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
Support your neighborhood CopWatch.
R.I.P. Troy Anthony Davis (Oct. 9, 1968 – Sep. 21, 2011)
Troy Davis executed. ABC World News (21 September 2011).
Troy Davis was executed this evening after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute stay of execution.
Davis died at 11:08 p.m. ET, according to a Georgia Department of Corrections official.
Eyewitnesses described the mood in the execution chamber as “somber” as Davis declared his innocence a final time and relatives of his alleged murder victim looked on.
The execution was delayed more than four hours as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed last-minute arguments from Davis’ legal team and the state of Georgia over whether his execution should be blocked.
The court’s decision to deny the stay came without comment after 10 p.m. ET.
[…] Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of off-duty Savannah, Ga., policeman Mark MacPhail, and had his execution stayed four times over the course of his 22 years on death row, but multiple legal appeals during that time failed to prove his innocence.
Public support grew for Davis based on the recanted testimony of seven witnesses from his trial and the possible confession of another suspect, which his defense team claimed cast too much doubt on Davis’ guilt to follow through with an execution.
Several witnesses recanted their testimony that Davis fired the shot that killed MacPhail.
Troy Davis was innocent and this was a premeditated murder by the State of Georgia — nothing more and nothing less than a torturous, slow-motion legal lynching. The courts, the governors, and the parole boards knew that there was every reason to doubt his guilt, but they don’t give a damn, because each court formally refused to listen to or consider any substantive new evidence — like the fact that there was no physical evidence to connect Davis to the murder, and more than half the witnesses admitted that they lied on the stand (under intense pressure from Georgia police) during the original trial. Be that as it may the sentence had been passed and the paperwork filed and you can hardly stop to consider substantive evidence of innocence once the procedural question of his trial has been sealed under the authority of the State. You can’t stop the machine of governmental justice from grinding for something so paltry as an innocent man’s life; there’s a principle involved.
And the principle is power. The power of death. That is the Majesty of the Law; that is its morality; that is its justice.
So far, police have arrested more than 1,700 suspects. About 1,000 of those have been charged. Of those convicted some are receiving what seem to be tough sentences.
Take Anderson Fernandes. He faces possible jail time for stealing two scoops of ice cream during a Manchester riot. There are other cases involving petty theft like stealing a bottle of water, a cake and chewing gum.
[…] Politicians and the public [sic] have demanded tough sentences.
And that may explain what seem to be particularly harsh sentences for Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenen. They each got four years in prison for using Facebook to incite a riot, or rather failing to incite a riot.
Both invited their Facebook friends to join in the looting with a “smash down” at an appointed place and time. No one showed up, however, except for police who promptly arrested them.
But many also feel that harsh punishments are necessary to let offenders know the riots were not a free-for-all without consequences.
Riots and looters trashed the pretty and normally placid suburb of Ealing, west London last week. The day after, I stood in the riot debris and an elderly woman stopped for a chat.
She lamented the state of Britain’s youth and suggested one way to deal with it.
They should bring back … execution, she said grimly, drawing a finger across her throat.
—Atika Shubert, CNN World (2011-08-17): Riot sentences stir backlash in UK
I’m reminded of the time that Lyndon Johnson took a brief break from napalming Vietnamese children to get on the TV in July 1967, in order to speak out on the riots in Detroit, and to declare that
We will not endure violence. It matters not by whom it is done or under what slogan or banner. It will not be tolerated. Which is why — under the slogan of public order and the banner of the United States government — he sent tanks and soldiers down Woodward Avenue, so that they could massacre unarmed teenagers at the Algiers Hotel, and join the local police in gunning down looters and curfew violators.
Received this morning in my inbox from a friend involved with Nevada Prison Watch. The solidarity e-mail campaign is from Change.org; the notice about the hunger strike comes from California Prison Focus, a member of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.
From: A. Parker
Subject: Please sign the petition to support the demands of the prison hunger strikers in Pelican Bay State Prison, California
Please sign the petition to support the demands of the prison hunger strikers in Pelican Bay State Prison, California, who will start an indefinite hungerstrike on July 1st.
Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (California) are going on an indefinite hunger strike as of July 1, 2011 to protest the cruel and inhumane conditions of their imprisonment. The hunger strike was organized by prisoners in an unusual show of racial unity. The hunger strikers developed five core demands. Briefly they are:
Eliminate group punishments. Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race. This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh.
Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to longterm isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they “debrief,” that is, provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.
Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to longterm solitary confinement. This bipartisan commission specifically recommended to
make segregation a last resort and
end conditions of isolation. Yet as of May 18, 2011, California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years.
Provide adequate food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations. There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.
Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities
to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities…. Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves.
Examples of privileges the prisoners want are: one phone call per week, and permission to have sweatsuits and watch caps. (Often warm clothing is denied, though the cells and exercise cage can be bitterly cold.) All of the privileges mentioned in the demands are already allowed at other SuperMax prisons (in the federal prison system and other states).
For more information and continuing updates, visit http://www.prisons.org/hungerstrike.htm
Grant the 5 Core Demands of the Pelican Bay SHU Hunger Strikers
Dear Warden Lewis, Secretary Cate, and Governor Brown:
We support the prisoners on hunger strike in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of Pelican Bay State Prison and
those in other units joining them. We strongly urge you to grant their five core demands as soon as possible.
Sage Wisdom. Daily Brickbats (2011-06-17):
A Broward County, Florida, sheriff's deputy spotted Robin Brown when she was bird watching one day. He thought that the sage she had with her was marijuana, and a field test seemed to confirm that. He didn't arrest her then, but confiscated the sage and sent it to the crime...
Want to guess how much compensation she might be able to get from police and state prosecutors to make up for the harassment, arrest, abduction, sexual assault, torture, and confinement that they inflicted on her, a completely innocent bird-watcher, based on nothing more than belligerent ignorance, a fraudulent "field kit," and pure, callous negligence?
Ha, ha, it's a trick question. Even if she does win her lawsuit (which will be hard; the system overwhelmingly favors immunity for government violence), the police and prosecutors will never pay anything for the damages she's awarded. Government police and state prosecutors never pay for what they do to innocent people; you pay for their crimes instead, when they send the tax bill on to you.