Originally created 03/30/03

Trespass or treason?

Protests are one thing. But illegal protests are another.

It's time to absolutely hammer illegal protesters.

These criminals do not have a First Amendment right, or any other right, to "express themselves" by illegally clogging up American streets, destroying property, obstructing commerce and - worst of all - diverting critical homeland security resources that could and should be spent in the war against terror.

As each day passes, and each illegal protest act piles up and takes up police time, the likelihood that they will facilitate the commission of a terrorist act - by using up invaluable resources in the fight against terror - grows.

When Americans are threatened every day with another Sept. 11 - perhaps a worse one, involving weapons of mass destruction - the line between civil disobedience and amateur terrorism has become nearly imperceptible.

There already are laws to deal with such crimes. But clearly they are not enough - otherwise, you would not be seeing these crimes. Fines and prison terms for such offenses, particularly those offenses that raise the risk level to homeland security during times of war, must be stunningly serious to discourage such behavior.

An Oregon legislator proposed such a bill, essentially labeling such people terrorists - and prescribing draconian prison terms accordingly. Even the bill's drafter later realized it was too broad and overly punitive. But the idea is sound: We must punish illegal acts more harshly.

When illegal protesters are arrested, and are back out of jail in time to rejoin the same protest, it's a joke.

And this is a deadly serious matter.

We've seen the chaos and damage that results from "professional" protesters who have rampaged at various global summits in recent years. We're seeing milder versions of the same tactics now: protesters taking entire downtowns hostage.

Especially now, these acts are much closer to treason than trespass.

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