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Your freedom ends where my property begins
[September 30, 2002]

By Nicholas Provenzo

Last weekend's anti-capitalist demonstrations in Washington were every bit what most observers assumed they would be: general sessions in idiocy, lunacy and mayhem. As expected, portions of the city were negatively impacted by the demonstrations and despite almost every precaution taken by the police, significant vandalism took place against anything that was a symbol of American wealth and prosperity.

The campus of the George Washington University borders the IMF's headquarters and since I was once a student at GW, I was intrigued to see how the campus responded to the demonstrations. As one would expect, the editors of the campus paper decried the arrests of the protestors, arguing that their freedom of speech was taken from them. I wrote the following letter in response:

In its Monday, September 30th editorial "MPD arrests limit freedom," the GW Hatchet erred when it claimed that the rights of last weekend’s anti-capitalist demonstrators were violated. The protection of the First Amendment does not extend to those who violate the rights of others.

Had the anti-capitalist demonstrators wanted to avoid mass arrests, they could have filed the proper permits with the police for the use of public land and conducted their affairs so as not to threaten the public safety. Instead, the anti-capitalist demonstrators attempted to seize the streets of Washington in order to commit acts of violence and disorder. Their actions included halting traffic, throwing smoke bombs and the vandalism of local businesses and private property. Such conduct is not an expression of freedom; it is its antithesis.

Yet despite the reckless and wanton conduct of the anti-capitalist demonstrators, the editors of the Hatchet blame the police for the arrests. And in a signed column, Hatchet editor Kate Stepan blames the police when Hatchet reporters were detained longer than their counterparts in the professional media because they failed to have the proper press permits to cross police lines. Her excuse: her staff’s press permits have been applied for, but not yet received. By her standard, any student journalist should be afforded the same treatment as the professional media, even in situations that threatens the public safety, just by the mere fact that they announce they are a student journalist.

The Hatchet should learn how to conduct its own affairs professionally and it should have condemned the fact that for all their lawlessness, the anti-capitalist demonstrators arrested by the police suffered no more than a day’s inconvenience and a trivial fine—approximately the same sanction as is levied for illegal parking.

Hundreds of groups each year hold peaceful demonstrations in Washington to communicate their positions and I myself have organized several successful rallies without incident. The anti-capitalist demonstrations are a different thing all together. That the anti-capitalist demonstrators suffer from thoughtlessness and a want of reflection is well known. That they have contempt for the rights and safety of others is also well known. That the Hatchet’s editors have joined with them in their illogic is tragic.


Nicholas Provenzo
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism

It is disconcerting that one can effectively shut down a city and suffer the same penalty as one who parks their car illegally, then have people apologize for you. Since the avowed goal of the anti-capitalist protestors is the end of private property, I think it is in order that they be relived of a little more of theirs when they violate the rights of others. As for the people who apologize for them, especially those on campus, let me say again there needs to be an alternative and soon.


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