Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | February 21, 2003

Mystery brief surfaces

Kos here, temporarily checking in...

I wrote a couple days ago about a US Justice Department brief asking a District Court judge to uphold NY City's rejection of a protest permit for anti-war protesters last weekend. I also asked for help in finding that brief.

Well, thanks to Jeralyn at TalkLeft, I learned that there was no amicus brief (as reported in the Village Voice and other news outlets). There was a "Statement of Interest". It wasn't a full brief, but it would still contain substantive arguments as to why the US government opposed the protest. Still, I didn't have access to the Statement.

Well, Wyeth Wire has come through with a PDF scan of the statement. Wyeth doesn't think it's a smoking gun. I can't decide without further info.

In short, the government cites the UN Agreement, which requires the US to "exercise due diligence to ensure that the tranquility of the headquarters district is not disturbed by ... disturbances in its immediate vicinity." While this reasoning has been used at least once before (against a Hari Krishna protest in 1980), that case was apparently never appealed (or was dismissed during appeal) so there's no controlling legal authority on point.

It would be interesting to see whether other protests have been allowed near UN headquarters since that 1980 Krishna protest. The answer to that question would go a long way toward determining whether the Justice Department's efforts were politically motivated.

Interestingly enough, Justice's letter was not predicated on US law, but entirely on the UN Agreement. Now, while treaties have the full effect of law in the United States, they do not supersede the Constitution. The cited provision, requiring that UN headquarters not be “disturbed” by “disturbances in its immediate vicinity” sounds horribly vague and overbroad, thus blatantly unconstitutional. (Though I could be mistaken – I’ll defer to the wisdom of more learned lawyers.)

Update: Allright. Some quick Googling finds the government's arguments to be specious. There has been at least one large protest outside the UN in the past few years (10,000 Iranian dissidents). There also have been a ton of smaller protests, with arrests occuring only when protesters have tried to enter the UN building (which is understandable).

Posted February 21, 2003 02:46 AM | Comments (10)


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