Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sanity Prevails in Wisconsin

From MSNBC:
An Indiana state official who tweeted that riot police in neighboring Wisconsin should "use live ammunition" to clear out pro-union demonstrators has lost his job.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday that Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Cox "is no longer employed by this agency."

The office made the announcement after reviewing statements Cox purportedly made in tweets and blog posts, including one in which he said he advocated "deadly force" against "thugs" who threatened state elected officials in Wisconsin.

...

On Saturday night, Mother Jones staffers tweeted that a source had told them Wisconsin riot police were preparing to clear out demonstrators from the Wisconsin capitol building — something that didn't end up happening.

...

Weinstein said only later did he find out that JCCentCom was the Twitter user name for Cox, one of more than 140 attorneys in the Indiana Attorney General's Office. Weinstein wrote that Cox has expressed similar contempt for political opponents on his personal blog, Pro Cynic, which has since been disabled.
The last thing needed in the US is for officials in Wisconsin to "go Gaddafi" and use violence. It is dispicable that an official in Indiana was spreading this rumour and hoping to provoke violence.

This is just more evidence that Americans have managed to push their politics to the edge. They have put into office people on the right who so fanatical that they are willing to do anything to "win".

This statement from Wisconsin is scary and very unhelpful:
The Wisconsin state police union president said troopers would "absolutely" use force to clear out protesters if ordered by the governor, the investigative news website Raw Story reported on Monday.

Tracy Fuller, executive board president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association, said state law officers would don riot gear and "do their job" if Walker ordered them to break up the protests, according to Raw Story.

"I have worked with the University of Wisconsin police officers that are there, along with the capitol police officers, and certainly I've worked with the state patrol officers because I'm a state patrol inspector. I'm not able to even fathom that any of those police officers would not carry out whatever orders were given to do their job," Fuller was quoted as saying.

However, Fuller added that he "can't even imagine that the governor or anybody else would think that's a viable option."
The military are told they are not to follow illegal orders. I would hope that state police in Wisconsin are instructed to ignore and refuse to follow any illegal orders. People have a right to demonstrate. Just because a governor says "clear them out!" is not sufficient legal basis for removing demonstrators. Here is the fine line that police must follow between the right to protest and the legal need to maintain public order. This bit is from the UK, but the law in all English speaking countries is basically the same:
The Human Rights Act protects freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – these form the basis for your right to gather with others and protest.

The act forbids governments and other public bodies (including police) from violating these rights. However, it does allow for some limitations on these rights in order to prevent unrest, violence and crime, and for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The police work to balance the right to protest with the right of other people to go about their lives safely and freely.
So to have the state police chief in Wisconsin blandly say that he will "carry out orders" is very unhelpful. Wisconsin is not a police state. Demonstrators have a right. The governor needs to stay within the law and the police must be especially careful in how they enforce the law.

4 comments:

thomas said...

RY;

I am uneasy about the whole thing.. I feel like it is almost as likely for the police and National Guard to be called out in Wisconsin as it is for force to be used in middle east countries. The only problem with the governor using the Guard is that most of them are probably union workers.. I think of peaceful protests in this country in years past and it is easy to conceive of a very violent end to all of this, and when one or two get injured or worse then the missing senators will feel the need to return to end it before more are injured.. I hope this goes better than that..

RYviewpoint said...

Thomas:

My experience relates back to the 1960s. Protests and demonstrations were generally peaceful where I was at, but in big centres with a longer tradition of protest the police were a bit more heavy handed, but still respectful of rights.

Where the police went off the rails were in places, like Kent State, where the governor and city officials were right wing nuts who used inflamatory rhetoric which gave the "go signal" to the more brutal elements in the police (and National Guard in Kent State).

So things can go either way. They will be peaceful if central authority understands the rules and keeps extremists from going out of control (think of Egypt where the military kept sensible and only the state police went nuts and compare that to Libya where all levels of police and military are being ordered to do unspeakable things).

So... a civil society comes down to history and a deep commitment to rights. But the fact that a governor like Walker so easily throws away collective bargaining rights says that places like that may go out of control because the people on top are fanatical and unwilling to respect a tradition of rights and limits to power.

Keep positive. It doesn't help to get bleak and negative. My basic philosophy is that "things will muddle through". They may look bad and be bad at times, but usually things turn out reasonably OK. Only once in a while do things truly go off the rails. So remain positive but be aware of what and how things could go wrong.

thomas said...

RY;

I appreciate the reply with a good look at the histories as they compare to each other and today.. good to remain calm and look at things with this perspective and it does make it easier to believe that one way or the other we will muddle through.

I read this history of the unions this morning.. (Kanna sent it to me) from Mother Jones.. Pretty good reading.

RYviewpoint said...

Thomas:

Yep, I saw the article in Mother Jones. I pasted some graphs from it in my post "What Does Inequality Mean".

I was thinking today that I forget to mention the seamy side of the 1960s. One of my introductions to the "political system" was a black guy I knew who was picked up on a minor charge and who they claimed "fell down some stairs" and ended up dead. In short they killed him. This was in Florida in 1969 and not in a big town. But in the Deep South it was open season on "uppity" blacks.

That left a deep impression on me. The only other thing equivalent was a friend of mine that got drafted and was in boot camp, got depressed, and blew his brains out.

Up until then I was a pretty naive middle class kid. I had been radicalized in the summer of 1964 by the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. I was a counselor in a church camp and got a very garbled story about how the US and Russia were in some standoff on the brink of all out nuclear war. So when I got down out of the mountains I read everything I could.

I would have probably believed all the media stuff if I had consumed it in the heat of the event. But I was over a month after it all and reading stuff after it all blew up, so I read everything carefully and dispassionately. The stuff made no sense. I got highly suspicious.

What really hammered home that the world wasn't the way it was presented was that in the Fall of 1965 I was in a speech class in high school and decided to give a speech about the event. I was a top student in my high school school of 2000+ students (I graduated 14th in my class and I never chased grades or brown-nosed teachers) but in this class I got a "failing" mark on that speech. It was a good speech. I got marked down because I didn't toe "party line" and declare that the US had been attacked.

These were all traumatic events that woke me up to the fact that the world isn't the way it is presented.

When I read about Wisconsin my heart is broken because those public union guys are being screwed by a right wing nut. When I read about the hundreds (probably thousands) dying daily in Libya my heart is broken. In both cases, it would take next to nothing for Obama to show some leadership and help these underdogs out. But he doesn't & won't.

I'm so frustrated with Obama. He lied to the American people. The country needs leadership to get out of the depths of the Great Recession that the greedy rich caused, but Obama is doing next to nothing. Pretty minimal. He is talking "austerity" and "cutting the budget". The exact wrong, anti-Keynesian thing to do. He is a smart guy. He isn't doing this because he is confused or stupid. He is doing it because he is a centre-right politician who ran as centre-left, he lied, and he has failed the American people. Tragedy!