First Amendment Rights of Alternative Media Threatened in Austin, Texas 6/26/98

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While the following is not directly drug policy related, we believe it is important, especially to those of us who rely, to some extent, on alternative media for important information (like The Week Online).

Last weekend, the Grassroots News Network held its first annual "Grassroots News and Media Conference & Culture
Jam in Austin, Texas"  GNN is "a coalition of 31 community oriented groups and radio stations from around the world working together to collectively create good quality news programming via the A-infos Radio Project Internet site."

On Sunday evening after the conference, members of the Austin Police Dept. in an APD police car took photographs of the house of GNN organizer Paul Odekirk, which was witnessed by Odekirk and several other organizers.  According to Odekirk, "the curtain was half way open and we saw a big flash and a police car was out front.  They were taking pictures of my house.  I walked out front and the police were standing in the street taking my picture and pictures of the house.  Then they got into their car and drove off."

The spectre of police spying on activists is evocative of the FBI's infamous COINTELPRO program, in which government operative infiltrated anti-Vietnam war groups and other political organizations.  Surveillance of activists by police can be a method of intimidation used by authorities to squelch activism (and hence democracy).

Surveillance of government, on the other hand, is good for democracy.  The following e-mail addresses of Austin city officials and other personnel have been provided, so that interested parties can let the city know they are being watched over the Internet.  Ask the city to investigate possibly spying by police and whether it was an appropriate enforcement activity.

Mayor Kirk Watson, [email protected]
Chief of Staff, [email protected]
Mayor Pro Tem, Gus Garcia, [email protected]
Council Assistant, [email protected]
Council Member Place 1, [email protected]
Council Assistant, [email protected]
Council Member Place 3, [email protected]
Council Assistant, [email protected]
Council Member Place 4, [email protected]
Council Assistant, [email protected]
Council Member Place 5, [email protected]
Council Assistant, [email protected]
Council Member Place 6, [email protected]
Council Assistant, [email protected]

Find the Grassroots News Network online at

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Issue #47, 6/26/98 German Police Call for an End to the Drug War | PRIDE Teen Survey | US Pressures Colombia to Spray Dangerous Herbicide in Eradication Efforts | Pastrana Elected President of Colombia | California Legislature to Debate Measure Providing Medical Marijuana Distribution by Local Communities | Professor Julian Heicklen in Jail | FEDS: Drug Lords Attempted to Buy Russian Submarine | First Amendment Rights of Alternative Media Threatened in Austin, Texas | Coincidences at Pain Patient Rally | Editorial: The New L-Word
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