Monday, November 7, 2011

Freedom to Peacefully Assemble and Petition the Government

Freedom in action:

The above video is a little hard to square with this very clear statement of citizen's rights in the United States Constitution, specifically the 1st Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I guess the Constitution really means that you have a "right" to peacefully assemble unless the police get annoyed and decide to take pot shots at you and harass you because they find your video camera "annoying".

If you ever read the USSR's Constitution or Communist China's Constitution, they are full of "rights". Wonderful documents. But only a fool would take the chance to act on any of those "rights" because those documents were purely window dressing to wave at the world and declare that those countries were "great democracies" with all the latest and best "rights" for their citizens. Banana Republic USA has joined their ranks. Lots of wonderful "rights" but don't you dare take them seriously.

Update 2011nov10: Here is an article in the San Jose Mercury News about the above incident:
Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminal justice professor who's an expert in police decision-making and use of force, said the video left him "astonished, amazed and embarrassed."

"Unless there's something we don't know, that's one of the most outrageous uses of a firearm that I've ever seen," he said. "Unless there's a threat that you can't see in the video, that just looks like absolute punishment, which is the worst type of excessive force."

Campbell said his friends saw him get hit and rushed him away to the shelter of a doorway. Someone brought an ice pack while a legal observer took down information, and then his friends helped him get to a taxi. He saw a doctor later Thursday, who told him to keep the wound bandaged and iced. He said Monday he has a 1½ -inch wound with swelling and bruising around it.

Campbell said he does social and digital media work for a local nonprofit and supports Occupy Oakland. "I don't camp out there, I've been a participant but not an active organizer," he said. "I've come out for general assemblies and marches, and I came out that day for the general strike to show my support."

He said he brought his camera that night to document any excessive force used by police, never imagining that might make him a target. "I don't know if I was in the right place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the right time."

He said he wants an independent, not internal, investigation of this and other reports of excessive force, and is considering whether to take legal action.


"It looks terrible," agreed Sam Walker, a professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, who consulted with Oakland police on the federal consent decree emerging from the Riders scandal. "It certainly looks like they singled him out to be shot ... and there does not appear to have been any sort of attack by the protester. Clearly, the camera is not approaching the officers, so they couldn't claim that he posed a threat."

Paul Chevigny, professor emeritus at the New York University School of Law, said it looks like "a violation of his First Amendment rights apart from being a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. He has a right to take a film of what the police do -- we've been over this thousands of times -- unless he's interfering in some way.

"The basic problem of police retaliating against people who are trying to record what's going on is perennial," said Chevigny, adding this occurs all over the nation. "They (officers) consider it a kind of 'contempt of cop.' It's an expression of the fact that people do not trust the police. The police read it as a criticism of them. It's not even necessarily that they're trying to prevent people from seeing what they're doing.

"But this extreme version (of retaliation) is very unfamiliar to me," he added. "I can't imagine what they're going to say about shooting this guy. Sounds like the Oakland police need a little brush-up on their training."

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