being listed under suspicion of violent terrorism could end a career. If we allow a violation of peoples' rights to go unnoticed, then we invite the government to do it again and to a greater degree.