Occupy Louisville protested Senator Mitch McConnell's support of the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] today outside the Gene Snyder Federal Courthouse on West Broadway with a demonstration they called "Occupy Mitch McConnell". Senator McConnell earned Occupy's undivided attention because both of Louisville's other two federal representatives, Senator Rand Paul and Congressman John Yarmuth, voted against the bill because of controversial provisions that many believe could lead to egregious civil rights abuses.
The protest was held in response to an Occupy Wall Street call for a national day of action to protest the NDAA, which President Obama signed into law on December 31, 2011. According to Occupy Louisville, many legal experts and law scholars across the country believe that the language of the act will allow for Americans to be indefinitely detained by the military without access to an attorney or a trial by jury on orders of the executive branch. They believe that the language in the law effectively repeals the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
After initially promising to veto the NDAA if it contained the language in question, President Obama eventually relented and, instead, opted to issue a rare signing statement along with his signature. In it, the President acknowledged concerns with the two sections, and said:
I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation. My administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.
Signing statements don't legally bind the president that signs them, and would carry no weight at all with a future president who desired to interpret the law more broadly. Lark Phillips, who led the protest, told the demonstrators that the signing statement should provide little comfort saying, "We take him at his word that he will not be President forever."
The demonstrators dramatized their concerns with some street theater. Several participants showed up with signs that spelled out the rights in question, and these were literally stripped off their bodies and trampled on the ground by "government agents." The "agents" then handcuffed the people, put scary looking bags over their heads, led them away, and refused to answer questions about what supposed crimes had been committed. All this went on under the watchful eye of a man in a Mitch McConnell mask who, by the time the show was over, had been fired from his job. For good measure, a bag was put over McConnell's (supposed) head too.
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