In St. Paul, Minnesota, during the week of September 1st-4th the right to protest and peacefully assemble was greatly impinged upon by local, state and federal officials. It was also greatly diminished in Denver, Colorado but to a lesser extent. At the Republican National Convention protests I personally witnessed peaceful protesters demonstrating against war being beaten by police, nearly trampled by horses, dispersed with tear gas and concussion grenades, and everywhere treated as dangerous criminals and as a threat to the government.
I participated in a march led by mothers with children in strollers that was blockaded on several occasions by national guard troops in full paramilitary gear. I witnessed homeless people marching for the right to housing being dispersed by security police in riot gear wearing gas masks and carrying beating sticks that were in excess of two feet long. I witnessed journalists and legal observers rounded up by the police and detained prior to mass arrests of hundreds.
A government that cannot tolerate the dissent of its citizens is a terrible burden upon freedom and democracy. The right to dissent plays a healthy, vital role in the national dialogue. It is only through dissent that we can often see the ugly face of actions which the wealthy and powerful would prefer to remain hidden.