Free Speech Zone, 2004 (24′)
for NOW Ensemble (flute, clarinet, electric guitar, double bass, and piano)
When President George W. Bush travels around the country and around the world, his security staff establishes designated “free speech zones” in which acts of protest against the President are legal. Outside of these zones, one may be arrested for such seemingly passive activities as carrying a sign that expresses disagreement with our national policy or shouting anything except supportive comments or cheers. While this might seem to fly in the face of the United States Constitution, the Department of Justice has chosen to ignore that document, instead using obscure legal arguments to justify the arrests of nonviolent protesters.
Bill Neel was arrested near Pittsburgh on Labor Day, 2002, for carrying a sign that read “The Bush family must love the poor, they made so many of us.” Brett Bursey was arrested in the Fall of 2003 for holding a “No Blood for Oil” sign in South Carolina. Near St. Louis, on January 22, 2003, Christine Mains and her then-five-year-old daughter were arrested and placed in separate police cars during a Bush visit to the area. In all these cases, the cited crime was failure to heed police orders to move inside the designated protest area.
Free Speech Zone was written during a time of national upheaval, in the midst of an unethical war and the seemingly unbelievable reelection of a corrupt and dangerously irrational President. It is dedicated to Bill Neel, Brett Bursey, Christine Mains and her daughter, and to all those who have sacrificed to maintain the freedoms that our great country grants us, despite the efforts of those who would deny us the very rights that they claim to be protecting.