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Finally, Some Creative Protesting

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The Rocky Mountain News reports on a mock funeral held yesterday for the Bill of Rights by protestors who think the Patriot Act, recently updated by Congress, goes too far in restricting civil liberties.

The eulogy was delivered Tuesday on the 16th Street Mall. Pallbearers carried the casket to the Capitol steps. A mournful bagpipe played. It was a typical funeral procession. Almost. Only the mourners were not sobbing. They were shouting political slogans. The bagpipe player was an office manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. And the Bill of Rights was in the casket.

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The Patriot Act put it there, said Cathryn L. Hazouri, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. Hazouri and activists from other local groups organized the lunchtime rally to support changes to the Patriot Act.

“It is time for Americans to come together and let Congress know that we expect them to protect our rights and freedoms,” Hazouri said.

The Patriot Act was enacted in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The U.S. House on Thursday made permanent 14 of the 16 provisions in the law that were set to expire at the end of this year.

I’m not going to get into my personal opinions on the Patriot Act, because that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. What caught my eye was the mock funeral and eulogy, which is a creative and attention-grabbing way of protesting and a far cry from the lame and tired standard of holding a press conference/rally on the west steps of the state capitol. This is the sort of protest that gets the attention of the media (which after all is the whole point of a protest) because it’s interesting. The protest itself also comes across with its own message, because you don’t have to listen to what they are saying to understand the point they are trying to make.

There are still instances where the old capitol steps protest will get the attention of the media, but that’s only when the issue is hot enough that the media would show up anyway. This was the case with the anti-Tom Tancredo protest on Monday; Tancredo has become such a lightning rod lately with his over-the-top statements that the media finds him compelling enough to keep the story going. But for the protestors of the Patriot Act, a simple fist-waving rally on the capitol steps wasn’t going to get much more than a raised-eyebrow since it’s not a sexy enough story by itself.

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Politicians and activists generally don’t do a good job with their publicity stunts in Colorado, because for every “mock funeral” there are 50 boring, angry rallies on the capitol steps that look just like every other boring, angry rally on the capitol steps. You can only serve meatloaf for dinner so many nights in a row before the kids start eating over at their friends’ house (unless you’re also serving Stove Top, of course).

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