Date/Time: 24/08/2004 12:00 am
Every Tuesday, down in the WTC Path Station inside Ground Zero, we start
reciting into our cellphones the 1st Amendment at 6:30 PM and we recite it again and again until 7:00 PM. Then we gather and sing it together
rhythmically. And now we go up on the sidewalk to listen to the 1st Amendment Gospel choir. Here:
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.
Why pretend you police officers aren’t reading this? Of course you are. Let
me say hello. Well, thank you for not arresting us last week. We are working on excercising the 1st Amendment right of free speech and peaceable assembly. We feel that Ground Zero needs to be a working commons area in our community, like an international village square. We need to be able to share our memories of 9//11, and have our outspoken opinions and shout them out, you know, like Americans.
Many of you cops disagree, but some of you have sympathy for our position,
partly because you’ve noticed that President Bush has not succeeded in
persuading the courts that the constitutional freedoms should be suspended. We welcome you to search us and keep an eye on our activity, but we believe that suspending basic freedoms makes us more vulnerable to attack, not less.
The people from around the world who join us on Tuesdays often say that they never knew the 1st Amendment, but they often felt it in the natural personality of Americans. They knew it was there. The single sentence with the five freedoms, written by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, is an extraordinary, messy, scary way to organize a society. It guarantees freedoms and trusts people to find their way.
Every challenge to the 1st Amendment, starting with the Sedition Act in 1798, then the Espionage Act in 1914, and of course the laws of racism — these all front with fear. Freedom is banned because of the threat of the unknown, of the foreigner, of realpeople. The Bush administration seems to hate the 1st Amendment. Senator Byrd pointed out that in their public documents they can’t
bring themselves to give the U.S. Constiitution a capital “C.”
We know that if we are arrested by you that we will only be keeping the 1st
Amendment alive the way that it has always been kept alive — through citizens who lived it and made it stronger by public and judicial opinion. No, the PATH Station is not private property. Our taxes pay for it. No we are not a threat. Yes we are Peaceable. Yes, the 1st Amendment is our permit. No you can’t give commuters the right to be guests because they act like obedient
consumers while denying rights to people who wish to speak in public. Yes the basic American freedoms stay alive because we insist with our voices and bodies.
And yes we will keep saying that sentence. We invite all of you policemen and women to recite the great words of freedom with us. -rb