Rumors of War

How a First Amendment right has been systematically dismantled — just when we might need it most

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Photo illustration: Anthony Gerace; source: Ira L. Black — Corbis/Getty Images

Nobody sets out to be a political prisoner. But as Lillian House sat in a 7-by-14-foot cell, listening to the faint hum of chanting supporters in the distance building to a roar as they approached the Denver County Jail to demand her immediate release, the 25-year-old Etsy seller realized maybe that’s what she’d become.

House, who is white, stands six feet tall and has green eyes and straight brown hair. Though she’s most often seen in a red T-shirt promoting the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), House has a keen eye for fashionable vintage wear from previous decades, and she’s made a living buying and selling old clothes since college. At the time of her arrest on September 17 — part of a coordinated sweep of local activists that involved an armada of squad cars, tactical teams, and an MRAP armored vehicle — she was on her way to a local estate sale to scope out the merchandise. …

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Illustration: Paul Hoppe

A Black Lives Matter confrontation pitted neighbor against neighbor — and displayed the raw power of a social media flash mob

Steven “The Worldwalker” Newman found himself in some unnerving situations while circumnavigating the globe on foot as a young vagabond and writer. On a journey that began on April 1, 1983 — because people said he was a fool to do it — and ended on the same day four years later, he saw British troops patrolling the streets of Belfast in armored vehicles, narrowly escaped a robbery by machete-wielding bandits in Thailand, and was arrested and beaten by Turkish police as he made his way toward the Iranian border.

But none of this shook his faith in humanity like the sight he witnessed recently in the small hamlet of Bethel, Ohio — the town where he’d spent his formative years. It was from Bethel that he’d set off on his adventure, and it was Bethel that greeted him with a hero’s welcome on his return. The town had thrown a parade in his honor, and to this day visitors are greeted by six-foot-tall engraved wooden signs proclaiming the rural burg the “Home of the Worldwalker.” …


Aaron Gell

Medium editor-at-large, with bylines in the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, the New York Times and numerous other publications. ¶ aarongell.com

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