September 02, 2008

Bloodying the nose of democracy: Link Dump on the RNC Protests

There are several stories within the general view of the ineptitude of the coordinated "security" forces outside the RNC. One is about the harassment and abuse of the press. Another the apparent inability of the authorities to discern the difference between lawful exercise of citizen rights and violent criminality. Yet another is the abuse of the warrant system and para-military antics to create a climate of fear.

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, you know, that's what I'm trying to find out right now. I mean, before, quite frankly, I was perfectly content to allow the police to do the work they were doing, and I'm just going to go do the work I do. But now, I do have a new - an urgent curiosity to find out what the plan is. When are massive uses of force going to be deployed? What circumstances will trigger them? Have we looked - have we recognized the fact that we can actually cause more trouble than what would otherwise happen, when we bring forth this massive use of force as we saw on the tape? And so, I'm concerned about it. I think overreaction is as bad as under-reaction, and what I saw on that tape was pretty disturbing.

From an account of several journalists being assaulted by police as they did their jobs while clearly identifying themselves: "There was a photographer right next to me who was also taken down pretty violently. He was screaming he was press, as well. He had credentials. He kept saying he was a photographer for the New York Post. And quite funnily, he said, "'For Christ’s sake, it's a Republican paper!" But that didn’t seem to matter. "

Arresting clearly identified journalists and with the added bonus of ripping off their credentials. Really, watch this interview, especially the part where she describes how the reporter went to the police to ask for help and ended up getting arrested, dragged on her face and bloodied.

Glenn Greenwald has been on this, and has one of the best summary comments:

Just as was true for the despicable home raids this weekend, there will be no shortage of people defending all of this (browse through the comment section here to see many such people). The fact that there were some criminals engaged in some destructive acts (who, needless to say, should have been arrested), apparently means that whatever the Police do both before and afterwards is justifiable (just as the existence of some Terrorists justifies whatever the Government does in many people's minds).

He's also got an embedded video where a member of the press tries to get an answer from the authorities about why police are marching, aggressively chanting slogans and behaving in intimidating ways towards the press and people on the streets. Unsurprisingly, there's no answer.

A retired police officer says:

But I can say that, in my opinion, the tactics being used by law enforcement in Minneapolis/St. Paul appear to be very heavy handed methods whose sole purpose appears to be to intimidate. I'm ashamed of the unprofessional conduct - but feel I must add that I have no knowledge of standards of professional conduct in states other than California.

I don't know who is running this show but it smells like the Feds have been taking lessons from the pre-Olympics Chinese to me. In the America that I policed, all of the Bill of Rights were protected, including the First Amendment right guaranteeing freedom of speech and assembly and the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unlawful search and seizure.

This video is almost funny, if it wasn't so sad. A couple is out touring and are overtaken by police forces who order them down (by loudspeaker) and arrest them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The funny part is that the woman, obviously shocked that they are being targeted, says "but I have to have this bike back by seven!" Boring and uneventful... we just wanted to go to the concert.

Clearly the violent protesters are violent and doing violence. But:

Embedded with the anarchists: "To be sure, a handful certainly weren’t always peaceful or obeying the law. But there was also less than 40 of them in the entire group at many points, and when windows started to get smashed by a lone few, yells came out from the group such as, "What are you doing!? You idiot! How is that going to send a message?" Anarchy and mass chaos? Hardly."

Yet, if you look at the photographs of broken windows in the mainstream press, you'll notice that they ten (sic) to be tightly framed shots of single broken panes. The framing invites the inference that the protesters did a lot of damage but the composition obscures the fact that the broken windows are part of an otherwise unscathed street.

When the media make the anarchists the centerpiece of their coverage, they're exploiting the violent tactics they pretend to deplore. The press love sensational stories about depraved hippies and the anarchists love attention--it's a symbiotic relationship.

Here's a kid who it looks like was arrested, beaten and stomped on by police for being a cheeky (non-violent) 17-year-old.

Protesters can be inconvenient, obnoxious, noisy and obstreperous. So can democracy.

We're paying for this people. The people who work for us refused to identify themselves, seized identification and property from journalists with no record, and indiscriminately treated peaceful citizens, members of the press and legal observers with disrespect for their liberty and property.

Shine the light on it. Before they start arresting people for social dangerousness.

Posted by binky at September 2, 2008 07:40 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Free Speech | Homeland Insecurity | Liberty | Media | Shame | Shine the Light on It | The Ever Shrinking Constitution


Something bad enough that finally the MSM pick up on it (emphasis mine):

The protesters were noisy but peaceful as they approached the convention. Once they arrived, a police officer read an order to disperse, CNN reporters on the scene said.

But almost immediately, officers along the exit route opened fire with gas and projectiles. In one instance, a CNN producer said, an officer stepped out of line to hit a young woman with pepper spray as she ran for the exit.

Police said officers were trying to scatter protesters who they said were trying to get past security fences.

Police told the AP that about 2,000 people participated in the anti-poverty march, which lasted about three hours.

Other officers used gas and pepper spray in the path of those attempting to comply with the disperse order, forcing some to stop in their tracks, a CNN crew reported.

Looks like we're back to the old "incompetent or contemptuous" question again. Fitting it happens on the day W. speaks.

Posted by: binky at September 2, 2008 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

FBI agent and now ACLU lawyer comments on the police actions at the RNC:

I dont pretend that there arent people out there who have bad intentions on their minds. But if you cant distinguish someone whose program is about videotaping protests as opposed to somebody whose program is going out and lighting things on fire, thats problematic for the rest of us. Because if the police arent distinguishing between those two in their use of force, then none of us are safe.


Its interesting. Weve seen this all over. Weve seen it recently in Maryland, where the Maryland State Police were spying on antiwar and anti-death penalty groups, where the law enforcement agencies arent able to distinguish between what is a real threat and what isnt. Its not just the invasion of privacy and civil liberties, but what a complete waste of resources. And now the scandal has played out, and Im sure its taken quite a portion of the leadership of the Maryland State Police. Im sure if you asked them now whether it was worth it, investigating this peaceful group so you have this intelligence collected about them, and that intelligence itself showed that they were not doing anything improper, was worthwhile, Im sure they would say, No, I wish we could do it all over and not do this sort of stuff.

Yet one police department does not seem to learn from the mistakes of another. Quite the contrary, they learn the techniques, but they dont learn the ultimate costs.

Posted by: binky at September 3, 2008 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

It's interesting to consider. We've all (well, not you, Morris) spent a lot of energy decrying the intrusive measures instituted by the federal government in the wake of 9/11, and talking about the slippery slope, no one's safe, etc. And I, for one, have been absolutely sincere, but operating from a degree of abstraction, imagining, worst case, that maybe some email I write gets picked up, and something off color gets misinterpreted. That breeds a warrant, or whatever passes for one these days, and some anti-serendipitous convergence of bits and pieces assembled from my tiny sphere of comment, association, or influence confirms what the authorities already know by the time they begin to investigate: that I'm a bad guy.

But on further reflection, it's stuff like St. Paul that's really the problem. Most of us won't get picked up as terrorists, in the Islamic fundamentalist sense, even if the government gets far more intrusive than it already has done. There are too many people in this country; it's impracticable; and the odds will never exceed getting struck by lightning. And frankly, I'd rather be inappropriately investigated than struck by lightning, principles aside.

But when you devalue the constitution in one context, you devalue it in all contexts, and suddenly things we take for granted, the right to mouth off, to peacably assemble, to protest pointedly but nonviolently without being called -- or treated as -- traitors . . . these things evaporate.

In an article posted today, the Post-Gazette reported that the local chapter of the ACLU -- which rocks; it's gotta be one of the best nation wide, and it's head, Vic Walczak, has to be on his way to the national organization one of these days, except I think his wife is a doctor -- is investigating serial abuses of power by the Pittsburgh boys in blue. Not the rampant tasing, not the weird shootings that seem to happen periodically, not even the jackass who shot a passerby through the hand while out drinking on a weekend night after an on all accounts unwarranted, and off-duty-officer-provoked scuffle. Nope, these things are annoying, but not the ACLU's particular concern.

Rather, they're investigating scores of citations for things like flipping off a cop, making oneself a minor nuisance, being insulting. These things are absolutely protected by the constitution, and without more cannot support a citation, as the article correctly recognizes.

But just like St. Paul evidences, the more domineering we say the authorities can be in one context, the less responsive they need to be to the constitution, the more liberties they will take in less dangerous sectors of our lives, and the more their excesses will affect the ordinary folks conducting their daily lives. That's the slippery slope. That's what's happening. And that's far scarier than anything an Islamic fundamentalist has done, yet. You can kill a few of us, but in doing so you need not take our freedom. That we do to ourselves, and that's worse than death in many ways. It is, to employ a cliche that still rings true, precisely what so many people have died to prevent.

Posted by: moon at September 3, 2008 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

I've said it on this blog and to people IRL until I'm blue in the face, but I will say it again. I have lived in and traveled to authoritarian countries. The destruction of civil liberties does not make security problems go away. It magnifies security problems, because suddenly everything becomes a security problem. This country has had something special that others do not, which is the rule of law. To get a little Samuel L. for a minute, The Motherfucking Rule of Motherfucking Law. Motherfuckers. When we give ground on the things that make the US great, we become like everyplace else.

Posted by: binky at September 3, 2008 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Baltar's favorite band.

Posted by: binky at September 6, 2008 01:26 PM | PERMALINK

No, no, of course they were not why would anyone think that?

Posted by: binky at September 7, 2008 02:35 PM | PERMALINK
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