Overwhelming the opposition--with executive privilege.
I came across this article and thought it was interesting enough to share with everyone. I really want to watch a rally squad in action.
Somewhere around here, a box of books contains an old text titled "Overcoming Opposition."
The books came from a retiring friend, a long-time corporate public relations practition-er, who never had the privilege of facing down dissent with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service plus state and local police.
It must be quite helpful to utilize law enforcement to keep dissenting people out of sight and their discouraging words out of hearing range. The methods for this approach to issues management are found in a document obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in pursuit of a federal suit alleging that the Bush White House staff, as a matter of policy, excluded potential dissenters from public events and kept them out of the sight of media attending events.
The ACLU charges that a former White House staff member "enact(ed) a policy that unlawfully excluded individuals perceived to be critical of the administration from public events where President Bush was present."
The ACLU obtained from the U.S. Department of Justice a copy of the "Presidential Advance Manual" prepared by the Office of Presidential Advance in October 2002. The document is marked "Sensitive--Do Not Copy." Much of the document was redacted, leaving the ACLU with sections covering attendance issues and potential protests. ACLU posted this version of the manual on its Web site.
Like all conscientious communications managers, the manual's authors addressed the importance of making a good appearance and controlling the message.
The manual called for issuing two categories of tickets. One type of ticket would be given to local dignitaries and "used to highlight a group involved in the theme of event." These people would sit close to the stage, maybe even behind the president's podium, so they must come from "groups extremely supportive of the Administration."
Not just supportive, extremely supportive.
As for the general seating area, ticket distribution should exceed available seating by 15 to 20 percent "in order to ensure that the event is full and there are no empty seats or areas."
The manual recommended extreme care be used to weed out protesters and their tools of dissent. It suggested that volunteers man the doors to the meeting room "to form the crowd into lines, check for signs or protesters and to remove the stubs on official tickets."
Volunteers also were to be responsible for keeping "homemade signs" out of the event. An ACLU press release said people attending one Bush appearance in LaCrosse, Wisc., "had to unbutton their shirts before they could get inside" to prove they were not wearing protest t-shirts.
"Always be prepared for demonstrators, even if the local organization tells you that there will not be any," page 33 of the manual advised. "It is the responsibility of the Lead Advance to have in place an effective plan for dealing with demonstrators.
"People who are obviously going to try to disrupt the event can be denied entrance at least to the VIP area between the stage and the main camera platform ... it is important to have your volunteers at a checkpoint before the Magnetometers in order to stop a demonstrator from getting into the event. Look for signs that they may be carrying, and, if need be, have volunteers check for folded cloth signs that demonstrators may be bringing to the event."
The organizer of the presidential event was directed to, "Always check with local police to inquire of any demonstration permits issued prior to a visit."
If there may be protesters planning to visit the president, the organizer should, "First, as always, work with the Secret Service and have them ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route."
The advance organizer is charged with determining whether to tolerate or stifle protesters.
"If it is determined that the media will not see or hear them and that they pose no potential disruption to the event, they can be ignored. On the other hand, if the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the President, or has potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken immediately to minimize the demonstrator's effect.... If the demonstrators appear to be a security threat, notify the Secret Service immediately. If demonstrators appear likely to cause only a political disruption, it is the advance person's responsibility to take appropriate action."
What is the appropriate action? Asymmetrical speech.
Remember those efforts to make sure no one enters the presidential event with a protest sign or shirt? Well, the manual's response to dissent is to unleash "rally squads" equipped with signs and banners to shield protesters from the media.
"The formation of 'rally squads' is a common way to prepare for demonstrators by countering their message. This tactic involves utilizing small groups of volunteers to spread favorable messages using large hand-held signs, placards or perhaps a long sheet banner, and placing them in strategic areas around the site.
"The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protesters (USA! USA! USA!). As a last resort, security should remove demonstrators from the event site. The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young Republican organizations, local athletic teams and fraternities/sororities."
Larger events called for numerous rally squads staged around the auditorium, "and at least one squad should be 'roaming' throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems.... Rally squads should be dispatched to surround and drown out demonstrators immediately."
Do not, however, touch a demonstrator, the manual directed users.
"Most often, the demonstrators want a physical confrontation. Do not fall into their trap! Also, do not do anything or say anything that might result in physical harm to the demonstrators."
The ACLU alleges, however, that the presidential advance teams did arrest and remove people suspected of potential for dissent.
The ACLU has filed federal lawsuits on behalf of people who were arrested at a presidential appearance in West Virginia and removed from an appearance in Denver.
Jeff and Nicole Rank were arrested in 2004 after entering the West Virginia state capitol and removing outer garments to display t-shirts that had the "no" slash symbol written over the word "Bush." The ACLU alleges that White House staff members ordered them removed from the room when they refused to cover the shirts. The two were removed in handcuffs, taken to jail and charged with trespassing. The ACLU stated that, "City officials later apologized for their part in the arrest when they realized they'd been used as political operatives by the White House."
In 2005, Alex Young and Leslie Weise were removed from a Denver town hall meeting after someone told event staff members that they had arrived in a car bearing a "No More Blood for Off" bumper sticker.
The ACLU is suing Gregory Jenkins, identified as the former director of the White House Office of Presidential Advance, for enacting the policies which limited attendance at taxpayer-funded events. An official of the ACLU charged that Jenkins' policies were applied to "cleanse" events of dissent "to make the president look popular on television."
According to the manual's index, pages not provided to the ACLU included sections about motorcade procedures, flag etiquette, "Press Advance," "Backstage and 'The Announce.'"
In 2003, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a federal lawsuit after protesters at two Bush visits to St. Louis had been herded into "designated protest zones." U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Limbaugh declined to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the practice at an upcoming Bush visit after representatives of the U.S. Attorney and St. Louis city counselor agreed the practice would not be followed at that visit.
Stoff, Rick. "Overwhelming the opposition--with executive privilege.(Ad/PR). ." St. Louis Journalism Review. 37.298 (August 2007): 12(2).