… But it must just be the summer heat, right?
In Maryland, a state police Red Squad spent a year and change infiltrating anti-death penalty and anti-war groups, and put the names of nonviolent activists onto terrorist and drug-trafficking watch lists:
The ACLU released 43 pages of [Maryland] state police summaries and computer logs Thursday – some with agents’ names and paragraphs blacked out — that it obtained from the state attorney general’s office through a lawsuit based on Maryland’s Public Information Act.
The files depict a pattern of spying and surveillance over a 14-month period in 2005 and 2006. During that time, agents infiltrated the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a peace group; the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty; and the Committee to Save Vernon Evans, a death row inmate.
Police entered the names of activists in a law enforcement database of people suspected of being terrorists or drug traffickers, the documents show. Police officials said they did not infringe on the protesters’ freedom; the ACLU said that nothing in the documents indicated criminal activity or intent.
Many of the spies’ reports seem innocuous. In one, an agent who attended a gathering of the Evans group noted that activists discussed the stance that a candidate for Baltimore County state’s attorney might take on the death penalty.
Yesterday, [former Maryland Governor Bob] Ehrlich said on WJZ-TV that he was
sympathetic to the principle that police should not spy on groups when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.
But he added,
We pay state police to make decisions, and obviously they bring discretion with them to their jobs every day, so their job on a daily basis obviously is to weigh the relative value of intelligence they’ve received and to make decisions accordingly.
— Jonathan Bor and Gus G. Sentementes, Baltimore Sun (2008-07-19): State police spying decried
For example, one of the decisions that cops accordingly make is to harass, assault, restrain, and imprison innocent people who try to photograph them and document how the cops are treating the people they interact with. (Apparently this
intelligence thing isn’t a two-way street.) They are, of course, happy to invent completely fictional
crimes based on nonexistent
laws in order to do so. Thus, in Johnson County, Tennessee:
Nearly everyone carries a cell phone and it's hard to find one without that camera feature. It's convenient when you want to take that impromptu photo, but a Tri-Cities area man ended up behind bars after snapping a shot of a Johnson County sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop.
The cell phone photographer says the arrest was intimidation, but the deputy says he feared for his life.
… A Johnson County sheriff's deputy arrested Scott Conover for unlawful photography.
He says you took a picture of me. It's illegal to take a picture of a law enforcement officer, said Conover.
… The deputy also asked Conover to delete the picture three times.
He said if you don't give it to me, you're going to jail, said Conover.
Under the advice of the Johnson County attorney, the sheriff would not comment and the arresting deputy said he didn't want to incriminate himself by talking to us.
— Darius Radzius, WJHL (2008-07-11): Man Arrested For Unlawful Photography
Carlos Miller elaborates on the same case:
Gangsters in Blue Ben May and Starling McCloud
Update: I talked to Scott Conover Wednesday morning and he said they delayed his court appearance to Sept. 3rd, which sounds familiar because they kept doing the same thing in my case. (I was arrested last year for photographing cops against their wishes). In my case, I took it as a sign that they were hoping the delay would cause the media interest to die down.
After arresting Scott Conover for
unlawful photography in Mountain City, Tennessee last June, Johnson County Sheriff's Deputy Starling McCloud threatened to arrest Conover's 12-year-old daughter with the same charge after she snapped two photos of her father getting handcuffed.
As it turns out, she is a better photographer than her father because she actually managed to photograph the camera shy deputy.
… It won't be the first time [Scott Conover has] faced off against the Johnson County Sheriff's Office in court.
A couple of years ago, we had problems with the sheriff, so we sued them and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, he said.
But the problems started even before that, after he witnessed deputies beating a man in front of the restaurant/bar he owns.
They beat the shit out of him, he said.
The guy's lawyer came back and took witness statements. When the statements made it back to the sheriff's department, they came by and asked me why I was getting involved.
Not long after that, deputies started staking out his business, Jammers Rocking Road House, which he said is modeled after the Tiki Bar in Key Largo.
They were wolf-packing my customers, he said.
They would lie and wait for them to leave and then pull them over to see if they had been drinking.
Conover struck back by suing them.
… On the night of his arrest, Conover and his family had left the Last Chance Saloon after picking up the nightly earnings and were on their way back to Jammers. His wife was sitting in the passenger's seat. His son and daughter were in the back seat.
Up ahead were a group of customers who had just left the bar. A Johnson County Sheriff's deputy, who was parked along side of the road, pulled over the car with the customers.
The lady who was driving doesn't drink, he said.
Her husband, who does drink, was sitting in the passenger's seat.
Conover pulled up to the scene and stopped his Hummer in front of the traffic stop. He asked his son for his IPhone, then rolled the window down and said:
Hey fellas, I'm just getting your picture.
Then he snapped the photo. Deputy McCloud — who has been on the force only 18 months — told him that photographing him was illegal.
I asked, Conover said.
what planet are you from?,
McCloud started threatening to arrest him if he did not delete the photo, which as it turned out, did not even capture the deputy.
Conover's wife even asked her husband to just hand the deputy the IPhone, but he refused. The deputy kept threatening him with arrest if he didn't delete the photo.
The deputy then ordered Conover out of his car.
I threw the phone back to my daughter and told her to keep taking photos.
By then, two Mountain City police officers had pulled up to the scene, including Kenneth Lane and Ben May, who is in the dark uniform in the above photos. McCloud placed two sets of handcuffs on Conover, who is six-feet tall and weighs 270 pounds, and apparently looked as if he could break out of a single pair of handcuffs.
Conover's daughter snapped two photos before McCloud threatened her with arrest.
He started trying to get in my Hummer and get to the back seat where my kids were. I told him, he said.
You better not go back there or else we're going to have some real problems,
McCloud decided against arresting the daughter.
At the jail, Conover asked McCloud if had ever heard of the First Amendment.
He then turned to me and said,
I’m charging you with disorderly conduct.
Thirty minutes later, after McCloud had left the jail — and had time to think of what other charges he could come up with — he called the jailer and added another charge against Conover; pointing a laser at an officer.
— Carlos Miller, Photography is Not a Crime (2008-08-05): Deputy threatened to arrest 12-year-old daughter for
Meanwhile, in Ohio, posturing macho paramilitary cops gunned down an unarmed woman holding nothing other than her baby boy. They fired high-powered rifles, blindly into a room they couldn’t see, because they saw a shadow on the wall during their cock-swinging commando SWAT raid. Please remember that cops are hired and trained to keep you and me safe, so obviously no matter how many unarmed women these heavily armed, trained professionals mow down in a wild attempt to save their own skins, the
warrior mindset means never having to say you’re sorry.
A Lima, Ohio jury has acquitted police officer Joseph Chavalia of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Tarika Wilson. Chavalia shot and killed Wilson and wounded her infant son during a drug raid last January. Wilson was unarmed.
During the raid, one of Chavalia’s fellow officers shot and killed the two dogs owned by Wilson’s boyfriend and the target of the raid, Anthony Terry. Chavalia testified that he mistook his fellow officer’s shots at the dogs for hostile gunfire coming from the bedroom where Wilson was standing with her child. Chavalia then fired blindly into the bedroom.
The jury concluded that Chavalia reasonably feared for his life when he heard the gunshots. I guess they were then willing to overlook Chavalia’s mistaking an unarmed woman holding a baby for an armed drug dealer, and the fact that he fired blindly into a room without first identifying what he was shooting at. It’s too bad that that same sort of deference isn’t given to the people on the receiving end of these raids when they too understandably confuse the police officers who wake them from sleep and invade their homes for criminal intruders.
— Radley Balko, Hit and Run (2008-08-05): Lima, Ohio SWAT Officer Acquitted in the Killing of Tarika Wilson
Over in Chicago, the arbitrary governor over the state of Illinois has declared that what Chicago needs is yet another
elite tactical team to patrol inner city neighborhoods, complete with state troopers and military helicopters.
Calling violence in Chicago
out of control, Gov. Blagojevich on Wednesday offered to lend state troopers and National Guard helicopters to the city to augment the Chicago Police.
The governor is considering forming an
elite tactical team to help the Chicago Police fight gang problems, a source said, adding that the unit could later be sent across the state to deal with gang problems at any city’s request.
— Chicago Sun-Times (2008-07-17): Gov. says Chicago
out of control
Meanwhile, the Fighting Uruk-Hai of Arizona proposes that we ought to combat inner city crime using the strategic hamlet surge tactics that have made for such a brilliant success in the occupation of Iraq.
We might look at what Rudy Giuliani did in New York City, when he became mayor of that city. … And some of those tactics, very frankly — you mention the war in Iraq — are like that we use in the military. You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment and then they cooperate with law enforcement, etc, etc.
Do you feel safer now?
(Stories via Darian Worden (2008-07-18): Martial Law 2008, Manuel Lora @ LewRockwell.com Blog (2008-08-02): The Fascist McCain On Solving Neighborhood Crimes, Ali @ ThinkProgress (2008-08-01): McCain suggests military-style invasion modeled on the surge to control inner city crime, etc.)