In our first two issues, The Northern Spy reported on local protests against Clinton's proposed military actions against Iraq. During a rally on the State House lawn, myself and a half-dozen other folks from Montpelier and Brookfield decided to branch off and demonstrate in front of the Federal Building.
While in front of the building, a security guard came out and asked the group, "If someone comes up and gets really mad at you protesting and starts a commotion with you, will you disperse?" The question being so bizarre, it was met by a lot of puzzled faces and ignored. But the intent was clear: he wanted to be reassured that we would be "good little boys and girls" and go away if trouble started. No doubt the guard remembered some vigils during the Gulf War, when people passing by would occasionally try to pick a verbal fight with demonstrators.
Not until later did it occur to us that hey, this guard should have been protecting our First Amendment right to free speech. If someone else wants to try to start a disturbance with us, they should be dispersed, not us.
The moral of the story is we should never trust the State or any law to look after us. The Establishment will always, in any situation of consequence, side against individual liberty. The whole concept of our "rights" is misleading and even dangerous, insofar as it can lull us into a false sense of security. The only way to guarantee individual freedoms is for us to simply exercise them, to take direct action and lead by example, not by dependence.