lookin at me? Protester at the FBI building. Photo by:
my file?” “Stop Spying on the Peace Movement!” “Political
police, police state.”
Last Friday, as a kickoff before the large antiwar rally in
New York City on Saturday, between 100 and 150 Capital Region
residents gathered on the chilly, muddy patch of ground on
McCarty Avenue across from Albany’s FBI building.
Though there was a strong antiwar theme in the signs and speakers,
the focus of the event was clearly on the loss of civil liberties
that followed Sept. 11 and the Patriot Act. A 15-foot-tall
“big brother” puppet weaved through the crowd, and many participants
had brought binoculars (and even one telescope) to “spy on
the FBI.” Others wore badges that said “Citizen—the nation’s
One speaker, a middle-aged woman with curly hair and a grey
trenchcoat, identified herself only as “Special Agent Jane
Doe.” “I was afraid to come,” she said. “I’m somebody’s mother.
I’ve never done anything illegal. I don’t do illegal things.
Why should I be afraid?”
Linda Hatt showed up because she was concerned about the Patriot
Act’s provision that allows the FBI access to library records.
“Just because you read Mein Kampf doesn’t mean you
become a Nazi,” she said.
Other speakers recounted the abuses of the Patriot Act and
the targeting of Muslims, and compared today’s FBI monitoring
of the peace movement to the notorious COINTELPRO, in which
the FBI infiltrated civil-rights movements in the 1960s and
The mood of the day was mostly cheerful, though there was
some tension with the police, three of whom sat on horseback
across the street and trotted over whenever a protester put
a foot onto the roadway. Early on, according to eyewitnesses,
one man was arrested with little warning for playing soccer
in the roadway. Later, on the other hand, one family attending
the protest tried to bridge the gap by taking their child,
who was in a wheelchair, across the street for a chance to
pet the horses, which the officers seemed delighted to oblige.