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Protesters Up In Arms Over Surveillance
MUDCAT FALLS -- The ACLU has filed suit against the Calabash County Sheriff's Department on behalf of the Consolidated League of Affiliated Protesters, alleging the violation of civil rights of peaceful
protestors by unlawful spying and intelligence gathering.
"Spying by law enforcement on peaceful protestors chills free speech," said plaintiff Digby Dalhaber, President of CLAP. "People will hesitate to participate in free speech activities if they think they will be monitored and given a dossier. This could apply to marches, gatherings or even townhall forums."
The action follows on the heels of successful ACLU settlements in "Spy File" cases in Chicago, Illinois and Denver Colorado.
At issue is the observation and documentation of activities by Sheriff Atticus W. Moosejowl and his deputies during anti-war protests in support of Cindy Sheehan's encampment at President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
"These are groups who gather in large numbers in public places with signs and bull horns to draw attention to themselves, to get their names in the paper and to get their pictures on the television," noted Attorney Steven Dallas, who has been retained by the county to fight the lawsuit, "and everyone in the world but law enforcement personnel can pay attention to them? I don't think so."
Dallas noted that these are often individuals who engage in civil disobedience and disruptive acts. During the protests in Courthouse Square at the Soldier's and Sailors Monument, seventeen protesters were arrested for a variety of ordinance violations, including vandalism, disorderly conduct, possession of controlled substances, destruction of public property and a variety of parking and traffic infractions, when some protesters became confrontational towards the visible presence of law enforcement and fire department personnel who were called out by Mayor Alabaster to maintain order.
Police records show Dalhaber was ticketed for going seventy-eight miles per hour in a thirty-five mile an hour zone as he was fleeing the area after fire hoses were turned on individuals who had flipped over two squad cars.
"The 'surveillance' in this case was a radar gun and his 'dossier' is a traffic citation," said Sheriff Moosejowl. "This seems like a pretty extreme way of trying to beat a speeding ticket."
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