Court: Terror Fears Don’t Allow Protester Searches


A federal appeals court has condemned the city of Columbus, Ga., for using post-Sept. 11, 2001 fears to justify forcing protesters of a military training school to undergo mass searches, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta will allow thousands of School of the Americas Watch demonstrators to hold their annual protest next month at Fort Benning without having to be searched with metal detectors. “We cannot simply suspend or restrict civil liberties until the war on terror is over, because the war on terror is unlikely ever to be truly over,” the 11th Circuit said last Friday. “Sept. 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country.”

Columbus officials began subjecting all protesters to a metal-detector search because the nation’s terror alert level had been raised. If the magnetometer indicated the presence of metal, then police could physically search that person. Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff called the ruling “ludicrous,” saying, “What we do is no different than what happens to people when they are checked at airports or in government buildings and courthouses in most large cities.” The School of the Americas Watch will hold its next protest on Nov. 20-21. In its ruling, the 11th Circuit said it found “troubling” the city’s arguments that metal-detector searches should be allowed because of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. “While the threat of terrorism is omnipresent, we cannot use it as the basis for restricting the scope of the Fourth Amendment’s protections in any large gathering of people,” Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote. “In the absence of some reason to believe that international terrorists would target or infiltrate this protest, there is no basis for using Sept. 11 as an excuse for searching.”


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