Fwd: [IP] Gilmore bounced from plane; and Farber censors Gilmore's email
s.schear at comcast.net
Sat Jul 19 17:28:16 PDT 2003
>To: dave at farber.net, gnu
>Subject: "Suspected Terrorist" button gets Gilmore ejected from airplane
>Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2003 21:46:43 -0700
>From: John Gilmore <gnu at toad.com>
>Dave, you already know about my opposition to useless airport
>security crap. I'm suing John Ashcroft, two airlines, and various
>other agencies over making people show IDs to fly -- an intrusive
>measure that provides no security. (See http://freetotravel.org).
>But I would be hard pressed to come up with a security measure more
>useless and intrusive than turning a plane around because of a
>political button on someone's lapel.
>My sweetheart Annie and I tried to fly to London today (Friday) on
>British Airways. We started at SFO, showed our passports and got
>through all the rigamarole, and were seated on the plane while it
>taxied out toward takeoff. Suddenly a flight steward, Cabin Service
>Director Khaleel Miyan, loomed in front of me and demanded that I
>remove a small 1" button pinned to my left lapel. I declined, saying
>that it was a political statement and that he had no right to censor
>passengers' political speech. The button, which was created by
>political activist Emi Koyama, says "Suspected Terrorist". Large
>images of the button and I appear in the cover story of Reason
>Magazine this month, and the story is entitled "Suspected Terrorist".
>You can see the button at:
>(Reason hasn't put the current issue online yet, for some reason.)
>The steward returned with Capt. Peter Hughes. The captain requested,
>and then demanded, that I remove the button (they called it a
>"badge"). He said that I would endanger the aircraft and commit a
>federal crime if I did not take it off. I told him that it was a
>political statement and declined to remove it.
>They turned the plane around and brought it back to the gate, delaying
>300 passengers on a full flight.
>We were met at the jetway by Carol Spear, Station Manager for BA at
>SFO. She stated that since the captain had told her he was refusing
>to transport me as a passenger, she had no other course but to take me
>off the plane. I offered no resistance. I reminded her of the court
>case that United lost when their captain removed a Middle Eastern man
>who had done nothing wrong, merely because "he made me uncomfortable".
>She said that she had no choice but to uphold the captain and that we
>could sort it out in court later, if necessary. She said that my
>button was in "poor taste".
>Later, after consulting with (unspecified) security people, Carol said
>that if we wanted to fly on the second and last flight of the day, we
>would be required to remove the button and put it into our checked
>luggage (or give it to her). And also, our hand-carried baggage would
>have to be searched to make sure that we didn't carry any more of
>these terrorist buttons onto the flight and put them on, endangering
>the mental states of the passengers and crew.
>I said that I understood that she had refused me passage on the first
>flight because the captain had refused to carry me, but I didn't
>understand why I was being refused passage on the second one. I
>suggested that BA might have captains with different opinions about
>free speech, and that I'd be happy to talk with the second captain to
>see if he would carry me. She said that the captain was too busy to
>talk with me, and that speaking broadly, she didn't think BA had any
>captains who would allow someone on a flight wearing a button that
>said "Suspected Terrorist". She said that BA has discretion to
>decline to fly anyone. (And here I had thought they were a common
>carrier, obliged to carry anyone who'll pay the fare, without
>discrimination.) She said that passengers and crew are nervous about
>terrorism and that mentioning it bothers them, and that is grounds to
>exclude me. I suggested that if they wanted to exclude mentions of
>terrorists from the airplane, then they should remove all the
>newspapers from it too.
>I asked whether I would be permitted to fly if I wore other buttons,
>perhaps one saying "Hooray for Tony Blair". She said she thought that
>would be OK. I said, how about "Terrorism is Evil". She said that I
>probably wouldn't get on. I started to discuss other possible
>buttons, like "Oppose Terrorism", trying to figure out what kinds of
>political speech I would be permitted to express in a BA plane, but
>she said that we could stand there making hypotheticals all night and
>she wasn't interested. Ultimately, I was refused passage because
>I would not censor myself at her command.
>After the whole interaction was over, I offered to tell her, just for
>her own information, what the button means and why I wear it. She was
>curious. I told her that it refers to all of us, everyone, being
>suspected of being terrorists, being searched without cause, being
>queued in lines and pens, forced to take our shoes off, to identify
>ourselves, to be x-rayed and chemically sniffed, to drink our own
>breast milk, to submit to indignities. Everyone is a suspected
>terrorist in today's America, including all the innocent people, and
>that's wrong. That's what it means. The terrorists have won if we
>turn our country into an authoritarian theocracy "to defeat
>terrorism". I suggested that British Airways had demonstrated that
>trend brilliantly today. She understood but wasn't sympathetic --
>like most of the people whose individual actions are turning the
>country into a police state.
>Annie asked why she, Annie, was not allowed to fly. She wasn't
>wearing or carrying any objectionable buttons. Carol said it's
>because of her association with me. I couldn't have put it better
>myself -- guilt by association. I asked whether Annie would have been
>able to fly if she had checked in separately, and got no answer.
>(Indeed it was I who pointed out to the crew that Annie and I were
>traveling together, since we were seated about ten rows apart due to
>the full flight. I was afraid that they'd take me off the plane
>without her even knowing.)
>Annie later told me that the stewardess who had gone to fetch her said
>that she thought the button was something that the security people had
>made me wear to warn the flight crew that I was a suspected
>terrorist(!). Now that would be really secure.
>I spoke with the passengers around me before being removed from the
>plane, and none of them seemed to have any problem with sitting next
>to me for 10 hours going to London. None of them had even noticed the
>button before the crew pointed it out, and none of them objected to it
>after seeing it. It was just the crew that had problems, as far as I
> John Gilmore
>PS: For those who know I don't fly in the US because of the ID demand:
>I'm willing to show a passport to travel to another country. I'm not
>willing to show ID -- an "internal passport" -- to fly within my own
"There is no protection or safety in anticipatory servility."
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