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Fighting For Democratic Rights In The U.S.

Steve Argue | 16.07.2003 02:37 | Repression | World

Steve Argue Interviewed in The Argentinean Newspaper Prensa Obrera Regarding The Patriot Acts And His Arrests In Santa Cruz For Political Tabling.

In This Posting:

1. Steve Argue Interviewed in The Argentinean Newspaper Prensa Obrera Regarding The Patriot Acts And His Arrests In Santa Cruz For Political Tabling.

2. Santa Cruz Police Violate Free Speech With Two More Arrests!

3. Text of the flyer Steve Argue was distributing before his arrest.

Steve Argue Interviewed in The Argentinean Newspaper Prensa Obrera Regarding His Arrests In Santa Cruz For Political Tabling:

Vicente Balvanera: Have democratic rights actually deteriorated since 9/11?

Steve Argue: Yes, and this has taken many forms. Especially targeted have been Arab immigrants for long detentions without cause, deportations, and jailing for political opinions. These racist acts by the U.S. government coincide with the kinds of racist justifications U.S. imperialism has always used to justify its wars abroad. The war on Iraq is no different, with an Arab country targeted for an act they had nothing to do with.

Of course we all know the war on Iraq isn't about September 11, but is instead about taking direct U.S. corporate control of the oil and also about the profits being made by the capitalists off of the arms industries. Likewise the racism against Arabs at home is not in reality targeted against terrorism, but instead is targeted against the rights of the entire working class as the ruling class fears our rights more and more in the face of a failing capitalist economy.

September 11 was the excuse, but not the reason, for the Democrats and Republicans taking away many basic democratic rights by passing the Patriot Acts. These acts have formally abolished many rights that had been won through 200 years of working class struggle, although those formal changes are today primarily used against Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians (citizens and non-citizens) living in the United States.

These acts give the US government the legal authority to jail Americans without charges, deny us the right to an attorney, deny us the right to confront witnesses against us, denies us the right to attorney client confidentiality in communications, gives the government the legal ability to hold us indefinitely without trial, to hold us in secret, to monitor political and religious groups without any probable cause of a crime, to search and seize belongings without probable cause if the government claims it is part of an anti-terrorism investigation, and to prosecute any librarian or telecommunications official that reveal subpoenas where they are forced to turn over information for government spying.

For Argentineans, having suffered under the US backed military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983 that murdered 30,000 leftists such moves towards dictatorship in the United States itself may not be such a great surprise. Yet those extreme measures of capitalist dictatorship in Argentina were not enough to silence the opposition, nor will any of the measures carried out here. From the brave and determined mothers of the disappeared who held their vigils under the worst days of the military dictatorship to today's struggles that are actually beginning to expropriate the capitalists, the Argentinean working class has not been silenced.

The attacks on American civil liberties through the Patriot Acts have paved the legal framework for similar extreme crackdowns. Yet the capitalists often pay a political price for their repression and they prefer to rule primarily through lies and false promises. That is why these new laws are presently being used mainly, but not entirely, in a racist manner with most people feeling they are immune. Yet, these new laws now sit as a legal weapon to be used with the rest of the weapons of the police and military against any group at any time the government feels it necessary.

It should also be kept in mind that even before the passing of the Patriot Acts the US was holding many political prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal who is on death row, and Leonard Peltier as well as others. The new laws go hand in hand with a general deterioration in democratic-rights that started even before
September 11 and has accelerated since.

Vicente Balvanera: How has that deterioration manifested itself for the working class, employed and unemployed, and the people?

Steve Argue: Besides the direct attacks on immigrant communities, we are seeing many other manifestations of escalating repression.

On April 6th the Oakland Police opened fire on peaceful protesters on the Oakland docks. The police used so-called non-lethal ammunition and although many were injured and some permanently disfigured, luckily nobody was killed. The violence against the protest was planned in advance with false warnings from the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) that the protest was likely to be violent.

Defending these actions Van Winkle, of the state Justice Department said, "[I]f you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that (protest). You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act."

Despite the repression that was carried out, another protest was held at the same location on May 12 that was joined by an 8-hour strike of dockworkers opposing the shipment of war material and reasserting the right to protest.

There are many individual incidents as well. In New Jersey a man was arrested and charged for wearing a peace T-shirt. In Charleston, West Virginia, a small city with its roots in the confederate south and KKK suspended by the principal for distributing fliers against the war and then driven out of the school under threats from fellow students. The West Virginia State Supreme Court upheld these actions against her by the principal by refusing to hear her appeal.

One of the direct attacks that has taken place against the working class came in the form of the Bush administrations threats to the leadership of the west coast dockworker's union (ILWU). They were told that a potential strike by the worker's would be treated as a threat to national security. This had a chilling effect on the negotiations and was seen as direct interference against the workers by the Bush administration.

Vicente Balvanera: How is what has happened to you in Santa Cruz connected to other attacks elsewhere?

Steve Argue: While the fake leftists who run the Santa Cruz City government have given lip-service to opposing the Patriot Acts, without any instructions of non-cooperation to their staff, they have passed new laws broadening the repressive powers of the local police.

Many of these laws are directed at street performers and the homeless as well as against political rights. Street vending and even sleep at night for the homeless, including in a vehicle, were already illegal in Santa Cruz. New laws outlawed juggling and performers staying in one place for more than an hour.

The new law that I was arrested under twice is one that makes it illegal to have a political table up for more than an hour. As a result of these arrests I am facing up to two years in prison and up to a $2,000 fine. I have argued that free speech is a constitutional right that is not limited to one hour.

Vicente Balvanera: How is the workers' movement and the people's movements of struggle confronting this attack on their political rights?

Steve Argue: So far the main tactic of opposing this attack on free speech in Santa Cruz has been one of working to generate publicity on the issue. The fake leftists in office in this town, and the government in general, need to try to propagate a false civil libertarian and progressive aura in order to be elected and supported in their anti-worker and anti-poor agenda. It is this vulnerability that we see as our biggest strength at this stage in the struggle.

Due to the political pressure being exerted, the joint political tables of the Revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg Club of the Peace and Freedom Party (RRLC-PFP) and Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom (HUFF) have been left alone by the police the last two times we went out. If this continues it represents a victory. We will not be satisfied with this however. We are also demanding that this new law be overturned and that the charges be dropped against those of us arrested. We will concede nothing in the face of repression, the political literature tables will continue!

To further the publicity, and possibly win, we plan on running candidates in the City elections. These candidates will ruthlessly expose the actions of the fake leftists in office and put forward a program of the working class and poor. My 2002 campaign for city
office garnered 15 percent of the vote.

To further challenge this unconstitutional literature law we will also be initiating a court challenge that argues against constitutionality of the law.

The use of the elections and courts in this and in the broader struggle do not represent illusions in these as a place where we can get justice in capitalist America, although victories in these arenas can represent the strength of the movements we are building. We understand that ultimately justice is won by the determined actions of the working class, poor, and people in general.

The homepage for Liberation News can be found at

People may subscribe to the list by sending e-mail to

Santa Cruz Police Violate Free Speech With Two More Arrests!

Press statement of the Revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg Club of the Peace and Freedom Party (RRLC–PFP).

Steve Argue and Matt Hartogh were arrested on Sunday July 6th for distributing literature on Pacific Avenue. Both had their literature tables, signs, and literature confiscated by the police and taken in as evidence of their supposed crime. Steve Argue was also arrested on June 23rd under the same law. One of the flyers they were distributing can be read at the end of this statement.

The law they were arrested under is a new law passed by the supposedly “progressive” Santa Cruz City Council. It is a law that makes it illegal to keep a political table up for more than an hour without moving along (5.43.020 SC). This law is only selectively enforced against activists that are particularly disliked by the Santa Cruz City Council, while those organizations that do not expose the fake leftists on the City Council have so far been generally left alone.

The political tables targeted by the police were joint tables of the Revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg Club of the Peace and Freedom Party (RRLC–PFP) and Homeless United for Peace and Freedom (HUFF). Both organizations have been outspoken in our opposition to the anti-poor and anti-working class policies and laws of the Santa Cruz City Council as well as in opposing this new law that violates the basic free speech rights of the people of Santa Cruz.

Other new laws that both organizations have opposed include one that makes juggling illegal. Performer Tom Noddy was recently arrested and held for twelve hours under this new law.

While being filmed by fellow activists, both Steve Argue and Matt Hartogh refused to move their political table and refused to sign a ticket when asked to do so. Steve Argue instead cited the right to free speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution and pointed out that the Santa Cruz City Council and the arresting officers were the ones who were actually in violation of the law.

As a large supportive crowd gathered they told the many cops who were also gathering that they would not stop distributing literature and that they would not take the table down. They said they would not back down voluntarily and pointed out that the only way they would be temporarily stopped would be if the police arrested them and took the table down themselves.

After officers waited for Sgt. Butchy Baker to arrive, the police then arrested the two and took the table, signs, and flyers into evidence.

Sgt. Baker is a cop that is assigned to deal with political cases. On Monday, June 30th, Sgt. Baker closed down a video showing of Steve Argue’s earlier arrest and cited activists Robert Norse and Jim Ross for “audio amplification without a permit”. This is
the first time such a charge has been used against a video display by activists. Baker also cited another man for “sitting on the planter railing” after that man had helped in carrying video equipment for the showing. It was also Sgt. Baker who arrested Steve Argue on Labor Day last year for jaywalking and Baker has cited Robert Norse for this same “offense”. The Labor Day arrest of Argue prevented him from making it to a Labor Day picnic where he was scheduled to promote his campaign to be elected to City Council.

In addition, Baker was accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by 9 different women that he held in custody a few years back. Soon after these accusations had blown up and had been absolved by the police department, Baker was named officer of the year and was promoted.

As bad as Sgt. Butchy Baker is, his activities are not those of some rogue cop. They represent the laws, policies, and intentions of his fake leftist bosses that comprise the entire Santa Cruz City Council. This is why the Citizen’s Police Review Board, appointed by the City Council, was almost entirely useless. And after the Board took an independent stand opposing the selective enforcement of the Santa Cruz Police the City Council abolished the body.

Steve Argue is no stranger to being arrested for free speech. In 1998 he was arrested by the Santa Cruz Police for selling a non-corporate newspaper. During that arrest, and while he was being held in custody, he was brutalized by the police and deputies and held for four days. That arrest, another violation of the First Amendment to the constitution, backfired for the police with the publicity the case received and the outrage it provoked. After that arrest the Santa Cruz Police became very timid about violating freedom of press, although they did issue a couple citations again last year.

In addition to the publicity Argue’s 1998 arrest received, he also won a ruling in the court of Federal District Judge Ware stating that not only do the Santa Cruz Police violate constitutional rights, but the way city lawyers were trying to defend the police proves that it is city policy to violate those rights.

Today, it is essential that the people stand up for the rights of those who are standing up for their rights. Steve Argue, Matt Hartogh, Robert Norse, Jim Ross, and Tom Noddy all deserve your support.

Steve Argue has stated, “In the traditions of the IWW who successfully defended free speech rights at the turn of the last century, I vow to continue violating this city law until free speech rights are restored in Santa Cruz and I urge others in Santa Cruz to join me.”

The homepage for Liberation News, the mouthpiece of the Revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg Club of the Peace and Freedom Party, can be found at:

People may subscribe to Liberation News on the
internet for free by sending email to:

Donations for flyers, legal costs, etc. can be sent to Steve Argue at 1135 N. Branciforte, Santa Cruz CA 95062.

Here is the text of the flyer Steve Argue was
distributing before his arrest:

Stop The Abuses Of The Homeless!
Stop The Abuses Of The Working Class!

By STEVE ARGUE for Liberation News, the mouthpiece of the Revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg Club of the Peace and Freedom Party.

We are taught to think of the homeless as a separate class. The stereotype is that they are a permanent under class that is addicted to drugs and constantly asking for spare change, or they are the drunks, or the mentally ill. Even the well-paid directors of the Homeless Garden Project have promoted these damaging stereotypes in their statements to the press.

Yet the homeless, for the most part, are not a permanent under class. Studies have found that the average-stay on the streets for a houseless person is four months, that only a minority of the homeless are drug or alcohol addicted, and that only a minority are mentally ill. Most of the homeless do not fit the stereotypes and they are not necessary recognizable either. Often they are temporarily in their position, put there by the low wages paid by employers and the
high rent demanded by landlords. Many of the homeless are also employed, and most are only temporarily unemployed.

In fact the only things that most homeless people in America share in common are no regular roofs over their heads, constant harassment from the police, day-to-day stress about immediate survival issues and the future, and disdain directed at them from many ordinary people.

The problem of homelessness will only increase as the capitalist economy worsens and working class people are thrown out of work, as social programs are cut and more money is put towards police repression, and as U.S. soldiers come home disabled mentally and physically from being an occupation army in lands where they are not wanted.

Yet the increased numbers of homeless will not necessarily mean more people fighting back for the rights of those without homes. The homeless as a whole are a pretty powerless group. For the poor to have real strength in this society requires the ability to shut capitalist profits down through the collective action of strikes by the working class.

Yet today we have union leaders in almost every union that are afraid to fight for their own membership let alone poor people outside their unions. Instead of pursuing real fight back policies they betray the working class by endorsing anti-homeless and anti-union Democrats and others in the elections.

Here in Santa Cruz the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) leadership endorsed City Council candidate Tim Fitzmaurice in the last election. Yet Tim Fitzmaurice before this latest election had voted for the law that made it illegal for the homeless to sleep at night and has supported other police abuses against the homeless and anti-war protesters. Now instead of cutting the too fat police budget, Tim Fitzmaurice and the rest of the anti-working class lot on the Santa Cruz City Council, along with their friends on the Board of Supervisors, are cutting needed social programs and SEIU jobs.

Homeless issues are working class issues. Yet our union leaders tend to ignore these issues, just as they tend to be useless in organizing any real fight back against the bosses. Unlike the revolutionary leadership of the unions in the 1930s, today’s union leaderships do not fight for the rights and social programs of the unemployed. In doing so back in the 30s those revolutionary union leaders strengthened solidarity amongst the working class and our strength to fight the bosses. In doing so they made many real gains for the working class and poor.

The Revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg Club stands on the traditions of the militant trade union movement of the 1930s. We call for worker’s to take control of our unions to end the betrayals of our leaderships. We call for the strength of the unions to be mobilized to shut down work when necessary. We call on union dues not to be wasted on enemy politicians. And we call for an end to union support to anti-worker and anti-homeless politicians and instead call for support to the candidacies of those who call for real change locally like Steve Argue and Thomas Leavitt.

People may subscribe to Liberation News on the
internet for free by sending email to:

The homepage for Liberation News can be found at

Donations can be sent to Steve Argue at 1135 N.
Branciforte, Santa Cruz CA 95062

Steve Argue
- e-mail:
- Homepage:

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