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Gary Younge
FBI 'harassing' protesters

In a nationwide move that civil rights advocates called "chilling", the FBI has drawn up a list of people it intends to question because they may have information about possible violence.

In Missouri, three unnamed young men have been subpoenaed and informed that they are part of a domestic terrorism investigation, although their lawyer says the police have not told them on what grounds.

"It is part of a national effort to chill dissent in this country," said William Dobbs, the spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, which is planning to stage week-long demonstrations in New York during the convention. "And it is always a worry that this kind of intimidation will scare some people off."

The FBI says it is concentrating on possible crimes rather than trying to quash dissent. Most interrogations have centred on whether violent demonstrations are planned.

"The FBI isn't in the business of 'chilling' anyone's first amendment rights," FBI spokesman Joe Parris told the New York Times, referring to the right to free speech and free assembly enshrined in the US constitution.

"But criminal behaviour isn't covered by the first amendment. What we're concerned about are injuries to convention participants, injuries to citizens, injuries to police and first responders." Those planning to protest say the interrogations amount to harassment. "The message I took from it was that they were trying to intimidate us into not going to any protests and to let us know that 'hey, we're watching you'," said Sarah Bardwell, an intern at an anti-war group in Denver.

Last year Denver police agreed to restrict intelligence-gathering after it was revealed that they kept files on 3,000 people and 200 groups.

"This kind of pressure has a real chilling effect on perfectly legitimate political activity," said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

"People are going to be afraid to go to a demonstration or even sign a petition if they justifiably believe that will result in your having an FBI file opened on you."

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