Taking Free Speech to the Highway
Protesters in Houston Call for Impeachment
by Christine Morshedi, Green Party of Texas
Don Cook is a free speech fanatic. He speaks through a myriad of buttons on his straw hat, the stickers on his car, and, most recently, by holding signs from a bridge over Houston’s Southwest Freeway during rush hour. Cook is not alone. An alliance of progressive groups and individual Houstonians has maintained a weekly schedule for Houston-style “freeway blogging” for more than a year.
On March 20, to observe the fourth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, more than 300 protesters covered the six Montrose-area overpasses. The Harris County Green Party co-sponsored the event with eight other organizations. Through the afternoon rush hour, they displayed a variety of signs calling for peace. At dusk they joined in a candlelight vigil commemorating all who have sacrificed in Iraq.
Reaction of city government has been mixed. When one Houston city council member tried to have freeway blogging curtailed, 17 supporters appeared at the April 10 council meeting to make the case for free speech. In closing, Art Browning of the Green Party told council members to expect submission of a citizen petition to impeach Cheney first, and then Bush. None of the council members present spoke against free speech.
Houston freeway bloggers literally stand by their signs. Unlike online blogging featuring photos of signs, these bloggers physically hold the signs to comply with a local ordinance against attaching objects to overpasses — often under the watchful eyes of the Houston Police Department.
Houston freeway bloggers kicked off National Impeach Day, April 28, the evening before. Protesters holding large “Impeach” signs populated all six overpasses. Hundreds of motorists, passengers, truckers and bus drivers honked, waved and flashed peace signs in support.
A few drivers disagreed. With multiple bridges to crawl under during traffic, disgruntled commuters had time to scribble signs in response to bloggers. One read, “Get a Job!” Cook, who retired on September 11, 2001, shrugged it off. Free speech is for everyone. Browning agrees, “Do not fear seditious words. Speak up!”