The Criminalization of Protest

Police and politicians ignore the First Amendment when we need it the most.

I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C., area for the better part of the last 10 years. So I’ve seen my share of demonstrations, although more often than not I just try to avoid the traffic nightmares they cause. Among the various classes of protests—pro-life, anti-war, environmental, and now tea parties—the most destructive are the anti-globalization marches. So when cops clashed with anti-globalization demonstrators at the Pittsburgh G-20 summit in September, it was easy to assume that most of the altercations represented justified police responses to overzealous protesters.

But a number of disturbing photographs, videos, and witness accounts told a different story. Along with similar evidence from other recent high-stakes political events, they reveal an increasing, disquieting willingness to smother even peaceful dissent.

On the Friday afternoon before the G-20 meeting kicked into high gear, a student at the University of Pittsburgh snapped a photo showing a University of Pittsburgh police officer directing traffic at a roadblock. What’s troubling is what he’s wearing: camouflage military fatigues. It’s difficult to discern a practical reason why a man working for an urban police department would need to wear camouflage, especially while patrolling an economic summit. He’s a civilian dressed like a soldier. The symbolism is clear, and it affects the attitudes of both the cops wearing the clothes and the people they’re policing.

The campus cop wasn’t alone. Members of police departments from across the country came to Pittsburgh to help during the summit, most of them dressed in paramilitary garb. In one widely circulated video, several officers dressed entirely in camouflage emerge from an unmarked car, apprehend a young backpack-wearing protester, stuff him into the car, and drive off. The sequence evoked the “disappearances” associated with Latin American dictatorships or Soviet Bloc countries. When Matt Drudge linked to the video, he described the officers in it as members of the military. They weren’t, but it’s easy to understand how someone might make that mistake.

In another video, members of a police unit from Chicago who took vacation time to work at the summit prop up a handcuffed protester and gather behind him. Another officer then snaps what appears to be a trophy photo. Two men in faraway Queens were arrested for posting the locations of riot police on Twitter, as though they were revealing the location of troops on a battlefield. Another video shows dozens of police in full body armor confronting and eventually macing onlookers (who weren’t even protesters) in the neighborhood of Oakland, far from the site of the summit, as a recorded voice orders any and all to disperse. Students at the University of Pittsburgh claim cops fired tear gas canisters into dorm rooms, used sound cannons, and shot bean bags and rubber bullets.

The most egregious actions took place on September 25, when police began ordering students who were in public spaces to disperse despite the fact that they had broken no laws. Those who moved too slowly, even from public spaces on their own campus or in front of their dorms, were arrested. A university spokesman said the aim was to break up crowds that “had the potential of disrupting normal activities.” Apparently a group of people needn’t actually break any laws to be put in jail. They must only possess the “potential” to do so, at which point not moving quickly enough for the cops’ liking could result in an arrest. That standard is a license for the police to arrest anyone anywhere in the city at any time, regardless of whether they’ve done anything wrong. In all, 190 people were arrested during the summit, including at least two journalists.

It can’t be easy to both keep order and protect civil liberties at such events. But that doesn’t mean police and city officials shouldn’t be expected to try. Yes, some protesters damaged some property at the G-20 summit, although there wasn’t much of that this time around. But the presence of a few unruly demonstrators doesn’t give the police carte blanche to crack down on every young person in the general vicinity, nor should it give the city free rein to suppress all public protest. It’s unfortunate that when the global press and the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies came to Pittsburgh, the images that emerged were not of a society that values free expression and constitutional rights but of one willing to grant police powers normally seen in authoritarian states.

This projection of overwhelming force at big events is becoming more common. At last year’s Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, police conducted peremptory raids on the homes of protesters before the convention began. In all, 672 people were jailed, including at least 39 journalists. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 442 of those 672 later had their charges either dropped or dismissed.

Four years before that, more than 1,800 people were arrested at the previous Republican National Convention in New York City. Ninety percent were never charged with a crime. One notorious photo from the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver shows a small mass of protesters, zoned far off from where any delegates or media representatives could hear them, surrounded by two walls of riot police who outnumbered them at least 2 to 1. Denver’s police union later issued a commemorative T-shirt of the event emblazoned with an illustration of a menacing cop wielding a baton and the slogan, “We get up early to beat the crowds.”

The trend may have started at the 1999 World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, which saw both actual rioting and police overkill. Mayor Paul Schell not only declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew, and designated swaths of the city “no-protest” zones; he actually banned civilian possession of gas masks. Police then gassed entire city blocks. The victims included many owners of the stores the police were ostensibly protecting from looters. Assistant Police Chief Ed Joiner, who was in charge of security for the event, would later tell reporters that future summits should be held only in destinations with military governments.

These are precisely the kinds of events where free speech and the freedom to protest need protection the most: when influential figures make high-level decisions with far-reaching consequences. Instead, we see the opposite. The higher the event’s profile, the more powerful the players involved, and the more important the decisions being made, the more determined police and politicians are to make sure dissent is kept as far away from the VIPs as possible. Or silenced entirely.

Radley Balko ( is a senior editor at reason.

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  • ||

    Great article Mr. Balko,

    Keep up the good work.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Iran's crackdown on dissidents is a portent of things to come here.

    I've been saying for at least a decade that it really won't matter which party holds all the cards of power... both are equally capable of turning this country into a police state. In fact, it's probably the thing they agree on the most - how they would do it, is a matter of individual style and goals, but the end result is/will be the same.

    Nice knowin' ya, Bill of Rights.

  • ||


  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Prove me wrong, Lyle.

    Bush and his gang were pretty rotten about allowing protests. I don't see Obama and his gang changing that treatment.

  • ||

    What about the completely Orwellian idea of "free speech zones"? Is this abomination going to continue under Jesus??? Sorry, I mean Obama. Actually, I don't even know if was a fed type thing, but my impression is that it came from Cheney himself. If this is a policy that Obama endorses then any last shred of any respect I had for the man will be gone.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    +1, DW.

  • ||

    Lyle is right, this is nonsense. Protests are OK until some of them get out of hand, wherein loss of property and sometimes limb can result. Police have to make an educated decision on when to take action to stop this.

  • Perun||

    Is it democratic if Iranian, Russian or Chinese Police do the same or should their actions be viewed as authoritarian and un_democratic?

  • Jesus||

    That's not what happened in Pittsburgh. The total value of property damage for the entire summit was $50,000. It is estimated that one person caught on film was responsible for about #28,000 worth of that damage, during a walk down a street where he broke every shop window he passed. $50k is a lot of damage, but it does not justify importing 12,000 police into the area. There were no significant injuries, no loss of life, no fires, no prolonged tense standoffs. No citizens were under threat. No dignitaries were threatened. The situation did not justify tear-gassing crowds of 18-22 yr old kids.

    This article is spot on.

    The pre-emption of protest and public assembly was wrong, illegal, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.

  • ||

    The Bill of Rights is still law Guy. America ain't Iran... by a long shot. Yes, our police have gotten more "militant", but lets not go comparing our government to the despots of Iran. That is nonsense.

  • ||

    Lyle...soon it will be a Revolution. We aren't drinking the fluoridated water anymore!

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    I didn't say we were in Iran-level despotism... not yet. But I don't see Barry doing anything to reverse the slide.

  • ||

    Unfortunately, the courts seems to believe the first amendment does not means what it says and as long as the executive and legislature can describe what it does a merely time place and manner restriction all sorts of overkill are "awwwwwright."

  • ||

    The first amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

    Notice the words "peaceably to assemble". This is how the police can act within their rights to clamp down on protest. The word peaceably is a very elastic word and can be interpreted many different ways by many different law enforcement agencies. The founding fathers of this country must have been afraid of violent demonstrations to have put that word in the constitution.

    That being said, I find it strange how the only protests that are "dispersed" are those containing mostly young, liberal people. It is interesting that the protests of the young and the liberal are broken up much more than the protests of the old and the conservative. It seems that before the police riled up the G-20 protesters, they were about as violent as the tea (aggressive, but not destructive). It probably stems from a fear of the youth rather than a nod to the conservatives.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Not to mention that some protesters might start trouble just to elicit a response... and I'd say that happens a lot more in G20 or environmentalist protests than in Tea Party or tax protests.

  • Carl||

    So the reactionary right -- the tea bag set -- is less likely to "commit violence" that environmentalists or anti-corporate activists? Tea baggers proudly bear arms to protests. Not one has been arrested. Try packing heat to a Summit of corporate gangsters. Think that would fly?

  • ||

    Teabaggers don't vandalize property for kicks. There
    s a reason they aren't arrested (yet) it's because they don't break the law.

  • ||

    People think I'm crazy when I say that we live in a police state now. But consider: the police can do whatever they want with little or no fear of meaningful consequences.

    If they haven't done it to you, it merely means that they haven't noticed you or don't consider you to be worth the trouble.

  • ||

    Hey, I know you are not crazy.

  • ¢||

    If they haven't done it to you, it merely means that they haven't noticed you or don't consider you to be worth the trouble.

    Or you're one of them, functionally.

  • ||

    Ha, good point. Although if one does become one of them, there is no turning back. They save their worst for the apostates.

  • Fluffy||

    Not to ride my usual hobbyhorse on this topic too much or anything, but I blame the automobile.

    The notion that one could somehow be committing an offense merely by occupying public space and walking around in it would have been considered completely outlandish before our society was forcibly remade in the image of the automobile.

    Public spaces no longer belong to the public as human beings, but only as routes through which automobiles are expected to pass.

    Therefore, doing something like walking down a street carrying a sign is no longer seen as free expression but is instead a dangerous and disruptive act, for the simple reason that it might make someone's drive take longer than they think it should.

  • MNG||

    You've mentioned in previous discussions that the government played a major role in making our society as automobile focused as it is, as well as a role in the "bigness" of everything these days. I'm interested to learn more about these arguments, can you refer me to anything to read on these topics? Thanks in advance.

  • Fluffy||

    Sorry, I'm not ignoring you, but let me work on that and get back to you.

  • MNG||


  • Ricklesworth||

    Try "The Culture of Time and Space: 1880-1918" by Stephen Kern. It's all about how space and time got warped by the invention of the radio/automobile/airplane etc. A little philosophical, but good.

  • ||

    Not to mention that the cops have no right to stop you on the street and hassle you without substantial probable cause (unless you are a minority, of course), but they can stop you in your car with the greatest of ease since they can just say you "failed to signal" or any one of the myriad of offenses one can commit while driving on the public roads.

    For instance, before 9-11, I was perfectly comfortable (illegally) carrying a concealed pistol in NYC, because how the hell would the cops ever find it on me? They had absolutely no reason or right to search my person at any time, and since I was never driving (I took a taxi or the subway), I had nothing to worry about. But if I was driving, forget taking the gun (I'd take a cannoli instead), because if I got pulled over for any reason, it could get ugly.

  • MNG||

    Did you ever have to use the cannoli?

  • Terry Stop||

    Not to mention that the cops have no right to stop you on the street and hassle you without substantial probable cause

    Wrong. All they need is "reasonable articulable suspicion"."Probable cause" is a much higher standard

  • ||

    Like I said, I'm white, and on top of it, one can clearly see that I can afford a real lawyer, so the cops didn't really bother targeting me.

  • SIV||

    Being white in a non-majority white neighborhood is the text book example of Reasonable Articulable Suspicion.

  • ||

    Like he was standing on a street known to be used by drug dealers. Which would include pretty much any street.

  • ||

    One of my friends is a cop and was telling that depending on the city, there's usually all kinds of little rules that cops can use to detain you. For example, crossing the street on a diagonal instead of at a right angle to the sidewalk and crossing the street within fifty feet of a crosswalk.

    Just little useless laws that are in the books from the 1800's that they can choose to enforce if you piss them off enough.

  • J. P. Carlo||

    More importantly, either probable cause or reasonable articulable suspicion can be made up ex post facto for paperwork purposes.

    Cop stops somebody for DWB (driving while black). Tears the car apart (no probable cause, no suspicion, no consent, no nothing). Just go on a fishing expedition.

    Upon which he finds a tiny remnant of a joint, or perhaps a little baggie of weed in the glove compartment.

    On his form he writes "smelled marijuana when the window was rolled down" as the source of his probable cause.

    Of course, if he happened instead to find a gun under the seat, he writes, "saw handle of what appeared to be a pistol under the passenger seat."

    And the defendant's only recourse would be "No, your honor, I hid my gun way better than that, so there's no way he could have seen it!"

  • J. P. Carlo||

    Also, there is the rampant use of "safety" measures for all sorts of enforcement.

    For example, in Terry stops a brief pat-down is allowed, and this was upheld so that an officer can determine whether someone they've stopped is carrying a weapon which can be used to hurt or kill the officer.

    But such pat-downs frequently result in arrests for drug posession, which is entirely not what they were intended for.

    Airport security searches, and various types of bag searches, which are ostensibly to look for explosive devices and the like, are frequently used as pretext to harass travelers over questionable reading material, pornography, quantities of cash (a la Steve Bierfeldt), and of course the beat cop's bread-and-butter: drug arrests.

    Same goes for searches pursuant to arrest - why not see what else you can dig up on this guy and his hangers-on (even if it's totally unrelated to what he's being arrested for, and has nothing to do with the officer's safety, which is what the search pursuant to arrest was designed for).

  • Terry Stop||

    Lucky you never ran into me!

    RAS can be just where you are or acting in a manner that in the "officers professional experience" =RAS.
    Loitering,walking too slowly,walking to fast,looking side-to-side,looking straight ahead, ad infinitum...

  • ||

    Hogwash Episarch. Minorities aren't hassled because they are minorities. Liberal poppycock that has been repeated ad nauseum.

  • h||

    hmmm, hogwash. Have you looked at incarceration rates for various demographics and/or at the imbalance of sentencing for "equivalent" crimes according to color lines? While economic disparity may account for a great proportion of the imbalance, the point that the economic disparity also has "color" connotations should not be lost. What you label as "liberal poppycock" reveals your lack of either comprehension or research or both.

    Even without citing references of the reams of research done and the obviousness of the situation without a lick of academia needed, there is ample evidence at hand. I mean, for criminy's sake, can you not even fathom that a police department saying that they will no longer use racial profiling to target suspects means that they were using racial profiling before it was deemed incredibly wrong? The next time Rush tells you something, take it with a grain of salt.

  • Ratko||

    With truth always the first casuality of academia thankfully we won't be needing it.

    My perspective is a little different having lived as lone, or near lone less pigmented family in numererous more pigmented neighborhoods. You'd think if cops were out to get minorities these would be the places where they'd be out in force. The reality is quite different, these are the places where if you see a cop they aren't on patrol, they're heading to a call, or coming in to serve a warrant or arrest someone.

    If for no other reason than these are high crime, especially violent crime areas, you'd still expect a more visible police presence. Whether there is more crime because of a lack of police, or because of ethnicity is anyone's guess. But to blame poverty is moronic. Doing so couldn't begin to explain why numerous neighborhoods, even entire towns and counties, like the one where I now live, which is predominantly Caucasion and Amerindian, have only scarce petty crime and far less violent crime and yet have poverty levels that are some of the highest in the nation.

    Law enforcement here has the luxury of being able to, and the wisdom to use a spirit of the law approach over the letter. It works quite well. Let's face it, people are usually the best police of themselves. If the people's willingness to police themselves is lost, so is lost the police's ability to keep the peace no matter how many officers they have or how hard they crack down.

    The decision to move came at the urging of a group of my closest friends who are part of a group of Mexican immigrant families. Phoenix, Arizona, where we came from was becoming to difficult to do business in. This had nothing to do with Sheriff Joe, and everything to do with stiffling of free markets by people like yourself. Markets can't get any more free than here, we've all done very well by that, and have become valued and respected members of the community.

    My friends have however collected at least a dozen DWI/DUIs among themselves. So is it racial profiling? Or is it a matter of how people raised in Mexico see getting plowed and driving as no problema? Do your "reams of research" cover details like Jesus leaving a futbol party and broadsiding a sheriff's vehicle in an intersection or Rojo pulling out in front of a speeding ambulance from a roadside bar almost causing it to roll over? Or are they just the useless statistical variety that say whatever the presenter desires them to?

    Sometimes peoples are just more likely to commit certain crimes. Back home in Phoenix the Blacks in my last neighborhood were very fond of pulling armed robberies. That doesn't mean all Mexicans drink and drive or all Blacks commit armed robberies.

    By "Rush" I assume you mean the talk host. Personally, I've never listened to him, but you seem like someone who needs to becareful who you listen to, since you believe all kinds of nonsense.

    Best to do our own research, trust our observations. As you may know Arizona is hardly all White. You may be interested in our Death Row.

    If you're not interested in the link, the demographics are: Black 15, Mexican 19, Amerindian 5, Other 1, and White 89.

    So what's that say? Your well researched truth still hold true? Maybe everywhere but Arizona, right?

    It's sad you progressives think you're so much better than everyone else, the truth is you take us the same place as conservatives only much faster. Maybe if you tried a different approach you'd be able to quit falling sucker to your own lies and propaganda. It's not healthy to go through life hating. If you weren't so focused on hating Bush, Rush, conservatives, and so on, then maybe you'd realize you are everything you hate just more extreme at it. All I expect is for both you groups of knuckleheads to operate within the limits of the US Constitution and to respect the liberties guarenteed by the Bill of Rights. Neither of you even bothers to pay them lip service anymore. Both of you are just too focused on your own selfish interests.

    The best thing that could happen for you would be for you to fail before your utopian fantasy has a head on collision with the reality of your Orwellian nightmare.

  • Crow-Eating Dumbass||

    Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • ||

    If the government had achieved its goal of total domination, we'd all be riding Segways. Instead of cars.

  • ||

    I thought hardcore libertarianism held public property -- beyond *maybe* a courthouse or a naval yard -- to be verboten.

    In any case, it is possible to walk down a street carrying a sign even now. As long as you're not talking about an Interstate, there is going to be a sidewalk or shoulder or whatnot for you to walk along whether you've got a sign or not.

    The only problems arise when you have a large throng that can't fit on the sidewalk. And frankly that would have been just as big a problem pre-automobile if you're talking about a busy street -- horse and foot traffic is just as susceptible to disruption as automobile traffic is.

  • ||

    Did you even read the article, the cops were arresting Pittsburg University students on University grounds adjacent to the dorms of the kids. The kids were not trespassers but licensees or invitees of the University to its porperty and to arrest someone who has the privilege of being on the property based on mere potential to cause trouble is disturbing.

    Moreover, let's get beyond the sidewalks; is there really a legitimate purpose of government to break up rallies at parks or other public forums so long as they are peaceful? Should a police force indescrimiately tear gas whole neighborhoods because a few people somewhere broke some windows? Do you think abducting a protester as in the Drudge report video is A-OK?

  • Pittsburgher||

    It wasn't even a rally they were breaking up. It was a bunch of kids outside who wanted to see what would happen. The G20 was 2 miles up the road, and they wanted to see what would go on. The more people wanted to see, the more people came out of the dorms.

    It wasn't a protest at all. It was observation. There was no property damage, no disturbing of the peace, no reason for the forceful response.

    They chased kids into their own dorms! ferpeetesake! That's crazy!

  • J. P. Carlo||

    "In any case, it is possible to walk down a street carrying a sign even now. As long as you're not talking about an Interstate, there is going to be a sidewalk or shoulder or whatnot for you to walk along whether you've got a sign or not."

    In many areas no, there are no sidewalks.

    And walking along the shoulder is technically not allowed; the shoulder is for broken-down vehicles, not for pedestrians.

  • ||

    The main problem with the automobile it it empowers the individual and allows too much freedom of mobility.

  • Kroneborge||

    Balko for reporter/columnist of the year?

  • ||


  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Why not? Balko has done a lot of good work uncovering botched raids and other trivial matters...

  • Ratko||

    Radley Balko is impressive, he really goes the extra mile researching and writing his articles, the man obviously sincerely cares a great deal about liberty and justice.

    It appears that if he has a story he's confident is true he'll publish it even it risks making enemies of powerful people. That takes considerably more balls than most reporters or columnists have.

    Additionally, his keen insight has helped change some of my long held opinions on a couple topics. My opinions evolve slowly and are mostly arrived at by observation, history, and experience. So it's extremely rare for an individual to affect one.

    Radley Balko is the watchdog of the century.

  • ||

    Just last night I was reading where a guy denied a cop's request to search his bag upon entering the subway. The comments section was 7 to 1 on the side of the cop just because the guy knew his rights and refused to comply. The police state makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The rest of us are "a pain in the ass" apparently.

  • ||

    Like it or not, being the subway is up there on the terrorist target list, the bag inspections they do are probably reasonable. The 4th only protects you from unreasonable searches.

  • JD||

    That's some messed-up definition of "reasonable" there. Since when does "reasonable" mean, "Well, people have taken bombs into subways before, therefore I can search whatever I want"? Seriously, by that definition, isn't every search "reasonable"?

  • ||

    So why do we need a body scan at the airport?

  • JD||

    Beats me, since I'm not defending that either. Personally, I don't think airport security has been materially improved since they implemented X-raying of bags, metal detectors, and confirming that checked bags actually match a passenger who got on the plane. We should note that airports didn't even start using metal detectors until 1973...for some reason every new security measure has been followed by another attack, more security measures, another attack, etc., which suggests that the security measures don't really do a lot, when it comes down to it. I assure you that the subway is/will be exactly the same way.

  • ||

    ""confirming that checked bags actually match a passenger who got on the plane.""

    Do they do that? I remember hearing about it, but my luggage has missed my flight and it didn't seem to be a security breach. My bag was on a flight that I wasn't. Didn't seem to be a problem for them. Twice I've had my luggage beat me to my destination.

  • ||

    But (some of) the increased security measures have made any attack much more difficult to pull off. That's why the most recent ones have failed; the correct detonation procedures are just too complicated for the dim bulbs they recruit to kill themselves to carry out properly.

    If aviation security were still the same as it was in the 1960s, any idiot could carry easy-to-use knives and bombs onto planes with impunity, and there would be jumbo jets hijacked and blown out of the sky every week.

  • ||

    My recollection is most of this insanity took place in the 1970s

  • J. P. Carlo||

    " any idiot could carry easy-to-use knives "

    And what, exactly, would one do with a knife aboard a plane?

    Stab somebody? You can do that on the ground, or on a bus or a train or walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, or on a church pulpit, or in front of a school, hell even on national TV (just follow the news van and stand behind the reporter) much more easily.

    Unless you seriously think that a plane full of passengers and crew is going to voluntarily let you take over the plane and crash it into god knows what, in which case you've got another thing coming...

  • ||

    Do some research. There have been a few instances in the past (pre-Terrorist) of aircraft hijackings by perps armed with box cutters

  • ||

    The thing is you CONSENT to the search at the airport, granted the airport says its a condition precedent to getting to your plane, but it's still your choice.

  • ||

    Also, at the airport the searches are not random or in any way discretionary, everyone is searched.

  • ||

    Most should be when carried out by a police officer...

  • ||

    The justification I had heard was that, since you're free to just leave the subway station without getting searched, it's a voluntary search.

    In a city where the subway is the primary mode of transportation, I don't really buy that, but I don't think they were claiming that there is some sort of subway exception to the 4th.

  • ||

    Oh, they'll claim (as they already have) all kinds of absurd exceptions to the 4th.

  • ||

    Tupla is correct in that it is a voluntary search, you do not have to comply, but you will be looking for a different mode of transportation to your current destination, or you could try a differnt Subway entrance.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Or go to Quiznos instead.

  • ||


  • ||

    Does anyone seriously think that if a cop in the subway asked to search your bag and you turned and left without letting him that this would not be ample justification, by current standards, for detaining you and searching you without consent? It just like turning around to avoid a roadblock. The cops love it when you do that. Avoiding being searched, nowadays, constitutes reasonable suspicion.

  • ||

    Technically, refusing a search cannot be grounds for a unconsented search.

  • J. P. Carlo||

    The jurisprudence seems to be that lower standards of suspicion are acceptable for searches if they pertain to greater levels of risk.

    In other words, lower-suspicion searches such as Terry stops, "implied consent" for sobriety checkpoints, and of course subway bag searches, have been upheld because they are intended to look for things that could be dangerous to many people (such as an impaired driver, or an explosive device in a populated area).

    A higher standard of suspicion would be needed, for example, to search a guy's car for drugs, or scour his laptop hard drive for pornographic material.

    The trouble is, that we don't have, and sorely need, a way to separate these.

    If Terry stops are routinely used to search for drugs, and bag searches used to harass travelers about questionable reading material, then:

    1. These expanded "safety-related" search provisions are being abused in order to infringe the constitutional rights of individuals, and

    2. By spending time looking for drugs, porno and the like, officers who ostensibly should be concentrating on looking for dangerous weapons are being distracted by non-safety-related tasks.

  • Ratko||


    The possesion bearing of a dangerous weapons is a right, not a crime.

  • ||

    And what, praytell, is "reasonable" about searching a guy's bag just because he's carrying it?

    What reasonbly articulable facts led the cop to the reasonable suspicion that that guy was engaging in some kind of criminal activity, thereby "reasonbly" warranting a search of his bag?

    Simply riding the subway while carrying a bag, without more, does not provide the reasonable suspicion warranting a search.

  • ||

    ""And what, praytell, is "reasonable" about searching a guy's bag just because he's carrying it?""

    No more unreasonable than searching his bag at the airport.

  • ed bernay||

    how about searching his bag when he is walking down the street? what about searching people's cars before they enter a tunnel or cross a bridge? People - the politicans and police will never stop moving the line. We will lose more and more freedom a little at a time. The police are not your friends. I was in the police academy and quit. Most in my class were ex military. They train like the military and have a military vs them. It will not get better until they revise the manner in which they train academy recruits.

  • ||

    ed bernay
    " We will lose more and more freedom a little at a time. The police are not your friends.'

    Wrong ed, the police are our friends. It is our enemies that are taking away our freedom. And that is why it should be a 'war on terror', because of the incredible damage they our doing to our society. But you, like Obama, just want to make nice and hope they will go away. Well they didn't and wont work.
    So lets make wholesale war against these assholes...

  • ||

    Did you not read the above article?
    The whole point is that the "friendship" you claim we have with police is slipping at a fast rate, unless you're one of them.

    To me, it seems police are being given more power with more leeway and that means cocky cops with a chip on their shoulder.

  • ||



  • Jaysea||

    How do you know what my opinion is regarding Obama and terrorism? You have no clue. For starters I can't stand Obama. I'm a libertarian, not a government tool like you appear to be. The police and politicans are not our friends. They are interested in one thing...expanding their own power. If you don't mind the police and politicans searching your bag, your house or your car, then by all means, feel free to invite them over your house.

  • Mr. ?||

    Who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes?

  • Rich||

    Those who have "the potential of disrupting normal activities.”

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Rich, it depends on which party is in charge. When Obama starts cracking down on violent environmental protesters, I'll have a little more faith in Him.

  • .||

    Who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes?

    Hopefully the thuggish cops.

  • brotherben||

    If that's what it takes to get it started, I volunteer.

  • MNG||

    I think the police, like most agencies, will get away with whatever they are allowed to get away with. If people or groups are not willing to go to court, or the press is not willing to publicize violations and then the voters are not willing to turn out officials who don't address it, then they will get away with what they can. This is why I thank goodness for groups like the ACLU or for reporting like Balkos. And I'd like to ride my hobby horse a little: every police agency in this nation should be answerable to a civilian review board with majority civilian representation and the power to effectively curb police excesses. It's a real policy choice that liberals and libertarians can join in getting behind: the police should answer to us, the citizens.

  • ||

    Why would a non civilian be on a civilian review board.

  • TP||

    It's amazing we are still having this conversation after 41 years.

    At least we are still able to have a conversation. How much longer before another May 4, 1970?

  • Kroneborge||

    Good idea, to bad the review board is usually made up of people sympathetic to the idea that cops can do whatever.

  • MNG||

    Yes, it is a shame they are often sham boards. True civilian review of police should be a fundamental component of a truly free society...

  • Kroneborge||

    agreed, after all, someone has to watch the watchers right, lol

  • ||

    If I had the resources, I would start "The Police Police." We would have the fastest cars and the best video/recording gear available. The entire purpose would be to follow scanners and record what the police do at as many interactions with the public as possible.

    Any wealthy backers out there? :-D

  • The Man||

    How dare you endanger our valiant officers who only want to do their duty to protect and serve the public! Next thing you know criminals and/or terrorists will have missile launchers shaped like cameras! Why, next time you need a cop who will you call, a terrorist? Didn't think of that, did you, you pinko hippie bastard?

  • ||

    "Why, next time you need a cop who will you call, a terrorist?"

    No, God and my Right to bear arms.

  • Brian||

    Something already exists. It's called copwatch. You should join.

  • ||

    Yeah, but the first thing we have have to do is get rid of the word "civilian" when referring to anything related to the police.

    I would expect the members of a "Civilian Review Board' to be reviewing the activities of members of the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, not the people who have been hired for "Civilian Policing".

  • boomshanka||

    new york city has really promoted the idea that it's better to violate civil liberties and defend a wrongful arrest in court than allow people to exercise their rights. the otherwise underworked gov't defense lawyers will drag out a case for years until settling for nuissance value, so there are very few repercussions for unconstitutional policy.

    and didn't minneapolis buy a shitload of liability insurance for wrongful arrest cases prior to the RNC? in that case they have absolutely nothing to lose by violating citizens' rights.

  • ||

    NYC pays over 100 million a year in claims against the police. Maybe is better to violate civil liberties as long as the citizen foots the bill.

  • ||

    This whole thing is so easy to fix, and civilian control can be used. Have the Mayor tell the police not to attend any large gatherings whatsoever, especially 'demonstrations'.

    After all, policemen do not like to attend these demonstrations. There is nothing in it for them other than possible injury.

    That way everybody is happy. Libertarians, the police, property owners, oops, maybe not property owners, but fuck em, our rights could be violated. I hate those property owners who want the police to protect their property! Asshole property owners!!!

  • ||

    policemen do not like to attend these demonstrations

    Their commemorative T-shirts indicate otherwise.

  • Rhywun||

    The police have been styling themselves after the military forever. They're just taking it to a whole new level lately.

  • smartass sob||

    If they want to play soldier boy so badly, perhaps they should volunteer for a tour in Afganistan or Iraq. 'Course, over there someone might shoot back.

  • ||

    Where do you think they are learning?

    Many cops are ex-military or in the reserves.

  • smartass sob||

    Yes, I know. In fact, if things are still done the way they were forty years ago, returning veterans are given special preference when applying for a job as a police officer. Perhaps that shouldn't be.

  • Common Sense||

    Maybe people here should start shooting back.

  • ||

    Have you seen what happens to the Iraqis that shoot back?

  • anon e mouse||

    haha. Nothing. Lots get away, in fact most. This is why US Army stays inside Green Zone at night.

  • ||

    smartass sob
    "If they want to play soldier boy so badly, perhaps they should volunteer for a tour in Afganistan or Iraq. 'Course, over there someone might shoot back."

    The whole idea for police is that nobody shoots back, you dumshit.

    What kind of a career would that make if you allowed people to shoot at you.

    What ignorance, smartass sob!

  • Brian||

    Just so you know, It's pretty evident to the rest of us what a complete and utter tool you are. Probably a cop.

  • RON||

    A couple of things should be done. first all police and any out of town police should be required to wear a vest signifying their purpose there and thy should be required to wear their official uniform not a hodge podge of military garb which by the way does not conceal you in an urban setting. The case of the video where a man was taken in an unmarked car was a fake if you look a the guns the cops were carrying they had the orange/red tips, they were toys, it was a setup to make the the police look bad

  • ||

    We're gonna need a link for that one.

  • ||

    And one that debunks the G-20 Joint Information Center's own words.

    The individuals involved in the 9/24/2009 arrest which has appeared online are law enforcement officers from a multi-agency tactical response team assigned to the security operations for the G20.

    It is not unusual for tactical team members to wear camouflaged fatigues. The type of fatigues the officers wear designates their unit affiliation. Prior to the arrest, the officers observed this subject vandalizing a local business. Due to the hostile nature of the crowd, officer safety and the safety of the person under arrest, the subject was immediately removed from the area.
  • ||

    And as with the snowball vs. gun video posted last week, the video maker neatly edits out the actions of the arrested person, so that it appears to be an unjustified arrest. Then knee-jerk anti-cop types can screech about how it's just like South American dictators "disappearing" people.

  • ||

    I don't think that was necessarily directed at me, but I agree with you. My only point was against RON's assertion that the video was "a setup to make the the police look bad".

  • Fluffy||

    Did the protestor in question destroy private property, or assault another citizen?

    If so, his conviction is on record somewhere, right?

    If not, the "actions" edited out of the video are probably something like "refusal to obey a police order" or something, in which case I don't really give a shit if it was edited out.

    "Oh my god this deceptive video doesn't show this guy's failure to heed a police order!" "Oh my god this deceptive video doesn't show that someone threw a snowball!"

  • ||

    The G-20 JIC said he was observed vandalizing a building. It's only their word, so take it for what it's worth.

    Makes sense that at least his booking would be on record if that's the case. But that's beyond my meager investigatory skills.

  • CaptainSmartass||

    Even if that were true, the way the police handled the situation was much worse. Properly uniformed police officers in a clearly marked van could've come up and placed him under arrest, there was no reason for them to dress like soldiers and whisk him away in an unmarked car.

  • J. P. Carlo||

    "The G-20 JIC said he was observed vandalizing a building"

    I could give less than a crap what so-and-so said. I don't care what their uncorroborated claims may be.

    After all, at the very most, anything that police say is an *accusation.* The people they take in are *suspects,* in that they are *suspected* of doing something wrong.

    The salient points: Was he *charged* with anything related to this? Was he tried in court? If so, was he convicted? If any of these were true, then there would be public records relating to this.

    If he was never charged, tried or convicted, then the police don't get to say what he did or did not do, because he is innocent until proven guilty, and guess what - he was never proven guilty.

    (I don't know what this guy's story is; if he was in fact tried and convicted, then what you posted above would be valid. But far too often cops have gone by what they accuse somebody of, even if the charges are dropped, or the defendant is later acquitted.)

  • Pittsburgher||

    The local Pittsburgh paper reported that ~200 people were arrested during the 2-day event.

    Among them: A 24-year old reporter for the paper who was covering the police response. The charges were dropped.

    The local college students mostly got off with service hours, or a small fine.

    A few people, mostly from out-of-town, were prosecuted for more serious offenses, like throwing bricks through shop windows, or at police officers.

    The police really just don't want people assembling.

  • ||

    ""and didn't minneapolis buy a shitload of liability insurance for wrongful arrest cases prior to the RNC? in that case they have absolutely nothing to lose by violating citizens' rights.""

    I didn't think you could get an insurance policy to protect you when you commit a crime.

  • ||


  • ||

    It's not a crime when government does it.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    +1, Publis.

  • ||

    Entering the World Trade Center to take the Path to Jersey I'm asked to open my bag at least once a week. I once asked the searching officer how it felt to be violating the 4th amendment that he was sworn to uphold. He told me if I was so upset by it I could find another way to work...across the Hudson.

    A half-witted terrorist attempting to attack the WTC could avoid the search problem by simply coming back on a day or time that the police are not there (at least 1 day/week, and every day post 10am), so what purpose does it serve? At this point I think desensitization is the reason. It's an attempt to slowly get us used to what's to come, since it's clearly not for stopping terrorists - its stated purpose.

    I’d like to say no, refuse the search and continue walking, but I’ve lived in NYC long enough to know how that will end: Beaten, possibly electrocuted, and most definitely defeated in a trial (if it ever gets there).

    Unless the police start standing up for the rights of their fellow citizens it will never end peacefully. But as the saying goes, "You can wish in one hand and shyte in the other, see which fills up first."

  • ||

    Talking about 'half-witted', how does it feel to have to survive in this world, Discord?

  • ||

    Another video shows dozens of police in full body armor confronting and eventually macing onlookers (who weren’t even protesters) in the neighborhood of Oakland, far from the site of the summit, as a recorded voice orders any and all to disperse.

    The opening ceremonies for the summit took place at Phipps Conservatory in Oakland. A couple of G-20 heads of state held speaking engagements at Pitt and CMU, also in Oakland.

    Most importantly, there was a riot in North Oakland, and indeed several shops got smashed up on Craig Street, about four blocks from the site of the "order to disperse" video.

    I don't doubt that cops overstepped their bounds; the military garb and the trophy photos are clearly over the line and those responsible should be punished (but of course won't be). But you guys have to realize that riots are ugly things, and the necessary police response is going to have to be ugly as well.

  • Fluffy||

    I was under the impression that the "riot" in Oakland was the day before the mass macing.

    If you have a link that documents that my impression is wrong, I'd like to be corrected.

    Otherwise, I don't really think very much of an argument claiming that a riot a day before and a half-mile away justifies a police attack on people on a sidewalk.

  • ||

    It was almost three months ago, but I remember the video having being recorded on the same night as the riots. (As you can probably tell, I live here.) But even if it was a subsequent night, there was a reasonable expectation that riots would occur in that area, and there were several orders to disperse. There was similar police activity in Lawrenceville, another neighborhood that experienced riots during the summit, and yet no tear gas was needed there. Might be due to the much lower population of college kids eager to show they're not afraid of cops.

    If gas cannisters were launched into dorm rooms or other enclosed spaces, that's obviously extremely dangerous and crossing the line. There hasn't been any evidence of this happening, and I'm inclined to think that if it had there would be cell phone footage of that too.

  • ||

    I witnessed gas being shot in front of a dorm, and some of it certainly seeped into the lobby. Please look up the numerous disturbing videos and stop being so forgiving of the cops. As Balko points out, the cops were premptively gassing and arresting people in front of their own school, because violence had happened yesterday.

    Friday night, the night of the most arrests, I did not hear of or witness ANY vandalism. I witnessed a handful of protesters, a couple hundred (justifably curious) onlookers, and some some piece of shit cops screaming at students with their hands up who were retreating from the rubber bullet cuts. I hate that one hysterical guy most, but I hate the training that riled him up like a dog who hates the mailman more.

    Fuck the mayor and the chief of police and half the craven, cop worshipping city of Pittsburgh. Because that was bullshit.

    And Radley Balko is awesome.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    ""and didn't minneapolis buy a shitload of liability insurance for wrongful arrest cases prior to the RNC? in that case they have absolutely nothing to lose by violating citizens' rights.""

    I didn't think you could get an insurance policy to protect you when you commit a crime.

    They are buying insurance against the cost of the tort(s): something essentially every homeowner's policy includes.

    You can't get liability insurance against the costs of crimes, but the government mostly doesn't recognize the idea of itself committing those, so they're golden.

  • ||

    Why would any insurance company agree to cover them? That's like offering a life insurance policy to someone with Ebola.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    I assume that they are paying a lot for these policies. Perhaps a FOIA request is in order, just to publicize the result to the local taxpayers...

  • SIV||

    It's just a supplemental policy to the best insurance of all,sovereign immunity.

  • Marc||

    "Denver’s police union later issued a commemorative T-shirt of the event emblazoned with an illustration of a menacing cop wielding a baton and the slogan, “We get up early to beat the crowds.”"

    How is this anything but an admission by much of the department that they willfully conspire to violate people's civil rights?

  • ||

    Police unions are the worst. They have no concern for the public, only cops.

    Pat Lynch of the NYPD PBA was making excuses about why the cops were not wrong when they sodimized Louima with a nightstick.

  • Publilius||

    Police unions are the worst. They have no concern for the public, only cops only their own members.


  • ||

    I'm calling bullshit on the police union tshirt thing. citation

  • C-Dog||

  • Pedantula||

    Its especially funny to me that that 60s and 70s generation, now come to power, should find itself hostile to a form of protest that it did so much to make popular and romanticize in the years between.

    Jerry Rubin said the goal of marchers is to provoke repression, and in a weird way, his former disciples gave grown up willing to fulfill the other end of that bargain.

    So much for the left...

  • ||

    "So much for the left"

    Pendantula, that was the very reason I turned Libertarian. The Left are just disgusting hypocritical pansies.

    To the rest---
    The commerative shirt- Just...shaking my head.
    Random searches in NYC- I live in NY and take the trains a lot. I've only been bag searched once since they implemented it, but I have been randomly asked for my ID twice.

    Day by day, I see more and more the VAST ineffectiveness of government, especially because I'm poor. I detest it and look forward to the day where government actually gets reduced to small and effective. And I mean all government, not some setup where the feds are nonexistent and the state or city government are a monopoly..I live in NY, which should explain it all.

  • ||

    I detest it and look forward to the day where government actually gets reduced to small and effective.

    I look forward to that day, but dread the violent revolution that will be required to bring it about.

  • Pittsburgher||

    What was the basis for the stop-and-identify interactions? Are you black? Are you of middle-eastern descent?

  • ||

    It didn't take them growing up. They were never about free speech. The first thing they did once they took over the campuses was run out and browbeat anyone who thought differently.

  • jpok||

    A generation does not come to power. Individuals come to power, groups of people come to power, but what does it mean to say a generation comes to power? The protesters of the 60s are by and large not the same individuals turning this country into a police state. There are power-hungry statists in every generation. It doesn't matter if we're talking 1969 or 2009. The powerful opress those with less power.

  • Pittsburgher||

    That's true. It's also unlikely that the people who were placing flowers into the barrels of the rifles of the riot police in 1968 are not the same people carrying the rifles today.
    They may be the same age, but they are not the same people.

  • ||

    "It’s difficult to discern a practical reason why a man working for an urban police department would need to wear camouflage, especially while patrolling an economic summit. He’s a civilian dressed like a soldier. "

    While I'd chalk this up to the culture of SWAT as the most likely explanation, I can think of a plausible and relatively more innocent one: actual soldiers wear BDUs to the office as a sort of business casual, which I'm fairly sure dates to WW2 when plain-looking US uniforms became an iconic counterpoint to the Nazis' shiny buttons and boots. Red State folks have the kind of cultural memory that carries such things forward over the generations.

    "Denver’s police union later issued a commemorative T-shirt of the event emblazoned with an illustration of a menacing cop wielding a baton and the slogan, “We get up early to beat the crowds.”"

    Wow, just f--ing wow...

  • ||

    Except that in World War II, the uniforms that desk warriors wore to their office in the Pentagon, etc., were not combat uniforms. I don't think it would have occurred to anyone that wearing combat fatigues to the office would be a good idea. That kind of nonsense only came in in recent years, and is of a piece with dress-up nonsense like the Commander-in-Chief wearing a leather flight jacket and flying a fighter onto the deck of an aircraft carrier.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Kinda damned stupid to wear camo in the city... must be for the intimidation factor.

  • ||

    Excellent article, Radley.

    I wonder if any of the people who NEED to read it, will.

  • marry J||

    I live 15 minutes from the Mexican Border in Southern California. There are four border patrol stations on the major highways (Highway 86 and Interstate 8) leading into and out of our county. You are stopped and questioned at these locations, sometimes having to wait in line for 30+ minutes. Questions asked: "What is your citizenship?", "Where are you headed?", "What is your business at your destination?", etc.... This has been going on for about 8 years now. Occasionally they will catch a truck full of illegals, but mostly they confiscate marijuana, heroin, and cocaine traveling in from Mexico. Shit they should have caught at the border, not 60 miles into the U.S. The most blatant form of illegal search and seizure I have personally experienced, and no end in sight. I have the desire to answer their questions with the obligatory "Go fuck yourself, what I do and where Im going is none of your business." But that would mean an hour detour into secondary, my car thoroughly ransacked, and probably a body cavity search for good measure. The police state is here, and I dont see it leaving anytime soon.

  • ||

    Our police have become too "militarized", I'd agree. SWAT teams get way overused and have too high a priority... but violent protest has become the norm now. Bourgeois leftist youth can't get enough breaking things in their lives. Of course communities will respond by trying to defend their property.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Lyle, you disagreed with me earlier. Read this and tell us it isn't chilling:

    Some members of this admin are more concerned about military veterans and non-liberal political protesters, than they are of actual troublemakers with intent to harm. (Let's not go into the "well, a guy showed up at a Tea Party rally", that story was nothing compared to Earth Liberation Front terrorist acts or rock-throwing anti-globalization protesters).

  • ||

    I did, because you compared our government to the government in Iran, which is ludicrous. It is always going to be a balancing act between letting people be and making sure the group doesn't become a mob.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    First, Lyle, I don't approve of groups who cause damage. But one man's definition of "mob" is different than, say, a Democrat who considers shouting at a town-hall meeting to be akin to an act of low-level terrorism. Ask Nancy Pelosi, she'll tell you how much contempt she has for that.

    Second, I didn't directly compare our gang of thieves and brigands in DC to Iran... indirectly, perhaps, as I don't see anything being done by Obama's crew to dial it back.

    You should read the report at the link I provided. It's one of many "fusion center" reports, and none of them look friendly to the redress-of-grievances concept.

    The current bunch gave the New Black Panthers a freebie for intimidating voters, and is hypocritical about Tea Party-style protesting while overlooking the bully tactics of SEIU thugs and G20 anarchist protests - because they agree with the latter. Repubs snubbed both leftists AND Ron Paul supporters; Dems give silent encouragement to their fringe elements.

    No, we're not a despotic nation at the moment. Will we be in the future?

  • Brian||

    Property destruction isn't violence. The communities aren't responding, the police are. Also, the targets of most of what you refer to as the "Bourgeois leftist youth" happen to be mega stores and multi-national corporations. These are the real people attacking our communities. Taking what small amounts of money we have out of the community. By the way, before you make any assumptions about me being a democrat, or socialist, or a communist, I'll tell you right now that I am a libertarian in the truest sense of the word.

  • Garrett||

    Great stuff.

  • Joe Smith||

    This video will make you chilly. The Lucifer Effect is exactly what the police are doing to their own but, most don't know about the effect. No one fights back against the us vs them separation of the civilian police and the civilian populace.

    Pass this video forward and make all police wear gray, blues or navy blues. No blacks, greens or camos anymore anywhere U.S.A.. First name and police number should also be required and visible on uniforms.

  • ||

    That hero speech was very inspiring. It is up to individuals to take a stand against institutionalized evil and encourage others to do so. Otherwise, the battle is lost before it starts.

  • Fact Check||

    The Republican convention was in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Pre-Convention arrests occurred in both Saint Paul and its "twin" Minneapolis.

  • Robert||

    Wasn't Seattle in 2001? And something else in 1999?

  • Brian||


  • kenapaha||


  • Paul Beaird||

    The new Fusion Centers around the US are giving anti-terror training to local police and telling them that patriot organizations, Ron Paul supporters and Don't Tread On Me stickers all indicate "potential" domestic terrorists. See

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Unfortunately, Paul, that's the trend. Unless there's an equal level of scrutiny of left-wing organizations, IMO the bulk of said scrutiny is on right-of-center (and maybe even some centerist) groups and organizations.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Let me amend that any scrutiny should ONLY be on groups that either threaten people with harm, actually DO harm people, or damage property.

    A tax protest is no reason to take down names and license plate numbers, or to arrest anyone - unless someone crosses the line and commits harm to people or stuff.

  • ReAnimator||

    Police state in the USA!
    Fascism with a friendly face!

    A girl I work with asked aloud why there are always so many cops around, and without thinking I blurted out "Because we live in a fucking police state!" I was taken aback by the simplicity and depressing nature of my response. Reading stuff like this and realizing how few people actually care makes you want to lose hope. "Refusal to comply with a police order" followed by another tasering feels like the beginning of another long, sad authoritarian regime. What will it take for people to take a look around and learn from the mistakes of the past?

  • ||

    I live in Pittsburgh and this article is great but doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what riot police did here during G20. the Citizen's Police Review Board has more than two hours of 3 minute witness and victim testimonies... check those out.

  • ||

    You are about 10 years too late bringing attention to the issue of the criminalization of protest. Those of us protesting at the turn of the millennium and anyone watching what was going on then can tell you this is old news. Where the hell have you been? Under a rock? Well, better late than never, I guess.

  • Derek||

    You are about 10 years too late bringing attention to the issue of the criminalization of protest. Those of us protesting at the turn of the millennium and anyone watching what was going on then can tell you this is old news. Where the hell have you been? Under a rock? Well, better late than never, I guess.

  • h||

    ditto! though I might push that back another 20 years!

  • Medisoft||

    The Government Party and Ruling Class do NOT like dissent and will use force to prevent it. Now if only we were freemen and there was a piece of paper somewhere that limited government power and protected a person's right to protest, speak and gather.

  • ||

    Yup, the US became a Polcie State in ex dictator Bushes days!


  • ||

    This seems to be a good place to lay down my views on this matter to some degree.

    I'm particularly disappointed in the inability of law enforcement to, well, enforce the law, especially in terms of traffic laws. Rather than just complaining about it, I've been thinking. One day I was watching a football game. I was noticing that not many fouls go unnoticed. They do, granted, but not many. Why is that, I wondered. The answer came when I counted the number of refs in relation to players (roughly 1:2). How does this figure add up in society? I don't know the number (this could be an interesting paper), but let's make it easy and estimate that there is 1 police officer for every 1000 drivers. I tend to see around 10 traffic violations each day (I don't consider this acceptable, really). Those are law-breaks, not just recommendation-breaks (most people don't follow the car in front by one car length for each ten mph).

    So, in terms of "keeping the fouls in check," I don't think there are enough "referees." OK, but the potential solution to this problem also has problems of its own. Not that many people want to be cops. And if we had too many, there could be a clear class formation as a result (us and them). What should we do?

    What I propose (for driving law enforcement at least) is a similar solution that craigslist has implemented for its "moderation". People are able to "flag" posts depending on a number of unacceptable posting conditions. I'm not sure how it works exactly, but after a certain number of flags, the post is removed. The citizens are their own police.

    So, I have taken traffic law enforcement into my own hands. I won't cite for speeding unless its a clear violation in which children are present (I don't think there should be speed limits on "free" ways), but I will cite drivers for a number of offenses including failure to stop, yield, signal or lights out. I'll follow the offender until they leave their car, after which I will leave them with a post-it-note with the following:

    *Citizen Ticket* (title)
    Fine: Your dignity (always)

    I'm actually planning to get some custom-made post-its with the "form" pre-made and I just fill it out. I write it all by hand now.

    Since people feel like they can break the law "as long as they aren't caught". I figured it would be nice to let them know that people are paying attention to their driving and maybe they'll think twice about being careless in the future and consider they aren't the only one in the world.
    I also think the citizen ticket is for a good laugh, unexpected as it is.

    I think this is to some degree the attitude we need to adopt. I think this may cause a fundamental change in the eyes of law enforcement. "Damn, the people aren't waiting around for us any more, maybe we need to be more diligent. Maybe we even need to watch out for them..."

    If you wait for power to fall at your lap, you won't ever get it. Take it by the reigns and drive it according to the dictates of our Constitution.

    I wish the Bible included a driver's manual, but it probably wouldn't be read anyways.

    Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

  • John Galt||

    Wendy McElroy shows that the department of defense is now training its forces that any form of protest, any exercise of the first amendment (guaranteed? hah!) freedom to assemble, petition for redress, and speak is regarded as terrorism. See her site at WendyMcElroy dot com for details.

    When the police get up early to beat protesters to death, it is in the interests of every free individual to kill the police outright, no warning, no exceptions. The police are 868,000 individual threats to freedom. The people are 307.5 million, minus the pigs. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    Since there is no longer any habeas corpus, any presumption of innocence, any possibility of defending against indefinite detention, we are in the exact situation that Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote about in "The Gulag Archipelago." Kill the thugs when they come around - it is the only rational defense strategy.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    She's on the right track... unfortunately.

  • h||

    I had the incredible lack of fortune to watch the SoutAfrican police forces go to town during the COSATU riots in experience I thought I would never again have until I had to run from tear gas once Eugene, OR...and again in Portland, OR...and again in Seattle, WA. Believe me, though the USA cannot be compared to Iran or any other overt military/police-state, it is still a police state. The difference lies with the public being policed not with the power differential. When/if USAmericans decide to get up and protest en masse the robbery they have endured they will find out how almost-meaningless the constitution is these days. Incarceration centers have revitalized the financially bankrupt prisons that sprang up as "rural development" projects during the 80s and 90s. In my opinion those incarceration centers ain't just for illegal immigrants, but that's just from 20+ years of observing and working on social justice issues.

  • ||

    Let's not forget the Miami trade conference a half dozen years ago where the police went totally bonkers while sporting their brand new riot gear purchased for that occasion by $8 million that the Bushies stole from funds allocated to arming the troops in Iraq.

    And conveniently, you don't even have to go back to that conference to see those spiffy outfits ... Some fifty or so of them showed up (you guessed it) at the G20 in Pittsburg, all ready and trained up to greet their new victims.

    I wonder if the good people of Miami are aware that the cops they pay for are actually a mercenary army for the rich?

  • C L West||

    Lest we forget, there is no need anywhere to set up "free speech zones"; the United States of America is itself a "Free Speech Zone"

  • Pittsburgher||

    In theory

  • ||

    Not only this, but there have been plenty of time when free speech has been relegated to "free speech zones," and there have been many times when police have been inside groups of protests pretending to be protesters while actually being the provocateurs of violence, giving the police an excuse to crack down on protesters.

    Also, it's not just "alleged" that police shot tear gas at UPitt students. There's ample video evidence of it.

  • ||

    Oh yeah....and never vote for Ron Paul...because he is a racist and we dc libertarians don't like his popularity. Lmao @ The "freedom loving" radley balko

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there's more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I'm not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It's just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight...the Bible's books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on...

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  • Colorado Criminal Attorney||

    It is disturbing to see how much force police have been using at protests. I think you are right that there is a mentality that police take to protests that results in innocent people being beaten or arrested. This is an unfortunate turn of events for our criminal laws and the people that are supposed to be enforcing them.


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