The spirit of liberty must be ingrained in my DNA. Despite a lifetime of efforts to transcribe into my genetic code a personality of blind allegiance to government, the longing for true freedom has once again been aroused from somewhere deep inside the double helix.
I say this because all weekend I was glued to online streaming video of protests in Egypt. To say the least, seeing a populace overthrow a repressive regime is exciting.
While watching the revolution unfold on my laptop, I could not help but notice the hypocritical statements coming out of Washington, D.C. Over the weekend, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called upon Egyptian authorities to refrain from using violence against protesters.
“So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly, association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny,” Obama said in a speech.
Likewise, Clinton said, “We call upon the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain security forces,” and two days later reiterated, “We have sent a very clear message: We want to see restraint, we do not want to see violence by any security forces.”
A simple examination of recent protests in America shows why the U.S. government has no moral authority to tell Egyptian authorities how to behave.
In September 2009, Pittsburgh hosted the G20 Summit. The Secret Service was in control of security for the event, and commanded thousands of police, National Guard and U.S. Army personnel. To see how American authorities handled peaceful, non-violent protesters, simply type “G20 Pittsburgh Police” into YouTube.
Videos show thousands of police in full body armor tear-gassing peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders alike. A video titled, “Arrest at G20 Demonstrations, September 24, 2009,” shows plain-clothes law enforcement doing snatch-n-grabs and throwing protesters into unmarked vehicles. Other videos show police using the Long Range Acoustic Device on civilians. The LRAD — which was mounted on a large, scary, black military-like vehicle — was developed to use against terrorists in Iraq.
Police even stormed the University of Pittsburgh and randomly terrorized students who had nothing to do with the protests. Could you imagine studying for a test on the Drillfield and the next thing you know, police in storm-trooper outfits are lobbing canisters of gas and shooting rubber bullets at you? This is exactly what happened in Pittsburgh, as documented by many videos.
Another example of American authorities using violence against peaceful protesters was displayed during the September 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Typing “RNC St Paul Police” into YouTube allows you to view hundreds of videos of police brutality. Videos show that police in St. Paul, sporting the usual full body armor and diverse array of weaponry, not only used extreme violence against protesters and innocent bystanders, but they also jailed journalists covering the event.
Some alternative journalists and bloggers were detained and arrested before the convention even began. Police seized and held their cameras and recording equipment (search for “RNC St Paul Arrest Journalist” to learn more). Even mainstream media pundits were oppressed by law enforcement — NPR’s Amy Goodman and two producers were arrested while covering the protests.
Of course the August 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Co., was just as bad. A search for “DNC Denver Police” also brings up hundreds of videos that show police oppressing peaceful protesters. These videos show policemen trapping protesters by surrounding them, before proceeding to use tear gas and batons on them.
One of the more popular videos, “Police slam CodePink protester to the ground,” shows a burley male officer throwing a petite woman to the ground by slamming her chest with his baton. Media were also treated harshly in Denver. One video shows police roughing up ABC producer Asa Eslocker before arresting him.
It is nice to hear Obama acknowledge that peaceful assemblies, associations, free speech and self-determination are universal rights. After all, these natural rights are protected by the Constitution — a document he swore an oath to uphold and defend at his inauguration. However, the U.S. government has no legal authority, and certainly no moral authority, to tell the Egyptian government how to treat its protesters and dissenters.
Instead of lecturing Egyptian officials, American authorities should practice what they preach. For too long, law enforcement has detained, harassed, abused, arrested and intimidated scores of peaceful, non-violent American political activists. If the American government sees it fit to insist that Egypt act peacefully towards its protestors, it should first gain the merit to do so by making sure it does the same when protests arise at home.
Besides, an underlying issue is the fact that the U.S. government is probably the last entity that the people of Egypt want their government to receive advice from. After all, for the past 30 years it has been U.S. foreign aid, military equipment and weaponry that their president has used to oppress them.
This is evidenced by the fact that for the past week, Egyptian civilians have been bombarded with canisters of tear gas bearing the label “Made in U.S.A.”