“Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law.”

From a recent submission to Reason’s Brickbats column:

Mark Chase got a federal court order allowing him to paint on Ocean City, Maryland’s boardwalk without a license. That didn’t impress Baltimore police, who arrested him for painting at the Inner Harbor without a permit. When Chase complained that the permit requirements violated his constitutional rights, and officer told him “Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law.”

And of course the officer was right. So: to hell with the law. And to hell with paper constitutions that can do nothing effective to restrain it.

You can quote your constitutional rights all the way to the station-house, but it won’t stop you from getting good and due-processed whenever a cop feels that you’re on the wrong side of The Law. Which, of course, means nothing more or less than on the wrong side of Law Enforcement. Paper constitutions don’t do anything to hold back police abuse; only a culture of popular resistance, social accountability for abusive cops, and hard-driving community activism do that.

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner (1870). No Treason No. 6. The Constitution of No Authority

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4 replies to “Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law.” Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Discussed at reasonandjest.com

    The U.S. Government: Proud to Be Working Against Your Freedom, Your Prosperity, and Progress » ReasonAndJest.com:

    […] Rad Geek: “Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law” […]

  2. Roderick T. Long

    Maybe the cop was a federalism aficionado.

— 2012 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2012-08-04 – The Police Beat: Las Vegas Metro Edition:

    […] GT 2011-10-10: Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law. […]

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