Punch a Nazi?? 10 Reasons Why Not

Punch a Nazi?? 10 Reasons Why Not
by Susan Basko, esq.

There's a recent fad topic about Punching a Nazi.  This topic started when a man was speaking with a journalist on video livestream at a protest and another man, wearing a dark hoodie, ran up and punched the man in the face.  The internet gossip line soon identified the man who was punched, labeled him a "Nazi," and said the person who punched him did it as some form of protest against his ideas.  The words "antifa" and "diversity of tactics" got tossed around.  An alleged partial quote from the man, taken out of context and with no sourcing, was offered as validation or justification that he "deserved" to be punched.  

I am here to tell you this is all nonsensical and not to be involved with punching anyone, no matter what you think of their ideas.  

Here are 10 Reasons Why You Should Not "Punch a Nazi":

1) A protest or any public event is a delicate balance where it can easily become violent and dangerous.  If you are constructive, you want to keep any public gathering safe for all.  If you are there causing trouble, the vast majority of other participants are wise enough to not want you there.  They see you as a troublemaker and a thug, not as a noble hero or dashing masked man.  

2) We are adults.  We realize that people have viewpoints that differ from ours.  We don't run through the streets punching people for having different viewpoints.  Do you want to be punched for having your viewpoints?

3) The people or groups who are advocating violence against those who hold different opinions call themselves "antifascists."  They are so hyped up in their own nonsense that they don't see the irony of this. The people wearing masks and punching people for holding different views are actually fascists.  When they run through the streets attacking people, they instill fear and silence people.  That sort of violence + fear  + silencing =  what fascism is all about.

4) The argument of the pro-punchers is that if a person holds a view that they find repugnant, that this justifies physically attacking the person.  It is beyond my ken how anyone could have lived such an isolated, parochial life that they do not realize that everyone holds different views, and that a great many people hold views that others find repugnant or even shocking.  In a pluralistic society, people get to hold such views, but are not allowed to physically harm or attack others.  If the person you call a "Nazi" has made a direct threat to harm you immediately and is armed and ready to do so, then you get out of the way and call the police.  If you are running up to people on the street and punching them, then you are the one that is antisocial and a criminal.

5) A big part of growing up is realizing that many others do not agree with us, but that we can live and let live.  We do not need to control everyone's thoughts.  We don't get to hit them because they have ideas with which we disagree.  Even if we think their ideas are appalling or repugnant, we don't get to physically attack them.  They have the right to hold their views and to walk on the streets unassailed.

6) It is a crime to punch someone, whether or not you disagree with their ideas.  It is a crime to advocate violence, such as urging others to attack people on the street.

7) If you punch or attack a person, you are legally responsible for everything that happens to them.  If the person has a heart attack or stroke, you are legally responsible.  If the person gets a blood clot and dies, you are responsible.  In a recent non-protest street incident in Chicago, a man punched another man in the head.  The man who was punched fell into the street and was run over by a taxi and died.  The man who punched the man is possibly being charged with murder.  When you engage in a criminal attack upon another person, you are responsible for the whole chain of events that follows.  You cannot accurately predict what that chain of events might be.  Your motive in harming the person is usually considered enough motive for whatever ensues.

8) Normal civilized adults do not run around the streets punching people.  Do you know who stands on street corners attacking people they think disagree with them? The Taliban.  In the U.S., we respect the right of every person to walk on the street and not be attacked.    

9) If you start justifying or engaging in violence against people because you disagree with their ideas, it is a very short, very slippery slope to where you may allow yourself to become a full-fledged criminal, or in your eyes - a martyr.  Examples of people who have attacked others based on their beliefs include: Dylann Roof, who killed 9 Black people in a Christian Church because he thought it would start a race war; Timothy McVeigh, who exploded a federal building, killing 168 and injuring 600, because he disagreed with the actions of the ATF at an incident at Waco, Texas;  the many acts of murder, arson, kidnappings, and bombings against abortion providers engaged in by people who find abortion immoral or repugnant;  and many other such incidents.  The logic behind these incidents is the same as the logic behind "Punch a Nazi": the untrue notion that you can control the flow of ideas by attacking or terrorizing those who hold those ideas.  

10) Engaging in the "Punch a Nazi" nonsense means you are frittering away your time and energy on this negative, anti-social activity, when you could be engaged in productive, intelligent change.  Worse still, if you get arrested and tossed in jail for punching someone on the street or for advocating such violence, you will have managed to make yourself socially neutralized.  And that is just plain stupid.

Thoughts on former CIA Director John Brennan

Thoughts on former CIA Director John Brennan 
 by Susan Basko, esq.

In early January, 2017, CIA Director John Brennan, spoke at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.  We were invited to come see him a few months earlier, but he had to cancel out at the last minute.  Finally, he was able to make his eagerly-awaited appearance, and so much had changed since the first invitation was sent out in October of 2016.   In the meantime, the expected easy win of Hillary Clinton for President did not happen. Instead, Donald Trump had been elected. Trump's inexperience and caustic rhetoric were causing uneasiness in the nation.  Thus, the entire context of the earlier anticipated Brennan talk, looking forward to his CIA Directorship under Hillary Clinton, shifted to one of memoirs of the past, with foreboding of a highly uncertain future for our nation.

The invitation to the John Brennan event noted there would be security procedures in place and "no signs" allowed. As it turned out, the audience was sedate and respectful and the questions asked by audience members were intelligent and on point.  

Overall, I was impressed by how intelligent, personable, and forthright Director Brennan was.  Please watch the video and see what you think.  Several times in the talk, he mentioned that he had "15 days left" as CIA Director.  This came about because he publicly stated that if President Elect Donald Trump planned to reinstate waterboarding torture as a CIA practice, as Trump had publicly stated, that the soon-to-be President would have to find himself a new CIA Director.  Donald Trump beat Brennan to the punch and appointed Rep. Mike Pompeo to be Director of the CIA.  However, in appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Pompeo said he also would refuse to bring back waterboarding as an interrogation tactic.  Donald Trump never explained why he would want to bring back torture as an interrogation technique in violation of international law.

In the days following this talk, John Brennan became outspoken in his public objections to Donald Trump's relations with the Russian government and to Trump's provocative, reckless manner of speaking about topics of great importance to national security.

My overall thoughts about John Brennan, which I admit came as a bit of a surprise, is that he seems highly intelligent, forthright, very experienced in government and international relations, and a really decent person.  If he decided to run for some public office in the future, he seems to have the makings of a good candidate. Please, watch the video and see what you think.

Still Being Cyberstalked - Smear Campaign Ongoing

 Still Being Cyberstalked - Smear Campaign Ongoing

Dear Folks,

Today I have decided to finally address a bit of cyberstalking that I have been dealing with for a few years.  A mentally deranged stalker person(s) has repeatedly posted some lies about me that are supposed to harm my reputation or scare me.  After ignoring this nonsense for several years, I have decided to address it.

The crazed stalker person keeps posting something that is supposed to be an "invoice" from me to a young man for whom I did a small amount of volunteer legal work several years ago.  There is no such invoice.  I have never actually seen what it is that is being passed around, but whatever it is, it is not an invoice.  Aside from which, if I do issue an invoice, that is a private matter between myself and my client, and such a thing would not ever be posted openly on the internet.  Any invoice would be a strictly private matter between me and a client and would not ever be anyone else's business. And, in any case, when I do volunteer work, I would not issue an invoice.

I help many people for free, because I believe in giving back to the community.  Providing a significant number of hours of pro bono service is also a requirement of lawyers in one of the states in which I am licensed.  "Pro bono" is a Latin phrase that means "for good," and I take this call to social justice very seriously. I was raised very strongly with the value of volunteerism and feel it is an integral part of life to help others and give back to the community. I am delighted that I was able to get my law licenses later in life and feel it is a privilege and honor to be able to use my knowledge to do good things to help society.

The person who has posted this imaginary "invoice" has also wound a whole conspiracy theory about it.  According to this person's twisted conspiracy theory, I traded legal services to the young man client in exchange for some sort of "services" from him.  No such thing ever happened.  This is nonsensical lying on the part of the deranged person(s) making up and spreading this story.

This wild conspiracy theory almost makes me laugh, since I am unaware of this young man having any "skills" or "services" that would be of any use or interest to me, having never even met him.  If he were ever nearby in person, perhaps he could wash my dishes or rake my garden?  However, even then, I would never trade my legal services for any such services, just on the principle of it.  When I give legal services for free, which I do very often, there are never any strings attached.  If the person I assist says "Thanks," that warms my heart.  

 While I have barely been in view of this young man client -- I have never met him and we were not even "friends" or "followers" on any social media  -- I am aware that he was trying to build up his life and he made a lot of progress.  Words and phrases like "encourage" and "build up" mean a lot to me.

I want to say to this person who is conducting this smear campaign against me:  Get a life.  Go get mental health care. Get yourself involved in meaningful work.  Do something with your life besides creating outlandish lies about other people. Life is short and you are wasting yours.  If your lies and smear campaign are meant to harden my heart against giving help to those in need -- sorry, you have failed.  Good is always stronger than evil, and you lose out.

If anyone knows exactly who it is that is posting this fake "invoice" or who exactly it is that is telling these lies and conducting this smear campaign against me, please email me to let me know.  I can be reached at SueBaskoMusic(at)gmail.com.   I will then file police and FBI stalking reports against that person(s). I take such things seriously and I report these forms of cyberstalking and harassment.

Thank you.

Computer Genius Case Goes to Supreme Court

Computer Genius Case Goes to Supreme Court
by Susan Basko, esq.

The case of Eric Eoin Marques, the computer genius who invented Tormail and developed Freedom Hosting, an easy-to-use website hosting service for the Dark Web, is now before the Supreme Court of Ireland.  Mr. Marques faces extradition to the U.S., which is charging him with various crimes involved in being an internet service provider and hosting company on which some customers allegedly ran websites that trafficked in child abuse pornography.

If extradited to the U.S., Mr. Marques likely faces life in prison.  Therefore, Mr. Marques asked the Irish Courts to try him there.  He even offered to plead guilty.  The Irish Courts refused to try him in Ireland and gave no reasoning for the refusal.  Mr. Marques appealed this refusal to give a reason, but lost the appeal.  The Appeals Court stated that he was not entitled under law to be given a reason for the refusal.

The case has now been sent to the Irish Supreme Court, which has agreed to a stay in any extradition until after the Court either hears the case or declines to hear the case.

Charging an internet service provider with crimes based on the content  of websites owned and operated by the customers of the internet service provider is new, but not uncharted, territory for the U.S. Department of Justice.  This is akin to holding Amazon Web Services criminally responsible for the content of all websites hosted on its servers.  There has been no allegation that Mr. Marques himself ran the offensive websites.

This case stems out of the federal court in Maryland, USA.  This is the same location of the infamous Silk Road case, involving a Dark Web site that sold items for bitcoins.  In that case, some of the users of the site sold illicit drugs. The alleged Silk Road site owner, Ross Ulbricht, was held criminally responsible for the drug transactions on the site.  As it turned out, two or more of the investigators in the case, including Carl Mark Force IV, of the DEA, and Shaun Bridges of the Secret Service, were eventually charged with stealing large quantities of bitcoins from the Silk Road.  Both were charged with federal crimes and sentenced to prison terms.  The Maryland-based investigation into Freedom Hosting was in the same time frame as the Maryland-based investigation into Silk Road. Note, the Silk Road case was eventually tried in New York, where the US DOJ claimed a parallel investigation had taken place.  The ties to New York are unclear and the main investigator present at the arrest and trial of Ross Ulbricht was Jared Der-Yeghiayan, from the Chicago office of the Department of Homeland Security.  

There are numerous parallels between the Silk Road case and the Freedom Hosting case.  Both services were started by young men with a knack for creating lucrative internet businesses.  Both services operated on the Dark Web.  Both ran minimal operations -- though the operator of Silk Road, known as DPR (Dread Pirate Roberts) had a few helpers running forums and such things, Eric Eoin Marques ran Tormail and Freedom Hosting entirely by himself.  The Freedom Hosting website assured customers it was not a one-man operation, but it was.  Freedom Hosting also assured its customers, in writing on the site,  that their sites would not be visited or supervised by the hosting company.  The Freedom Hosting Terms Of Service had forbidden the users from using the sites for any illegal purposes.

The Freedom Hosting site offered anyone, for a small cost, the ability to start a Dark Web site with the same ease and familiarity as one might start a Google or Wordpress blog.  Tormail offered anonymous email accounts.  Both services were innovative and made the highly technical usable by the average person.  Both services have been shut down by the U.S. government.

Eric Eoin Marques is autistic, has dual U.S.- Irish citizenship, and lived with his father in Dublin until his arrest several years ago.  Mr. Marques was extremely quiet and stayed hidden in his bedroom, where he invented Tormail, founded Freedom Hosting, and ran his businesses.  He allegedly left the bedroom once each day to go out to eat at McDonald's.  If Mr. Marques is extradited to the U.S., this will impose a great hardship upon his father, who has never been to Maryland and does not know anyone there, but wishes dearly to be there for his autistic son.  The father hopes that the Irish Supreme Court will allow this matter to be handled in Ireland.   That decision is now in the hands of the Irish Supreme Court.

Illinois Cyberstalking Law

Illinois Cyberstalking Law
by Susan Basko, esq.

Illinois has laws to protect people from stalking, placement of their photos or name on a site that contains pornography, and other such laws.  You can read about those here:  http://suebasko.blogspot.com/2013/10/cyberstalking-illinois.html

Below is the Illinois Cyberstalking Law. 

 (720 ILCS 5/12-7.5) 
    Sec. 12-7.5. Cyberstalking. 
    (a) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she engages in a course of conduct using electronic communication directed at a specific person, and he or she knows or should know that would cause a reasonable person to:
        (1) fear for his or her safety or the safety of a
third person; or
        (2) suffer other emotional distress.
    (a-3) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she, knowingly and without lawful justification, on at least 2 separate occasions, harasses another person through the use of electronic communication and: 
        (1) at any time transmits a threat of immediate or
future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint and the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person; or
        (2) places that person or a family member of that
person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint; or
        (3) at any time knowingly solicits the commission of
an act by any person which would be a violation of this Code directed towards that person or a family member of that person.
    (a-5) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she, knowingly and without lawful justification, creates and maintains an Internet website or webpage which is accessible to one or more third parties for a period of at least 24 hours, and which contains statements harassing another person and:
        (1) which communicates a threat of immediate or
future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, where the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person, or
        (2) which places that person or a family member of
that person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, or
        (3) which knowingly solicits the commission of an act
by any person which would be a violation of this Code directed towards that person or a family member of that person.
    (b) Sentence. Cyberstalking is a Class 4 felony; a second or subsequent conviction is a Class 3 felony. 
    (c) For purposes of this Section:
        (1) "Course of conduct" means 2 or more acts,
including but not limited to acts in which a defendant directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about, a person, engages in other non-consensual contact, or interferes with or damages a person's property or pet. The incarceration in a penal institution of a person who commits the course of conduct is not a bar to prosecution under this Section.
        (2) "Electronic communication" means any transfer of
signs, signals, writings, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectric, or photo-optical system. "Electronic communication" includes transmissions through an electronic device including, but not limited to, a telephone, cellular phone, computer, or pager, which communication includes, but is not limited to, e-mail, instant message, text message, or voice mail.
        (3) "Emotional distress" means significant mental
suffering, anxiety or alarm.
        (4) "Harass" means to engage in a knowing and willful
course of conduct directed at a specific person that alarms, torments, or terrorizes that person.
        (5) "Non-consensual contact" means any contact with
the victim that is initiated or continued without the victim's consent, including but not limited to being in the physical presence of the victim; appearing within the sight of the victim; approaching or confronting the victim in a public place or on private property; appearing at the workplace or residence of the victim; entering onto or remaining on property owned, leased, or occupied by the victim; or placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property owned, leased, or occupied by the victim.
        (6) "Reasonable person" means a person in the
victim's circumstances, with the victim's knowledge of the defendant and the defendant's prior acts.
        (7) "Third party" means any person other than the
person violating these provisions and the person or persons towards whom the violator's actions are directed.
    (d) Telecommunications carriers, commercial mobile service providers, and providers of information services, including, but not limited to, Internet service providers and hosting service providers, are not liable under this Section, except for willful and wanton misconduct, by virtue of the transmission, storage, or caching of electronic communications or messages of others or by virtue of the provision of other related telecommunications, commercial mobile services, or information services used by others in violation of this Section. 
    (e) A defendant who directed the actions of a third party to violate this Section, under the principles of accountability set forth in Article 5 of this Code, is guilty of violating this Section as if the same had been personally done by the defendant, without regard to the mental state of the third party acting at the direction of the defendant. 
(Source: P.A. 96-328, eff. 8-11-09; 96-686, eff. 1-1-10; 96-1000, eff. 7-2-10; 96-1551, eff. 7-1-11; 97-303, eff. 8-11-11; 97-311, eff. 8-11-11; 97-1109, eff. 1-1-13.)


Oakland Warehouse Fire: What Caused It

Oakland Ghost Ship before the fire:
old rugs, musical instruments, lanterns,  lots of paper and wooden decorations

Oakland Warehouse Fire: What Caused It
by Susan Basko, esq.

December 3, 2016.  Last night, there was a devastating fire in the Fruitvale area of Oakland, California, U.S.A., in a warehouse that had been turned into an artist live/work space.  The artists called the space Ghost Ship.  Some called it Satya Yuga, or in Hindi,  सत्य युग, which translates into English  as "truth era."  So far, reports are that 9 people died in the fire and many more are dead in the rubble.

Our thoughts and prayers go out for the families and friends of those who died and for those who survived.  May those who died rest in peace.

The Oakland fire department has stated that the building was a maze with many alcoves built in by the artists. The building owner was recently cited for building code violations. To call the Ghost Ship a "fire trap" would be putting it mildly, as seen in the photos posted below.

The photos below show several themes: Misuse of fire, fire hazards, an enormous amount of clutter, dangerous fire trap interior building divisions into small cubbyhole spaces, many lanterns and candles, no clear or easy exits.  This building was the definition of "fire trap."

If you would like to read a basic primer on Venue Safety, please see:

If you would like to donate to a fund to help the fire victims:

All photos below are inside or in the outside yard at the Ghost Ship/ Satya Yuga Artist Cooperative Live / Work Space in  Oakland, California, where a terrible fire occurred on December 2, 2016, tragically killing many young adults.  All photos are used Copyright Fair Use, owner not known, dates not known, all photos obviously taken before the fire on December 2, 2016 -- the photos are undated and could be weeks, months, or even years before the fire.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

This undated photo above appears to the the outside yard of the Oakland Ghost Ship. In it, a fire dancer uses a very high flame while standing on or near an old carpet, amid clutter and overhanging tree branches.  This is, obviously, extremely dangerous.

The photo above shows what appear to be lit candles
 placed amid an altar of antlers, skulls, arrows, and other clutter.

This photo above shows what appears to be a ritual fire burning
 on what appears to be a container on the floor.

This photo above shows an upper and lower deck built into the cluttered space.

Photo above shows unlit candles on an altar.

Photo above shows a hodgepodge of lanterns, a jukebox, clocks, chairs, 
wood, a bicycle hanging from the rafters.  This is fascinating to look at, but is quite a fire trap.

Decaying wood, what looks like an old sled, old music organs, 
and an array of clutter look like a fire could easily start and spread.

Imagine trying to find your way out to an exit during a fire.  

Copyright Fair Use on all photos for the fair use purposes of analysis and review for news.  

Protests: International Standards 2016

Protests: International Standards 2016
by Susan Basko, esq.

The expert panel of OSCE ODIHR has issued Human Rights Handbook on Policing Assemblies, its latest guidebook on international standards for protests. You can download a pdf of the guidebook HERE.   Previous versions in earlier years have leaned toward vague and euphemistic wording and idealistic expectations.  This 2016 version is more specific and useful, perhaps because of the addition of 10 panelists from police departments worldwide.

On this panel from the U.S., there is Ralph Price, General Counsel of the Office of the Superintendent from the Chicago Police Department.  Chicago has an excellent recent track record of large protests with no major trouble.  Chicago has also been able to hold huge non-protest events with only minor expected problems.  These events have included the November 2016 rally and parade for the Chicago Cubs World Series win, which the City of Chicago estimates had an attendance of 5 million people, making it the largest gathering ever in the United States and the seventh largest gathering in world history.  By any measure, this makes the Chicago Police experts at handling crowds. This sort of real world expertise helps make this new guidebook quite useful.

Note: OSCE ODIHR stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. OSCE has 57 participating nations on 3 continents of Europe, North America, and Asia.

In this guidebook, "assembly" specifically means a protest of some sort.  These guidebook lists "meetings, rallies, pickets, demonstrations, marches, processions, parades and flash mobs."  Glaringly absent is almost any mention of camping or tent protests, which have been prevalent worldwide over the past 5 years.  Page 13 of the guidebook makes this statement, but fails to call it "camping," and fails to mention tents: "Though they (protests) are usually of temporary nature, they may also last for considerable time, with their semi-permanent structures in place for several months." After this brief mention, the topic of camping as a protest is dropped.  In fact, since the Occupy protests, camping protests have become popular worldwide.

Also missing is any mention of a sit-in, which is a short or long term residence inside a building.

Camping and sit-in protests involve the occupation and exclusive use of space meant to be shared by others.  These protests are often highly effective at galvanizing dissent and thus, are highly useful to a democracy.  They are also where law enforcement most needs to be guided and restrained.  If you have been paying attention to the recent police actions against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allied protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline that proposes to send oil through several U.S. States, you have seen protesters sprayed with water in freezing temperatures, attacked with chemical weapons, and injured with projectiles shot from guns. The "No DAPL" protesters have a huge groundswell of support and appear to be holding ground on land that rightly belongs to their tribe.  Yet, stories of abuse by law enforcement against the protesters are cropping up daily.  The photos and videos are hard to deny.

Flash mobs are also listed in the "Types of Assemblies"  (pg 15), but are only minimally addressed thereafter.  This may be because a peaceful flash mob will usually be over and gone before there can be any police response.

Another topic that is missing from the guidebook is the manner of making arrests.  This is glossed over.  In the U.S., there has developed a widespread practice of police forcing a person to the ground to arrest the person.  This has led to many cases of injury and to physical abuse committed by police.  The arrestee is often ordered or forced to the ground, usually for no apparent reason.  Often, a police officer places a knee into the back of the person on the ground.  This surely causes injury to anyone and has been known to cause severe injury and death. Numerous videos show multiple police officers piling onto a person on the ground. Many videos show the person on the ground being kicked, beaten, or even shot (though shooting is usually in individual encounters and not in protest situations.)  The method and manner of arrest is an issue of dire, immediate importance in human rights with regard to policing.  The guidebook would have been far more balanced if the panel had included those who plan and participate in protests, rather than such a theory-only based panel.  It is way past time for any groups interested in human rights to address the manner and method of making an arrest.

Another topic that is missing is the widespread practice of targeting peaceful leaders for arrest.  Again, including panelists with real protest experience would have been useful.  Leaders of protests are often "picked off" by police in what are essentially random kidnappings.  Again, there is often video to show that such arrests come about with no provocation or need.

Another major topic that the guidelines do not address is the jamming or other interference with wifi or phone signals, and/or the use of stingrays to gather data from devices.  These actions by police to sabotage personal and journalistic media and communications should be prohibited.

 Thus, I suggest that in future versions of such OSCE ODIHR guidebooks on policing for protests:
  1.  That additional panelists be included to reflect a more well-rounded viewpoint, including those who plan and participate in protests;
  2.  That camping protests be addressed;
  3. That sit-in protests be addressed;
  4. That the specific method and manner of arrests be addressed and that police be prohibited from requiring or forcing any person to lie on the ground;
  5. That the practice of targeting peaceful leaders for arrest be prohibited.
  6. That police should be prohibited from jamming or interfering with wifi or phone signals or from using stingrays to gather data.

Among the positive highlights of the guidebook as the topics relate to the protesters or those engaged in the assembly , I have found these things (These are being numbered for use in referencing them; they are not in any order of importance.)

1. Freedom of peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right and, as such, is considered one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. (pg 12)

2. That protests often block traffic or cause inconvenience: "Many assemblies will also cause some degree of disruption to routine activities; they may occupy roads and thoroughfares or impact traffic, pedestrians and the business community. Such disruption caused by the exercise of fundamental freedoms must be treated with some degree of tolerance. It must be recognized that public spaces are as much for people to assemble in as they are for other types of activity, and thus the right to assemble must be facilitated. (pg 13)

3. That there must be a balancing act between the different people wishing to use the space: "Where peaceful protest interferes with the rights and freedoms of others it will often be the responsibility of the police to balance respect for of those rights with the right to freedom of assembly." (pg 14)

4. That there is a human right to peaceful assembly, but not to engage in violence against property or people:  "The right to assemble is a right to assemble peacefully. There is no right to act in a violent manner when exercising one’s right to assemble. If an individual acts violently while participating in an assembly, then that individual is no longer exercising a protected human right. However, violent acts by isolated individuals do not necessarily affect the right to assemble of those who remain peaceful." (pg 15)

5. Even if the protesters fail to comply with regulations (such as local regulations that may require a permit) police should still facilitate the protest:  "It should be noted that even though an assembly organizer or individual participants may fail to comply with legal requirements for assemblies, this alone does not release the police from their obligation to protect and facilitate an assembly that remains peaceful." (pg 15)

6. What is "peaceful assembly"?   "Peaceful Assembly: An assembly should be deemed peaceful if the organizers have professed peaceful intentions and the conduct of the participants is non-violent. Peaceful intention and conduct should be presumed unless there is compelling and demonstrable evidence that those organizing or participating in that particular event themselves intend to use, advocate or incite imminent violence. The term “peaceful” should be interpreted to include expressive conduct that may annoy or give offence, and even conduct that temporarily hinders, impedes or obstructs the  activities of third parties. 2 An assembly should be considered peaceful, and thus facilitated by the authorities, even if the organizers have not complied with all legal requirements. Lack of such compliance should not be an excuse to inhibit, disrupt or try to prevent an assembly." (pg. 14-15)

7. What is not "peaceful assembly"? "Assemblies that incite hatred, violence or war, aim to deliberately restrict or deny the rights of others or aim to intimidate, harass or threaten others, in violation of applicable law, are not considered to be protected assemblies. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law, and that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” (pg 15)

8. If some of the protesters are violent, police should deal with those individuals and not deny the whole group the right to assemble: "If individuals or small groups of people engage in acts of physical violence during an assembly, the police should always ensure that their response is proportionate and focuses on those who are engaged in violent behaviour rather than directed at the participants in the assembly more generally. This is true whether the violence is directed against the police, individuals, property, people within the assembly or those perceived to be in opposition."  (pg 18)

Example from recent news: Such a situation was seen at a recent protest in Portland, Oregon, after the 2016 presidential election.  A very large protest took place.  A small subset of individuals came armed with bats and metal bars, and broke windows on shops and smashed the windows and metal on cars.  The Portland police were heard on videos telling those not engaged in the violence to separate themselves from the violent protesters and go protest at a different location where peaceful protests were being held.  The police then declared the area a riot and stated that all present were under arrest.  Overall, it appeared that the Portland police did a good job of protecting the rights of the peaceful protesters while being able to arrest a significant number of the violent protesters.

9. Costs of Policing should not be charged to protesters or organizers.  Insurance coverage should not be required: "The costs of providing adequate security and safety (including policing and traffic management operations) should be fully covered by the public authorities. The state must not levy any financial charge for providing adequate policing. Organizers of non-commercial public assemblies should not be required to obtain public-liability insurance for their event." (pg 21)

NOTE:  I would like to see this expanded to say that a City should open its available public restrooms for use by those in an assembly or protest.  Other nearby facilities, such as park benches, picnic tables, public transportation stations and bus stops, drinking fountains and water spigots, electrical outlets, bicycle racks, and other existing facilities should be open and their use not denied to protesters.

10. Police should not interfere with or restrict media journalists.  No distinction should be made between media organizations and independent journalists.  People should be allowed to video or photograph the police.  Police should not confiscate or damage cameras, cell phones, or other equipment of the journalists. (pgs 33-34)

11. That police officers may never act as agents provocateurs: "That officers must not act as agents provocateurs and may never instigate, participate or incite illegal actions within the assembly." (pg 71)  This topic is limited to a single sentence, but should instead be printed in huge bold letters taking up an entire page.  There are many stories of police acting as agents provocateurs and trying to incite violence or entrap protesters.  It is heartening to see this despicable practice prohibited by OSCE ODIHR.

12. Policing Strategy:  Part II of the guidebook, which is pages 42-125, deals with the police planning and strategy.  Topics include the use of water cannons, chemical agents, impact round (less than lethal weapons), and firearms.  Notably absent is discussion of the use of a sound cannon or LRAD.   If you are involved in planning protests or in giving legal advice or assistance to those who do plan protests, you should read this entire section.  It will give you a picture of the details of planning, infrastructure, and expense that go into running a police force that can properly handle public assemblies. (pgs 42-125)  It can also help you understand the rights of protesters and how to protect them from harm.  Although each city in the U.S. and each city worldwide all have different specific laws regarding public assembly, there is a commonality to the approach.  This guidebook is an attempt to get the OSCE member nations all on the same framework of respect for human rights in peaceful assemblies.

NOTE: My personal observation has been that the more organizers and protesters or participants in public assemblies are aware of the laws, rules, regulations, and practices of the police and city, the more likely the protest is to be peaceful.   The more people can engage in peaceful protest, the better the democracy.  Protest and assembly are basic human rights that lead to better government.

So, too, the more aware that people are of the possibility that there may be people who show up at a peaceful protest with the intent of disrupting it with violence or chaos, the more likely the peaceful ones are to separate themselves from the violence.  Knowledge is a powerful thing.

More about OSCE:

The OSCE has 57 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America:
    • Albania
    • Andorra
    • Armenia
    • Austria
    • Azerbaijan
    • Belarus
    • Belgium
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • Bulgaria
    • Canada
    • Croatia
    • Cyprus
    • Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • Estonia
    • Finland
    • France
    • Georgia
    • Germany
    • Greece
    • Holy See
    • Hungary
    • Iceland
    • Ireland
    • Italy
    • Kazakhstan
    • Kyrgyzstan
    • Latvia
    • Liechtenstein
    • Lithuania
    • Luxembourg
    • Malta
    • Moldova
    • Monaco
    • Mongolia
    • Montenegro
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Romania
    • Russian Federation
    • San Marino
    • Serbia
    • Slovakia
    • Slovenia
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • Tajikistan
    • the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
    • Turkey
    • Turkmenistan
    • Ukraine
    • United Kingdom
    • United States
    • Uzbekistan


About my involvement with OSCE ODIHR: Susan Basko, the author of this article, is a lawyer in the United States of America. Among other things, she assists those who want to plan a protest.  She is open in helping people from the wide spectrum of political and personal viewpoints.  IN 2012, she assisted OSCE ODIHR in a study of protests throughout the world, with her expertise being lent to the U.S. protests taking place in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California.  Ms. Basko was invited by OSCE ODIHR to participate in a summit of leaders and activists from around the globe.  That meeting was held in Vienna, Austria. Ms. Basko contributed by making proposals for international laws to require nations not to interfere with internet or phone signals during a protest.  That proposal was accepted by the assembly and became part of the recommendations for laws sent to the 57 participating nations.  Ms. Basko sees OSCE ODIHR as the organization making the biggest impact worldwide to protect the human rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the media.