"DEFEND THE ORLANDO WEEKLY RALLY"
FOR FREE SPEECH AND A FREE PRESS
--TUES., OCT. 23, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 21, 2007
For immediate release
host, People Power Hour
Orlando Direct Action
The People Power Hour, a local progressive radio show hosted by George Crossley (Saturdays, 2-3 p.m., WAMT-AM ), and Orlando Direct Action will host a "DEFEND THE ORLANDO WEEKLY RALLY" outside the newspaper's offices, 100 W. Livingston St., on Tues., Oct. 23, 5:30 p.m.
The purpose is to defend First Amendment rights and civil liberties from the threat posed by the Metropolitan Bureau of Intimidation (MBI), which on Oct. 19 arrested three Weekly employees on unjustified charges of allegedly aiding and abetting prostitution.
These arrests, along with a civil racketeering claim and 17 charges against the newspaper itself, represent a clear and present danger to the time-honored American traditions of free speech and a free press enshrined in both the Florida and U.S. Constitutions.
It is evident that the MBI's shameful and astounding investigation into alleged prostitution ads in the Weekly is motivated by the agency's desire for revenge against the newspaper for its hard-hitting investigative reporting. Since 2002 the Weekly has run at least 11 articles that have highlighted problems with the agency's actions and law enforcement priorities, causing the MBI much embarassment. Chief among these have been a series of articles that have detailed misconduct by undercover MBI agents investigating Cleo's, a local adult-entertainment establishment.
We do not believe that citizens and the media should be intimidated by the MBI's actions into giving up our cherished rights of free speech and a free pressthe best protection that citizens have against government malfeasance.
- We demand that the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office drop all charges against the Weekly and its employees.
- We demand that the MBI adopt a hands-off policy towards the Weekly and other local media. We will not stand-by silently while the MBI attempts to turn Central Florida into a police State.
- We demand that the MBI provide the media and the public with a full accounting of the money spent, the amount of hours expended and the number of officers used during its two-year investigation of the Weekly.
- We demand that the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office make public a full, complete and unredacted transcript of the grand jury proceedings that led to the charges against the Weekly employees.
- We demand that the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI launch an investigation into the charges against the Weekly and its employees and the MBI's investigation to determine whether there have been politically motivated civil rights violations by the MBI.
- This is Orlando, not Afghanistan under the Taliban or Iran under the rule of the mullahs and ayatollahs, and we demand that local law enforcement quit acting as our community's self-apppointed morality police.
- We demand that they quit wasting tax-payer money in a futile and ill-conceived effort to wipe out prostitution and sexually-oriented enterprises in our community.
- In the name of our society's liberty, public health and sexual sanity, we call for the legalization of prostitution and demand that the State mind its own business when it comes to consensual arrangements between adults. We are not advocating prostitution, but simply the idea that adults must be free to make their own moral decisions without interference by the State.
- We demand that the MBI be abolished since there appears to be little real organized crime in Central Florida. Clearly the agency has no justification for its existence if it must resort to blatantly misguided and unnecessary investigations such as that of the Weekly in an attempt to justify the milions of dollars in public money that it squanders every year.
At the very least, it is time that the MBI quit hiding behind an unjustified cloak of secrecy such as refusing to reveal the location of its headquarters. The MBI acts as though it were the Secret Service or the National Security Agency. In reality it is just a glorified vice squad that picks easy targets such as escort services, prostitutes, message parlors and newspapers and then blows its own horn about its dubious achievements in an effort to convince the community that it is overrun with vice from which only the MBI can "protect" it.
The Weekly is the best media friend that Central Florida's progressive and radical activist communities have. It is the only media outlet that regularly, accurately and fairly covers our issues and activities, and we call upon everyone in those communities to show support for First Amendment rights and for the Weekly by participating in this rally. We extend this invitation to all people of good will, of any political persuasion, who support First Amendment rights.
Please bring signs, banners and drums, and tell your friends about this important event.
Please note: This rally is not being organized by the Orlando Weekly, its corporate parent or any employees of either enterprise.