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posted: 6/21/2012 5:00 AM

Editorial: Protest by intimidation is bad form

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

We all expect public officials to be accessible and willing to listen to concerns even of individuals or groups with whom they do not agree.

But to get a knock on the door at home on a Saturday morning from a group of citizens who don't like some of your votes on their special interest?

That's just bad form. Very bad form.

Democratic state Rep. Fred Crespo wasn't even at his Hoffman Estates home last Saturday morning when a handful of members of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights woke his wife to deliver cards and letters emphasizing the plight of children whose parents have been deported.

The coalition is unhappy that Crespo, a Latino himself of Puerto Rican descent, opposed the Illinois version of the Dream Act and has occasionally voted contrary to the group's position on other issues. It says other state lawmakers -- including Keith Farnham of Elgin, Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg and Carol Sente of Vernon Hills, all Democrats -- can expect similar protests over the next couple of months.

Our advice to the ICIRR or to any group considering similar tactics: Think again.

Crespo has an office in Streamwood as well as in Springfield. Farnham, Mussman and Sente all have offices in their home districts, as do virtually all state representatives and senators. None of them likely would be delighted to find a contingent of unhappy constituents at their office foyer delivering stacks of letters, cards or whatever, but if that kind of demonstration is a group's action of choice, the officials' offices, not their homes, are the place for it.

Although he acknowledged that dealing with protests and complaints is something that comes with the territory for a lawmaker, Crespo lamented that Saturday's action felt "almost personal."

No doubt it did. More than that, it had the feel of brutish intimidation, a strategy that's insulting to American democracy and beneath the dignity of the usually respectable ICIRR.

The issue here is not Crespo's position on the Dream Act or any other piece of government business. Nor is this a question of the right for any person or group to demonstrate, even passionately, on behalf of a particular point of view. This is a matter of wrong place and wrong time.

Any group anxious to have its voice heard has a host of options available to it. It can seek a parade permit. It can gather at public buildings and government offices. It can schedule news conferences and public speeches.

But when it shows up unannounced on the doorstep of a lawmaker's home, it goes to unnecessary and counterproductive extremes. Let's hope the ICIRR -- or any special interest group with passionately held beliefs and positions -- has a more appropriate approach in store for other lawmakers it wishes to influence.

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