Coronavirus

Nashville Promised a Crackdown on Mask-Defying Partiers. Then They Arrested a Homeless Man with a Drug and Drinking Problem.

This is what it looks like when you get the police involved in public health issues.

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Not everyone in party town Nashville is going along with efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some have been refusing to wear masks in public, and some are…uh…having massive house parties that culminate in public sex.

In response, Nashville's deputy chief of police told its City Council on Wednesday that the force would start citing and even arresting people who are flouting the law. The first ensuing arrest encapsulates the problems of using policing to enforce public health concerns.

The man arrested wasn't some overprivileged drunken partier. He was an apparently homeless man by the name of Joseph Bryant, age 61.

The Tennessean reports that police saw Bryant walking on Broadway—Nashville's nightlife corridor—at 6:30 Wednesday evening. They warned him to put on a mask. According to a police spokesman, Bryant did not do so even though he was carrying two in his pocket. When police encountered him again an hour later in the same area, he still was not wearing a mask.

"He was placed into custody and a physical arrest made due to the belief that his defiant behavior would continue if only cited a second time," the spokesman told The Tennessean.

Joseph Bryant

The address Bryant gave the police was the address of the Nashville Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter a few blocks south of Broadway. (A representative from the shelter told Reason he has not been at their shelter since May.) So it looks like the person the police decided really needed to be punished for his COVID-19 defiance was a homeless man walking outdoors. His behavior may well stem not from defiance but from other issues.

This is what it looks like when we ask the police to enforce these types of public health measures. Enforcement inevitably trickles down toward those who have the least power and least ability to resist.

Even worse, according to the Tennessean, Bryant had not posted bond as of this morning. The booking log for the Davidson County Sheriff's Department show's that Bryant has still not been released. Bryant's criminal history in Davidson County is available from the booking site; it shows a background of drug and public intoxication arrests over the past two years. He also has some criminal trespass and assault arrests and some arrests for patronizing prostitutes. Bryant is obviously a problem case for the Nashville police, and the fact that he was targeted for arrest isn't necessarily a coincidence.

Meanwhile, Nashville's jails, like jails and prisons elsewhere across the country, are potential incubators of COVID-19 infections. All of the top infection clusters across the United States have been behind bars. (One of them, the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, is about an hour away from Nashville.) Infections in jails in prisons are then, in turn, spreading back out into nearby communities. Jailing someone for refusing to wear a mask and then releasing him back into the community seems more like a recipe for spreading COVID-19 than for fighting it.

This post has been updated with information from the shelter Bryant used as an address.

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  1. This is fucked. The mask shit is getting scary. Even if masks do “work” in some sense, people need to defy these mandates. Some things (I would argue a lot of things) are more important than avoiding getting sick. Freedom from authoritarian police state bullshit and tyrannical rule by decree is one of them.

    Where the fuck is the debate over whether slowing the spread more than what is necessary to avoid problems at hospitals is even desirable? Where is the debate over whether destroying the economy and taking away basic liberties is a reasonable tradeoff when it is a known effect of the completely untested policy of mass quarantine? It is absolutely sickening what has happened over the past 5 months.

    1. What makes it works is that your questions would be dismissed out of hand. It’s all blamed on the virus. Not on the reaction to the virus.

      A few more questions.

      When is the cure worse than the disease?

      How many people are harmed by the lock downs, and how does that compare to the number of people harmed by the disease?

      People just aren’t asking the right questions, and when they do they frame the problems as cause by the virus, as opposed to the government’s reaction to it.

      1. Too true, Blue.
        The virus has not “created” any problem we have not dealt with successfully before.
        Only this time the fascists thought, correctly, that their time had come, and they could enact by executive fiat any damn thing they choose.
        And all the push back they got was “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”
        Welcome to Germany in the 1930’s.

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    2. >>Where is the debate

      there is no debate only Karen and her handlers.

      1. They had the debate. All the right people were there.

        1. lol my first response was “we’re not the type of people who get invited to those debates” but I didn’t want to speak for Zeb

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      2. there is no debate only Karen and her handlers.

        “There is no Dana only ZUUUUUUUUL.

        1. of course. +1 because she sleeps above her covers.

    3. No research on masks sow they are in any way effective. Even the CDC in their pages only list 3 papers: one about 2 hair dressers who wore masks having less customers infected (no tracing to see if customers got it at salon), lowered infection rate at Boston med after policy change (policy change wasn’t solely masks), and a paper showing a model that shows masks help. They threw away 40 years of studies showing masks have no effect on viruses.

      1. That’s what it looks like to me as well. Only conceding the point for the sake of argument.

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    5. Where the fuck is the debate over whether slowing the spread more than what is necessary to avoid problems at hospitals is even desirable? Where is the debate over whether destroying the economy and taking away basic liberties is a reasonable tradeoff when it is a known effect of the completely untested policy of mass quarantine?

      Here?

      And, well, I think we’re all well aware of how much attention the general public and the government pay attention to us.

      1. Yeah, it’s here and lots of places. Of course, what I meant was an honest public debate. Or at least a few people in media and politics willing to question things.

    6. Where the fuck is the debate over whether slowing the spread more than what is necessary to avoid problems at hospitals is even desirable?

      On Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook. Wait, damn, they just deleted it.

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    10. Exactly. There is also little evidence masks actually work!

  2. I can’t figure out why pro-mask/anti-mask sentiments are so reliably falling into political camps. You can literally figure out who voted for Trump or Hillary on what their attitude towards masks is.

    I was looking at a liberal, Hillary-supporting SJW-ish’s twitter feed [on a completely unrelated matter], and her feed was full of angry tweets about people who weren’t falling in line with mask mandates.

    1. Maybe because those camps have become “in favor of individual freedom” and “in favor of government control of the individual”?

      1. I would say I think it’s more nuanced. Maybe:

        Complete, unquestioning trust in elite institutions vs. complete lack of trust in elite institutions.

        1. I think that’s really just another way of wording the same problem. Which framing someone prefers would probably also tell you exactly who someone votes for too.

        2. Nope. Pelosi lead the charge against Dr. Bird since she countered the narrative. It isn’t about trusting elite institutions.

          1. I hadn’t heard of this incident, but I just did some googling… how is Pelosi criticizing Dr. Birx not exactly that? Birx has apparently upset the status quo by defending Trump’s response.

        3. That seems more like it. I have a lot of friends who are not doing masks or social distancing and think it’s all idiotic. And there definitely isn’t any correlation to left/right politics.

    2. You can literally figure out who voted for Trump or Hillary on what their attitude towards masks is.

      I’m against mask mandates. Who did I vote for?

  3. gofundme that dude’s bail.

  4. So, they SHOULDNT arrest a guy just because he is homeless? He is walking around with masks he isn’t wearing in crowds of people. I fail to see where homelessness makes you unable to spread disease (quite the contrary). It seems as if SS would have been OK with a rich white person being arrested

    1. >>The man arrested wasn’t some overprivileged drunken partier.

      also jealous much, Scott? what Pi Phi broke his heart?

      1. All of them?

        1. that’s alotta pi.

      2. It was his turn to run the Greek Council! If it weren’t for that Russian stooge, Ogre.

  5. If I’m being honest Scott, your story reads like there’s no problem with fining, arresting and harassing normal “over-privilaged” law abiding citizens with gun wielding government thugs for not wearing whatever the they’re told to wear, but if they do it to a known criminal with the dark skin, it’s a travesty.

    I don’t see why it’s gotten so hard for Reason writers to just condemn this sort of enforcement on libertarian grounds. It’s not okay that they’re doing this to ANYONE, the authority they have to do so is MADE UP and getting caught up in their overly punitive and expensive court/jail system is detrimental to everyone it touches including the tax payers. There has been unilateral, unchallenged power grabs by most governors and hundreds if not thousands of mayors, police chiefs and other various bureaucrats that threaten the life, liberty and property of every citizen based on dubious “public health claims” resulting in presumably thousands of bullshit arrests and millions of dollars in fines collected unjustly. Why you guys insist on choosing every racially charged anecdote to put forth as if you’re arguing to the Vox crowd is beyond me.

    1. Look, identity politics sells. It gets clicks. You wanna attract the ideal demo… we’re talking the 18-26 demo.

    2. I realize Scott hasn’t done much in recent years to actually earn any slack, but I didn’t read the article this way. It seemed more like “While the notional impetus for the crackdown was partying college kids, in the end it turned into another way to harass people already living on the edge.”

      *shrug*

      1. That is my point. He doesn’t seem concerned that stopping partying 20 somethings that have a 0% death rate isn’t a legitimate impetus. I don’t care how privileged the college kids are or how poor anyone else is. If you’re really trying to reach the woke and what they claim they care about is equality, then let’s see how principled they are.

        Here’s my stance, whether or not you wear a mask shouldn’t be a legal matter and certainly shouldn’t be enforced by police officers. Making it illegal is a million civil rights violations waiting to happen. No person, regardless of economic status, race, color or creed should be subject to any penalties or even questioning by a single representative of the state in matters of personal fashion because they have the remote chance of carrying or transmitting any disease, let alone one that’s infection and death rates are now starting to line up with as bad year of the flu.

        You know libertarian stuff.

    3. Fvck him, and Fvck Reason

  6. I’ll worry about Nashville when mainstream country is…well…country.

    Or as Robby Fulks sang back in 1997…

    1. Nashville is the Burning Man of country music.

      1. I can’t stand country music, but I loved living in Nashville.

  7. Why do so many people insist on saying stupid things like the government has no authority to mandate masks and enforce those mandates with fines/arrests.

    The same government that can mandate that women wear tops in public, that can ban thongs on a public beach, that can fine you for wearing pants that are too saggy/show your underpants — can absolutely mandate that you cover your mouth/face in public and enforce that mandate the same way they enforce public nudity/saggy pants etc.

    It’s one thing to state your opposition to such things, but it’s quite another to argue that governments don’t have the authority.

    And I dont get the objection to citing/fining people for non-compliance….if the government has the right to mandate you wear a mask (which, clearly they due based on current law and precedents) then they can fine you and arrest you for refusing to obey the law.

    We impose all sorts of fines/citations for speeding , parking illegally, not registering your car or doing many other things that the government says not to. The mask mandates are no different.

    It makes sense to question the wisdom or effectiveness of the masks, but questioning the enforcement of the mandate seems silly….a rule with no enforcement mechanism isn’t a rule — its a suggestion.

    1. Now do blacks drinking from “whites only” water fountains.

      1. I mean, I’m not sure ChicagoTom is wrong. It’s a whole lot of “Fuck You, That’s Why”, but they do actually do it all the time.

      2. totes not permitted.

      3. And burkas

    2. 1. “The same government that can mandate that women wear tops in public, ” Not any more. The supreme court said if you treat a woman in a way you would not treat a man, you are in violation of the constitution. So no more discriminatory dress codes. Of course, in that same opinion, they said that men are women and women are men, so – – – – –
      2. If the government is going to issue such an edict by executive fiat, they have to establish an exemption procedure for those with physical or mental conditions that make it impractical to wear a mask. Refer to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the CDC guidelines. Yet, they never do.

    3. They have assumed that authority but it doesnt’ mean they actually have it. They have the POWER to do it, but not the authority. Sorry.

      1. It actually raises an interesting question – many states have laws banning adults from wearing masks (intended as an anti-crime measure, presumably). Assuming these laws haven’t been specifically suspended by executive orders, it seems to me that law takes precedence.

      2. “I don’t get the people arguing that the chicken, which comes first, doesn’t have the authority to make the rules? If the chickens, all of them which are one and the same chicken, forbid the eggs from wearing thongs on public beaches by law, whether eggs can wear thongs or simply choose not to, then of course they have the authority to do it. Because all chickens are one and the same and they all govern all the beaches uniformly and without enforcement, then the idea that chickens come first and have authority would just be a suggestion.”

    4. Why do so many people insist on saying stupid things like the government has no authority to mandate masks and enforce those mandates with fines/arrests.

      Why do so many people insist on saying stupid things like the government has no authority to declare ChicagoTom a retard?

      I know they’re just being polite about ChicagoTom’s mental ability and, more thoughtfully, they’re considering the potential consequences of declaring someone more mentally able than ChicagoTom mentally feeble inaccurately, but the government absolutely has the authority to declare ChicagoTom a retard.

      It makes no sense to question the degree of ChicagoTom’s retardation or the value in declaring it but questioning the authority of it seems silly… without a clear declaration that ChicagoTom’s a retard the government could only vaguely suggest how retarded he is.

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    6. >>a rule with no enforcement mechanism isn’t a rule — its a suggestion

      this is literally the Dallas County “mandate”. nobody bothered to read it.

    7. I don’t acknowledge government authority to punish me for not wearing clothes as legitimate either. I wear pants because I want to. So there.

    8. The mask mandates ARE different, because in this case the government is ordering me to do something that is harmful for my health. Anything that hurts my breathing is bad for my health. All this to supposedly reduce the risk that I might spread the virus, even though we know most people who don’t have symptoms also don’t have the virus.

  8. He was placed into custody and a physical arrest made due to the belief that his defiant behavior would continue

    Oh noes! Defiant behavior!

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  10. Well, after reading the article linked under “massive parties that lead to public sex”, I have a new response to people who screech at me to wear a mask: “Eat my ass”.

    1. thesex parties might have been a better angle for the story.

  11. You know those narrow minded right wingers who shout “wearing masks is oppression”?

    Yeah, they’re more on the side of BLM than the antifa rioting in Portland. Because you know, they want police going around issuing tickets or even arresting people for not wearing masks.

    1. “They don’t want”

  12. A two for one win!
    One less mask evader, one less homeless. TA-DA!

  13. How does a man that cannot put a roof over his head afford prostitutes?

    1. The prostitution charges were all from last year. Given the current state of the economy, he might not have been homeless back then.

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  16. “The man arrested wasn’t some overprivileged drunken partier.”

    Oh, fuck you Shackford.

    Would it have matter if the person arrested was an “overprivileged” (whatever the fuck that means in your mind) drunken partier? It is called liberty. L.I.B.E.R.T.Y. It doesn’t give a shit what your leftist approved social status is.

    Any arrest of anyone under similar circumstances would have been equally wrong. So why draw such distinctions?

    1. thank you for bravely standing up for the overpriveleged.

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