We already knew expressing your opinion was an arrestable offense. I just thought the police would be a little less blatant about it, but I guess the fact that the media has fully turned them into "the troops" this past week, beyond any sort of criticism or reproach, has only emboldened them.
"That's why I hate the police," Tuma said. He told the Huffington Post that in a loud sing-song voice, he then chanted, "I hate the police, I hate the police."
One officer reacted strongly to Tuma's song. "Hey! Hey! Who do you think you're talking to?" Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing. "Who do you think you are to think you can talk to a police officer like that?" the police officer said, according to Luke Platzer, 30, one of Tuma's companions.
Tuma said he responded, "It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It's not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street."
According to Tuma and Platzer, the officer pushed Tuma against an electric utility box, continuing to ask who he thought he was and to say he couldn't talk to police like that.
"I didn't curse," Tuma said. "I asked, am I being arrested? Why am I being arrested?"[...]
Tuma filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Police Complaints, alleging a lack of probable cause, a false arrest, and that the officer used harassing and demeaning language -- Tuma alleges the officer called him a "faggot." Tuma has retained a lawyer. He might sue if he's not satisfied after a meeting with the complaint office on Thursday.
I've been hesitant to post about the Henry Louis Gates incident from last week, mainly because the Rev. Irene already posted about it and, while the issue at its heart is about police thinking they own the world and can arrest pretty much anyone they want, has more complicated layers when it comes to classism, racism, and elitism than I was willing to unpack.
Like Henry Louis Gates, Tuma's case isn't all that uncommon or extraordinary. He's just a lawyer and knows that he can sue the police department for arresting him and pushing him around for doing nothing more than expressing his opinion. In Gates's case, I doubt we would have heard about it if he weren't a Harvard professor, with the governor on speed-dial and journalists as his buddies and other well-connected professors as his colleagues. It doesn't make the arrest any less wrong, but it doesn't make it any more wrong either.
I suppose we could just say that Gates and Tuma are both lucky they didn't get Tased. With the way police are using them now, as an alternative not to gun use but an alternative to having to listen to people they're dealing with, people who shouldn't be Tased are getting a little shock, and many are getting seriously injured or killed in the process.
Considering how many people I've seen justifying Gates's arrest because he was being an ass (I agree that's what it sounds like happened, but being an ass isn't illegal), here's another, completely unrelated incident from Rhode Island:
The salsa and eggs stopped flying, but the police continued to investigate. Now four young women face charges of assault and disorderly conduct. They're accused of hurling food and drinks and spraying pepper spray at a group of men who stood in the median on Bald Hill Road and East Avenue Tuesday afternoon carrying signs supporting traditional marriage, Capt. Robert Nelson said Thursday morning. The men all gave the police an address in Spring Grove, Penn. -- 1358 Jefferson Rd. -- that's the location for the Foundation for a Christian Civilization Inc., a group that's in the midst of a caravan along the East Coast. The group states on its Web site that they make themselves "visible to motorists by engaging them to support traditional marriage." [snip]
Thursday evening, the police arrested four women: Melissa Migliaccio, 22, Amanda L. Zangrilli, 23, Kristen A. Scungio, 19, and a 17-year-old female from Pontiac Street in Warwick, whom the police have not named because she is a juvenile. All are charged with at least one charge of battery or simple assault, and with disorderly conduct. The 17-year-old faces a more serious charge as well -- felony assault with a dangerous weapon or substance, according to the police.
Some women were being insulted in the street, and they decided to throw food at the people doing it. Honestly, getting food thrown at you isn't as bad as being arrested, put in prison, and having to carry a permanent record that renders you less employable for the rest of your life.
But do any of us think that they should have done it? Here's JMG's response, which I'm putting here not because he's wrong, but because he's 100% right:
As I did in yesterday's first post on this incident, again I must condemn the actions of these women, regretful though they may feel. We MUST always, always, always take the high road in these situations. No matter how hateful or hurtful the words, a physical response to offensive speech, no matter how justified it may feel in the moment, does absolutely nothing to further our cause and usually ends up providing the other side with anti-gay campaign talking points and fundraising opportunities. How many times did we have to hear about that miserable styrofoam cross woman last year? You can bet the story of the Warwick Four (or however the Christianists will dub them) will become yet another burdensome obstacle to marriage equality in Rhode Island and elsewhere in the nation. The entire situation is a fucking disaster and we can do better. We have to.
It's true - the people we're working against will relate this incident ad nauseum, and we'll hear plenty of "I'm OK with gay rights, but what gay activists do...." Even people on our side, if they discuss this incident at all, will condemn the women and, by extension, LGBT activists generally. It's considered completely unacceptable, horrendous, and, by many, a good reason to continue to discriminate against us.
On the other hand, the police get insulted in the street and arrest someone, and people are rushing to their side to support their over-reaction.
The root of the problem isn't the police - it's the fact that they always get cover for their actions. They overreact to these situations, respond with violence when none is necessary, abuse their discretion when it comes to "disorderly conduct charges... and in the few cases when they get called out for it the media and people generally are willing to cover for them saying that "It's a few bad apples" or the victim "deserved it" or "The police have to be able to do their job."
And, like that, we move into a police state, without much protest, in which people are being arrested for expressing their opinions and we support a two-tiered system of justice that allows people with a little bit of power to get away with what would be viewed, in a sane world, of illegal conduct.
(I don't have time to write any more, but I pretty much agree with what digby said on this topic.)