Mowing Down Free Speech in the Heart of Carolina

On Monday March 4, I visited the Johnston County NC County Commission.

I’ve been there many times, since 2006. Whenever I spoke, I raised the issue of the Johnston County Airport being home to “torture taxis” through a CIA front company based there, Aero Contractors. (More details here.) I regularly urged them to investigate the company, because involvement in torture is already against U.S. federal law, and international law as well. (They listened, but haven’t acted yet.)

There have been anti-torture protests at this airport since 2005. They continue, even though the “War On Terror” is supposedly over (replaced, of course, by the Endless-String-of-Bloody-“Little”-Mostly-Secret-Wars). One effect of this shift is that the CIA front company is not only still there, it’s grown, and upgraded its security by several levels of paranoia. In the era of endless war, business for Aero Contractors is still good.

Over thirteen years, I’ve been part of many, maybe most of the protests there. So the County Commissioners were doubtless not surprised to see me in their chamber Monday evening. That’s because the Commission has a “free speech” period before they begin work on their formal agenda, when anyone can address them, for several minutes, on whatever is on their minds.

[Above: Chuck Fager speaking to the Johnston County Commission, January 2019.]

This time I shifted a bit from my usual call for an investigation of Aero, because I was targeting the board of the entire Airport. Just two week before, on February 18, the Airport Authority had suddenly issued a new handbook of rules for tenants and visitors to the facility.

Most of these had to do with technicalities about safety procedures, runway rules, noise abatement and suchlike. All above my pay grade.

What got our attention were new sections on “Non-commercial Activities,” and in particular, “Demonstration.”

In sum, the new rules would make such activities more  or less impossible. I showed these sections to the Commissioners, and urged them to work to get them revised, and pointed out that there was something called the First Amendment involved. The new  rules seem aimed at excluding it from this public airport, and turn it into a No Free Speech Zone.

Protesting at Aero, with their hangars behind us. We can’t do that now; security is much stiffer.

Rather than going on a big rant about this here, I’ve copied out the relevant sections, pasted them in below, and included my specific suggestion to return the First Amendment to the Airport’s public service mission (there’s only the one suggestion, but I repeated it several times, at the points where the new rules seemed meant to stomp on it like a bug). I printed this out in a flyer which I gave out to all the Commission members. 

The flyer included several photos taken over the years, which are also here, illustrating our ragtag crew of anti-torture activists, busily exercising what used to be our First Amendment rights there. I emphasized that all our protests have been entirely peaceful, with no property damage, no injuries, and even frequent cleanups. 

Anyway, where will this matter end? Maybe we’ll wind up in court, or in the hoosegow for doing things we’ve done for years without trouble. Plans are being made for future free speech exercises there. Will they be able to happen?

The text excerpts are below. I don’t think the whole handbook is online yet; but if anyone wants a copy, email me at qkrtheology@nullgmail.com . The bit in bold red italic is my suggested revision; again, there’s only one, but it’s repeated.

Thirteen years on this case. Am I tired? Am I discouraged?  Is this image an illusion?

 


Johnston County NC Airport (JNX)
New Rules – Excerpts & Suggestions:
Presented by Chuck Fager
to the
Johnston County Commission
March 4, 2019

 II Activities on Airport Property

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. Non-Commercial Activity

  2. No person may engage in activities undertaken for non-commercial, nonprofit purposes, defined as the distribution of any written or printed matter to the general public not described above, on the Airport property without first applying to and obtaining a written permit to conduct such activity from the Airport Authority as provided herein.

3. Demonstration

      [We picked up trash outside the airport every quarter for four years. More on that project here and hear.]

  1.  No person may engage in demonstration activities, defined as the act of picketing, parading, marching, carrying, or displaying signs or placards or assembling in groups for the purpose of promoting, objecting to, or otherwise commenting upon a political, economic, social, governmental, or religious issue not described above on the Airport without first applying to and obtaining a written permit to conduct such activity from the Airport Authority as provided herein.

  2. Use of mobile devices

Mobile devices include moveable devices and vehicles.

  1. No person may operate or station any vehicle with operating amplified audio device or mobile billboard on the Airport Property, whether for commercial or non- commercial purposes, without first having obtained the written approval of the Airport Authority.

[We parked our cars in the Airport public lot, usually on weekends, when there were many open spaces. And we didn’t have a permit — except the First Amendment.]

3. Permit for Non-commercial or Demonstration activities

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. Permit Required

  2. Each person conducting any non-commercial activity or demonstration as defined above must hold a valid permit issued by the Airport Authority and shall conduct such activity in conformance with the terms of the permit issued therefore and the requirements of this Chapter. Each permit shall be issued on a non-discriminatory basis, subject to availability, the provisions of these Ordinances, and all restrictions aimed at avoiding injury or property damage and assuring the safe and orderly use of the Airport. Each permit shall describe the activity authorized, the area within which it may be conducted, and the period of time for which the permit is issued. Each permit shall be non-transferable and non-assignable. The Authority shall limit the number and type of permits issued as needed based on safety concerns, venue availability, other Airport users and Airport development with the purpose of avoiding injury or property damage and/or assuring the safe and orderly use and operation of the Airport.
    [Above: This sign was on the Airport lawn. And “each person” did not have a permit, except the First Amendment.]

3. Permit Application

  1. Each person seeking to conduct any non-commercial activity or demonstration shall submit a signed written application in the form prescribed by the Authority setting forth the following information:

1)            The applicant’s name, mailing address, and telephone number;

2)            If the applicant is an agent of or represents an organized body or institution, the name, address, and telephone number of the entity, and a letter or other documentation certifying that the applicant has current authority to represent the organization or entity;

3)            The name and title of the person who will have the immediate supervision of and responsibility for the applicant’s activities at the Airport;

4)            The type and purpose of the proposed activity;

We also prayed about it. (This time was at the courthouse; but the Airport was the subject of all the transcendent appeals.)

5)            The dates and hours during which the proposed activity is requested to be permitted;

6)            The number of persons who will be engaged in the proposed activity at any one time;

7)            A certification that all persons participating in the proposed demonstration will be fully instructed concerning the Ordinances and will conform with and abide by the same during all periods of demonstration activity; and

8)            Any information concerning potential activities that may be hostile or antagonistic to the proposed activity and might tend to create disturbances or security problems.

  1. Applications shall be submitted to the Airport Authority at least 30 days prior to the date of the requested activity. An applicant’s failure to submit the required information and/or to do so in the time prescribed shall result in the denial of a permit. An applicant’s submission of false information shall result in the denial of a permit or the cancellation of a permit in the event that the false information is discovered after the issuance of a permit. In the event that the requirements of these Ordinances are satisfied the Airport Authority shall issue a permit, valid for a period not to exceed 7 days.

[Below: Professor Deborah Weissman, of the University of NC Law School, speaking at the Airport in 2012 (with an amplified microphone, which the new rules much dislike) about the release of a detailed report which meticulously corroborated complicity with torture by Aero Contractors, located at the Airport. Numerous media reporters were there. Nobody had a permit — except the First Amendment.]

  1. Additional Prohibitions

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. Prohibited Conduct

    2.             Notwithstanding any provision contained herein, it shall be a violation of these Ordinances for any person to engage in any activity described in this Chapter in the following manner:

9)            While using a table, counter, or stand without the express written permission of the Airport Authority . . . .

[Above: the 2012 Weissman-UNC Law report on torture complicity at the Airport. It was distributed from a table, while Weissman spoke. The event was peaceful and professional.]

VII. Improper Sound Devices and Airport Public Address System

  1. The following prohibitions are in addition to the prohibitions stated throughout these Rules and Regulations:

  2.  Sound-amplifying devices, amplified sound-reproduction

machines, and sound trucks are prohibited on the Airport unless prior written authorization has been received from the Airport Director. . . .

XIV.            Special Events

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. Festivities, trade shows, exhibits, and any other special events that are not part of normal business operations conducted on Airport property require coordination, regulation, and prior written authorization by the Airport Director.

  2. Requests for special events shall be in letter form to the Airport Director.

  3. The Airport Director reserves the right to decline events or activities that may interfere with normal operations or use of the property at his or her discretion.

XVI.            Commercial Photography, Filming, and Recording

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. The Airport Director reserves the right to deny permission for filming on its property for any reason.
    [NOTE: This display was mounted on the fence at Aero Contractors during a protest in 2007. When it ended, all these images were carefully removed, without damage to the fence. And we didn’t have a permit — except the First Amendment.]

 

2 thoughts on “Mowing Down Free Speech in the Heart of Carolina”

  1. For what little it’s worth–I do live in Tennessee anyway–I applaud these efforts, wish for their success, and wish to be kept informed about their progress.

  2. Fuck.
    Remember the names of these anti-american scumbags who want to shut us all up. I think that’s one thing to do. Maybe it’ll end up like Fahrenheit 451, but it would still be good to remember who did this stuff.
    Memories. I’ve had a few.

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