No one should be stifling free speech

Kevin Griego

Maybe some students have seen them in the town hall meetings or at a local park holding up their signs. Organizing for American is community organizing project that was started just after the inauguration of Barack Obama.  This group seeks to mobilize supporters of Obama’s legislative agenda. In recent months, public opinion on President Obama’s new heathcare plan is struggling to build enough support because opponents of the plan and portraying his plan as a government takeover that could limit an American’s ability to choose their doctors and course of treatment. In addition, the quality of healthcare received and the additional taxes involved.  Recently, this organization has set up healthcare reform events around the U.S. hoping to sway public opinion into believing that Obama’s healthcare reform is what is best for them.

Reporter Sophia Elena attended a healthcare really in Pittsburg and asked Silas Russell of Organizing for America, why the flyer for the rally reads “no signs or banners permitted”. This means anyone who attends will not be able to bring signs. “The flyer says, ‘Signs are not permitted.’ So we can kind of control […] Make sure that people have signs that are… friendly. People won’t go in with signs that are not.”, Silas said.  Now recon these events are open to the public in public places for anyone who wants to attend. Where does the line get drawn for limiting free speech?
When asked about the organization, representatives of Organizing for America will typically say they are a grass roots organization that came out of the white house after the election. Now when I think of a grass roots movement, I imagine that the movement started with lay people. Hence the term grass. I see a grass root movement as at least beginning from individuals who are not a part of an enormous power structure.  Instead, those sitting in the redwoods created this group to water the grass into consenting to their way of thinking. There is a more correct term used to describe this kind of organization. Astroturfing is essentially the faking of grassroots support by special interest groups. These groups are typically supported by lobbyists, ad campaigns, ect.  The Obama campaign has over 13 million member email addresses and is supporting thousands of local community groups to aspire to the administration’s efforts to restore hope and bring about change. Organizing for American seems to be way more organized than a genuine grassroots organization.  Fortunately people can still freely announce whether or not they agree on an important issue in this country, but when a powerful group begins infringing on the freedom of speech of individuals in a public area who want to voice their opposition, there’s a problem.  What’s a democracy that won’t allow its dissenters to hold signs on the very land they pay taxes on?

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