The "free speech zone," despite being anathema to the U.S. Constitution, has been used intermittently since the Vietnam War protests. When their use was expanded to actually hide protesters during both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2004, free speech zones were quickly written off by the mainstream media as either no big deal, or essential to protect participants from dangerous activists. Many in the alternative media warned that this was a dangerous precedent to set; after all, America itself is considered by the Constitution to be a free speech zone, with laws that were created to prosecute crimes when they are committed and not before.
These zones have now become a political tool used to alter the perception of media coverage, as supporters are allowed a front-row seat in full view of cameras, while protesters are housed in cages sometimes blocks away from the actual event.
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