WE THE PEOPLE MARCH: March in Silence to the Senate Hearing!

February 23, 2011

"We do not move forward by curtailing people’s liberty because we are afraid of what they may do or say." Eleanor Roosevelt

Last evening several nonresident workers and friends notified me that certain people were conspiring to prevent the nonresident workers and their supporters from walking from Kilili Beach to the Senate Hearing that is being held tonight at the Multi-Purpose Center.  This issue has been resolved.  We have been assured that all nonresidents workers and their supporters are free to walk peacefully on the path from the Kilili Beach to the Senate Hearing at the Multi-Purpose Center.   


The organizers have named the march, the We the People March:
We the People: to represent that every person in the community should have a voice. We the People: to represent that all nonresident workers should be viewed as future citizens and not as replaceable commodities. We the People: to protest further efforts to establish a two-tiered society of the privileged and unprivileged. We the People: to symbolize that all of the people in the CNMI, residents and nonresidents, have lived together and supported each other as neighbors, coworkers, friends and community members for decades. We the People: to represent that the cultural diversity of the races and nationalities of all CNMI community members enhances the strength and beauty of the islands. We the People: because we believe that a united CNMI where all of the people have an equal seat at the table will promote civic vitality, prosperity and economic stability. 

The organizers have deemed the march a silent march: 
Silence: to represent the oppression of the nonresident workers. Silence: to represent the voices and testimony so conspicuously absent from the draft Senate report. Silence: to represent those nonresident workers who for decades were deported by the CNMI government without their pay. Silence: to pay respect to all of the victims of labor, civil and human rights abuses that CNMI legislators callously denied and dismissed as insignificant.

Organizers recognize that many nonresidents, their advocates and leaders are justifiably disappointed or angry with the draft Senate report. They ask that all nonresident marchers and those attending the Senate hearing, as always, remain dignified, peaceful, and respectful of others' opinions.

Remember that it is the United States Congress that will decide status for the long-term CNMI nonresidents, not the CNMI Legislature or other CNMI officials. The march, attendance at the hearing, and testimonies are being promoted to document the truesentiment of all the people who live and work in the CNMI.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Dr. Martin Luther King

Where do you stand? Will you be standing with the nonresidents and their supporters tonight?

Nonresident workers and their supporters will gather at Kilili Beach at 4:00pm and walk the short distance to the Multi-Purpose Center. Everyone is welcome to join! Why turn around when the finish line may be around the corner? Join the march!

Before the Unity March, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Benedetto, formerly the Federal Labor Ombudsman, published an editorial in the papers explaining that the workers' have constitutional rights regarding freedom of speech and freedom to assemble. I am publishing it again because this is an important message that eloquently outlines our rights.

One of the most cherished of the rights guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution and the NMI Constitution is our freedom of speech. Article I, Section 2 of the NMI Constitution, which mirrors the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, says:
Section 2: Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press and Assembly. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The rights guaranteed under Section 2 protect more than just “speech.” Section 2 protects communication in all its varied forms, and the right to peacefully gather together and march, picket or protest. These rights are not reserved for citizens, but for “the people,” which includes everyone within the Commonwealth.
Freedom of speech applies not only to popular speech, such as pro-government rallies, but also to speech that may be unpopular, controversial or even hateful. The framers of our Constitution believed that the best way to show that someone is wrong is to let him speak, and let others poke holes in his arguments. As Justice Louis Brandeis explained long ago, the "the remedy to be applied [for false speech] is more speech, not enforced silence." Government may have the power to stifle unpopular speech, but hearts and minds are persuaded and won with reasoned arguments.
It often surprises or shocks people that the Constitution protects the right of those espousing unpopular ideas, such as the American Nazis who wanted to march in Skokie, Illinois (see National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1978)). But it is precisely the unpopular speech that needs protecting; nobody tries to suppress popular speech. If freedom of speech means anything, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed, it must not be just “free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate." It is a measure of our maturity as citizens in a democracy how well we tolerate dissenting or unpopular views. In the words of Voltaire, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend unto death your right to say it.”
You need only consider Dr. Martin Luther King's civil rights work in the '60s to realize how important it is to protect unpopular speech. Dr. King's many nonviolent protest marches were not popular in their day. The police turned fully pressurized fire hoses on children cutting school in support of the Montgomery bus boycott. Peaceful marchers were beaten by mounted police on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Dr. King himself was jailed several times for his civil rights work, as were thousands of others. Now, almost 50 years later, there are scant few whose hearts and minds have not been persuaded by his vision and moral clarity. What kind of society would we live in today if Dr. King and the freedom marchers had not had the protection of the Constitution's guarantees of the right to free speech and assembly?
The Commonwealth Legislature implicitly recognized the sanctity of the right to freedom of speech when it voted unanimously to make Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday a holiday in the CNMI. The findings section of Public Law 15-04 contains this language:
The Legislature finds that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader in the fight for justice through nonviolence. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent civil rights leader and fought for the equality, dignity, and freedom of all people. It is through his work and devotion that we enjoy freedom and civility in our life everyday. Dr. King’s efforts have clearly affected the people of the Commonwealth [who] have benefited directly from his vision and actions as a civil rights advocate.
Of course, our right to express ourselves is not absolute. According to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Perry Education Ass'n v. Perry Local Educators' Ass'n, 460 U.S. 37 (1985), the government may place “reasonable time, place and manner restrictions” on the exercise of our rights in a public forum, so long as those regulations are “narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.”
Public streets, as a traditional public forum, are available for parades and protest marches. Since the government has a significant interest in preventing people from blocking traffic, and protecting them from being hit by cars and buses, the government may require marchers to give advance notice of their event, obtain a permit, and arrange for police presence to close off part of the street and control traffic. Those who choose to ignore reasonable time, place and manner restrictions can be given a ticket or arrested. There is nothing unconstitutional about the government enforcing the law, as long as it is enforced equally, and not based on the content of the speaker's message.
On the other hand, the government cannot try to suppress speech that it does not like by hiding behind time, place and manner restrictions. If it allows veterans to parade, it must also permit anti-war protests. If pro-life supporters can peacefully assemble, then so can supporters of a woman's right to choose. Government officials should never suggest that time, place and manner restrictions may vary depending on the content of the message, the effect its ideas may have, or its tone. If they do, they run the risk a court may strike down the statutes regulating such activities and order them to pay monetary damages to those whose first amendment rights they have violated.
The CNMI is presently engaged in a spirited debate on labor, immigration and Federalization issues. We are all fortunate to live in a place that protects and respects our right to speak, assemble, and yes, even protest, in a peaceful, responsible manner.
Again, we have been assured that the We the People March has been approved by CNMI officials.

I wish I could say, "See you there!" but unfortunately, I cannot make it.  I hope to be with you soon. In the meantime, I send my love and will be with you in spirit. I wish you all much success in your march and submission of testimony for the Senate hearings on Saipan and Tinian.  

Boboy also has a message to all marchers and participants: "MABUHAY - to all of the nonresidents workers and their supporters!" 


Anonymous said...

My family will be marching! We have different solutions but we are all in the same boat and need to row together to reach the shore.

Green Cards for All! said...

May this march be as successful and consequential as the landmark Unity March of December 7, 2007.

Bota Kilili/Tina for Governor/Lt. Governor in 2014!

Anonymous said...

MARCH FOR DIGNITY! Do we wear green for green cards? I heard we should wear green.

Wendy said...

Hello anonymous 8:59

I called some of the organizers. They said you can wear green but don't worry about it because they have green flags and ribbons that they will distribute when you get there. You are also invited to bring signs! Wishing you a very successful march!

Anonymous said...

Why is the color green being used. That is covenant colors. That does not seem smart. That in itself could cause problems.

Anonymous said...

"problems" for using a color? Please! Green is also used by Irish, So what? If they want to have green, leave them alone! No matter what they do there will be critics.

Anonymous said...

It's not a matter of critics. It's a matter of not smart to wave gang colors when you're not in that gang. In fact, it seems downright stupid to be waving green signs, and, besides likely angering those-who-shall-not-be-named, it greatly confuses the message. (Before someone jumps in with "it's their right to use any color they want"... yes, it's their right, but it's just not the smartest thing to do.)

Anonymous said...

12:11 No, it is a matter of critics. Do you ask peace activists why they use peace signs in rallies when some people like war? I guess it's not smart to wave a peace sign because those damn war mongers may think it's gang activity. BS to the max! There are fringe groups who put down the marchers even though the majority of workers who WANT GREEN CARDS. They even sent texts to people not to attend the march. Still these people pulled it off and very successfully! Good job! Kudos to them for expressing their views and standing up for their rights! Green is my favorite color! Nice choice and it makes sense, green = green cards. Angering people? Hell, they file a valid labor complaint and people get angry. Please look at your lame argument.Congratulations to the organizers for a fantastic march and turnout!

Green Cards for All! said...

Green is my favorite color, too.

The CNMI guest workers could hardly be confused with Covenant Party adherents or supporters of Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, معمر القذافي‎ .


u're pathetic said...

OMG ! Someone please tell the Girl Scouts, Green Peace, the Green Party and all the other organizations and people who have green as a symbol to QUICKLY change to RED (oops no, could mean Communism) no BLUE because they could be connected to Covenant or some other crazy organization!!!

Anonymous said...

well said Mr. Benedetto, well said.