When all eyes turned to New Orleans, I thought, finally, things will change.
So the truth comes out.
After a myriad of stories about people being excluded from events where the President is speaking, now we know that the White House had a policy manual on just how to do so.
Called the “Presidential Advance Manual,” this 103-page document from the Office of Presidential Advance lays out the parameters for how to handle protesters at events.
“Always be prepared for demonstrators,” says the document, which is dated October 2002 and which the ACLU released as part of a new lawsuit. (For a copy of the lawsuit or the document itself, go to http://www.aclu.org/freespeech/protest/30298prs20070628.html.)
In a section entitled “Preventing Demonstrators,” the document says: “All Presidential events must be ticketed or accessed by a name list. This is the best method for preventing demonstrators. People who are obviously going to try to disrupt the event can be denied entrance at least to the VIP area between the stage and the main camera platform. . . . It is important to have your volunteers at a checkpoint before the Magnetometers in order to stop a demonstrator from getting into the event. Look for signs they may be carrying, and if need be, have volunteers check for folded cloth signs that demonstrators may be bringing.”
In another section, entitled “Preparing for Demonstrators,” the document makes clear that the intention is to deprive protesters of the right to be seen or heard by the President: “As always, work with the Secret Service and have them ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route.”
The document also recommends drowning out protesters or blocking their signs by using what it calls “rally squads.” It states: “These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators. The rally squad’s task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site.”
The document offered advice on how to recruit members for such squads: “The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/sororities.”
The document does contain a warning in bold, however: “Remember—avoid physical contact with demonstrators.” It also advises to make sure that whatever action is taken to drown out the demonstrators does not “cause more negative publicity than if the demonstrators were simply left alone.”