The other war survivors in the US are victims of a lethal machine designed to extract maximum profit for as long as possible, as are their brothers and sisters in the cold ground, as are the murdered civilians in Asia and the Middle East, as are we all.
Picador Publishing recently released a 40th anniversary edition of Philip Caputo’s Vietnam masterpiece, A Rumor of War. I was happy to purchase a copy, having read my original copy to tatters some 30 years ago in my ongoing quest to better understand my oft-inscrutable father, and to better understand the war that left such a deep, damaging mark on him.
Caputo’s harrowing memoir was one of many dozens I pored through over the years in that endeavor, with limited success. The Vietnam War is everywhere, and nowhere. It touches everything and everyone even all these years later, yet nobody talks about it; Ken Burns made a mighty documentary attempt at opening a conversation on the massive meaning and impact of that war, but his endeavor fell far short by failing to recognize the significance of the war resistance that was, after all these years, proven absolutely right.
When I was a boy, the old men like my grandfather were veterans of World War II or Korea, or both. The sailors wore hats emblazoned with the ships they had served on, the infantrymen marched in the annual parades, and nobody avoided the subject of war around them. This seems strange in retrospect, because the “Good Wars” also involved astonishing acts of carnage committed against civilian populations. They also involved active war resistance, though not at the scale seen in the years to come.
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Now that I am a man, the old men are Vietnam veterans, and while we don’t flee the topic of the war the way we did 30 years ago, it is best left alone. Old scars still bleed, and the killing fields remain only a nightmare away.
Today, as with every Memorial Day year after year, there are flags. The Boston Common is filled right now with more than 37,000 small US flags, placed there by volunteers to commemorate every Massachusetts soldier killed in battle since the Revolution. Thousands of those flags represent soldiers who died in Vietnam. The fluttering sea of red, white and blue creates an uncommon silence in the heart of the city.
More than 100 soldiers from 93 different Massachusetts towns have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Their flags share the Common with their Vietnam forebears, but more than that, they share the vicious fate of having died in wars that should not have been fought. The astonishing Vietnam War memorial in Washington DC should not exist. Should someone finally choose to honor the fallen of the Forever War with a wall of their own, it will be a monument to our gross failure as a society to keep them alive. Should a wall ever be erected honoring the civilians murdered in these wars, it would blot out the sun and stand as brick-and-mortar evidence of crimes against humanity.
When Philip Caputo marched off to war in 1965, he and his fellow soldiers were filled with the missionary zeal imbued by President Kennedy in those years, when the majority of people in this country bought into narratives of US exceptionalism and the moral righteousness of US military hegemony. “For Americans who did not come of age in the early sixties,” wrote Caputo in his memoir, “it may be hard to grasp what those years were like — the pride and overpowering self-assurance that prevailed.” It didn’t last, of course; the war beat the idealism out of them one long day at a time. “We left Vietnam peculiar creatures,” said Caputo, “with young shoulders that bore rather old heads.”
It is strange to imagine such idealism today. The Vietnam War lasted 25 years, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have lasted 27 years with no end in sight — the Trump administration is wrapping our seemingly eternal involvement in Afghanistan in multiple layers of secrecy — shattering the lives of millions in the gritty disarray of a military empire in collapse.
It took decades for the country to come to grips with the folly that was Vietnam, but it was abundantly clear that Iraq and Afghanistan were a disastrous fool’s errand before the shooting even started. Yet we invaded anyway, and still we remain so many years later, because war is what we do.
It is our principle export, a vital economic engine, the hub to which all the spokes of our rickety national wheel are attached, and it is visibly cracking. You can’t steal $6,000,000,000,000 from a country in less than 20 years and fail to make a monstrous impact on the very bones of that society, yet that six trillion is merely loose change compared to what we have squandered on permanent war since 1947.
Every bomb dropped, every missile launched, every bullet fired, every bandage used, every body bag filled represents money that once belonged to all of us but has been transferred to a small group of wealthy war profiteers we will never meet. The theft is generational in scope, and affects everything from the hospital bills we can’t afford to the roads too potholed to drive on to the schools without enough teachers and books. The damage done to us all is comprehensive, and that’s before we get to the body count.
And so there are the flags of Memorial Day, meant to honor the sacrifice of those who died in the wars. The remaining war survivors in the US are victims of a lethal machine designed to extract maximum profit for as long as possible, as are their brothers and sisters in the cold ground, as are the murdered civilians in Asia and the Middle East, as are we all.
Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq … it’s all the same war, bolstered by the same profit motive and veiled in the same empty promises. Only the dead — the fallen US soldiers and those they have killed — know the true cost of war here at the end of empire. A truly fitting memorial would be a Memorial Day when no new flags are needed, when we have all the dead we can stand and choose not to make more.
If you’ve been listening to various police agencies and their supporters, then you know what the future holds: anarchy is coming — and it’s all the fault of activists.
In May, a Wall Street Journal op-ed warned of a “new nationwide crime wave” thanks to “intense agitation against American police departments” over the previous year. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went further. Talking recently with the host of CBS’s Face the Nation, the Republican presidential hopeful asserted that the Black Lives Matter movement wasn’t about reform but something far more sinister. “They’ve been chanting in the streets for the murder of police officers,” he insisted. Even the nation’s top cop, FBI Director James Comey, weighed in at the University of Chicago Law School, speaking of “a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year.”
According to these figures and others like them, lawlessness has been sweeping the nation as the so-called Ferguson effect spreads. Criminals have been emboldened as police officers are forced to think twice about doing their jobs for fear of the infamy of starring in the next viral video. The police have supposedly become the targets of assassins intoxicated by “anti-cop rhetoric,” just as departments are being stripped of the kind of high-powered equipment they need to protect officers and communities. Even their funding streams have, it’s claimed, come under attack as anti-cop bias has infected Washington, D.C. Senator Ted Cruz caught the spirit of that critique byconvening a Senate subcommittee hearing to which he gave the title, “The War on Police: How the Federal Government Undermines State and Local Law Enforcement.” According to him, the federal government, including the president and attorney general, has been vilifying the police, who are now being treated as if they, not the criminals, were the enemy.
Beyond the storm of commentary and criticism, however, quite a different reality presents itself. In the simplest terms, there is no war on the police. Violent attacks against police officers remain at historic lows, even though approximately 1,000 people have been killed by the police this year nationwide. In just the past few weeks, videos have been released of problematic fatal police shootings in San Francisco and Chicago.
While it’s too soon to tell whether there has been an uptick in violent crime in the post-Ferguson period, no evidence connects any possible increase to the phenomenon of police violence being exposed to the nation. What is taking place and what the police and their supporters are largely reacting to is a modest push for sensible law enforcement reforms from groups as diverse asCampaign Zero, Koch Industries, the Cato Institute, The Leadership Conference, and the ACLU (my employer). Unfortunately, as the rhetoric ratchets up, many police agencies and organizations are increasingly resistant to any reforms, forgetting whom they serve and ignoring constitutional limits on what they can do.
Indeed, a closer look at law enforcement arguments against commonsense reforms like independently investigating police violence, demilitarizing police forces, or ending “for-profit policing” reveals a striking disregard for concerns of just about any sort when it comes to brutality and abuse. What this “debate” has revealed, in fact, is a mainstream policing mindset ready to manufacture fear without evidence and promote the belief that American civil rights and liberties are actually an impediment to public safety. In the end, such law enforcement arguments subvert the very idea that the police are there to serve the community and should be under civilian control.
And that, when you come right down to it, is the logic of the police state.
Due Process Plus
It’s no mystery why so few police officers are investigated and prosecuted for using excessive force and violating someone’s rights. “Local prosecutors rely on local police departments to gather the evidence and testimony they need to successfully prosecute criminals,” according to Campaign Zero . “This makes it hard for them to investigate and prosecute the same police officers in cases of police violence.”
Since 2005, according to an analysis by theWashington Post and Bowling Green State University, only 54 officers have been prosecuted nationwide, despite the thousands of fatal shootings by police. As Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green, puts it, “To charge an officer in a fatal shooting, it takes something so egregious, so over the top that it cannot be explained in any rational way. It also has to be a case that prosecutors are willing to hang their reputation on.”
For many in law enforcement, however, none of this should concern any of us. When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order appointing a special prosecutor to investigate police killings, for instance, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, insisted: “Given the many levels of oversight that already exist, both internally in the NYPD [New York Police Department] and externally in many forms, the appointment of a special prosecutor is unnecessary.” Even before Cuomo’s decision, the chairman of New York’s District Attorneys Association calledplans to appoint a special prosecutor for police killings “deeply insulting.”
Such pushback against the very idea of independently investigating police actions has, post-Ferguson, become everyday fare, and some law enforcement leaders have staked out a position significantly beyond that. The police, they clearly believe, should get special treatment.
“By virtue of our dangerous vocation, we should expect to receive the benefit of the doubt in controversial incidents,” wrote Ed Mullins, the president of New York City’s Sergeants Benevolent Association, in the organization’s magazine, Frontline. As if to drive home the point, its cover depicts Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby under the ominous headline “The Wolf That Lurks.” In May, Mosby had announced indictments of six officers in the case of Freddie Gray, who died in Baltimore police custody the previous month. The message being sent to a prosecutor willing to indict cops was hardly subtle: you’re a traitor.
Mullins put forward a legal standard for officers accused of wrongdoing that he would never support for the average citizen — and in a situation in which cops already get what former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson calls “a super presumption of innocence.” In addition, police unions in many states have aggressively pushed for their own bills of rights, which make it nearly impossible for police officers to be fired, much less charged with crimes when they violate an individual’s civil rights and liberties.
In 14 states, versions of a Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR) have already been passed, while in 11 others they are under consideration. These provide an “extra layer of due process” in cases of alleged police misconduct, according to Samuel Walker, an expert on police accountability. In many of the states without a LEOBR, the Marshall Project has discovered, police unions have directly negotiated the same rights and privileges with state governments.
LEOBRs are, in fact, amazingly un-American documents in the protectionsthey afford officers accused of misconduct during internal investigations, rights that those officers are never required to extend to their suspects. Though the specific language of these laws varies from state to state, notesMike Riggs in Reason, they are remarkably similar in their special considerations for the police.
“Unlike a member of the public, the officer gets a ‘cooling off’ period before he has to respond to any questions. Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is privy to the names of his complainants and their testimony against him before he is ever interrogated. Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is to be interrogated ‘at a reasonable hour,’ with a union member present. Unlike a member of the public, the officer can only be questioned by one person during his interrogation. Unlike a member of the public, the officer can be interrogated only ‘for reasonable periods,’ which ‘shall be timed to allow for such personal necessities and rest periods as are reasonably necessary.’ Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation cannot be ‘threatened with disciplinary action’ at any point during his interrogation. If he is threatened with punishment, whatever he says following the threat cannot be used against him.”
The Marshall Project refers to these laws as the “Blue Shield” and “the original Bill of Rights with an upgrade.’’ Police associations, naturally, don’t agree. “All this does is provide a very basic level of constitutional protections for our officers, so that they can make statements that will stand up later in court,” says Vince Canales, the president of Maryland’s Fraternal Order of Police.
Put another way, there are two kinds of due process in America — one for cops and another for the rest of us. This is the reason why the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights and civil liberties organizations regularly call on states to create a special prosecutor’s office to launch independent investigations when police seriously injure or kill someone.
The Demilitarized Blues
Since Americans first took in those images from Ferguson of police units outfitted like soldiers, riding in military vehicles, and pointing assault rifles at protesters, the militarization of the police and the way the Pentagon has been supplying them with equipment directly off this country’s distant battlefields have been top concerns for police reformers. In May, the Obama administration suggested modest changes to the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which, since 1990, has been redistributing weaponry and equipment to police departments nationwide — urban, suburban, and rural — in the name of fighting the war on drugs and protecting Americans from terrorism.
Even the idea that the police shouldn’t sport the look of an occupying army in local communities has, however, been met with fierce resistance. Read, for example, the online petition started by the National Sheriffs’ Association and you could be excused for thinking that the Obama administration was aggressively moving to stop the flow of military-grade equipment to local and state police agencies. (It isn’t.) The message that tops the petition is as simple as it is misleading: “Don’t strip law enforcement of the gear they need to keep us safe.”
The Obama administration has done no such thing. In May, the presidentannounced that he was prohibiting certain military-grade equipment from being transferred to state and local law enforcement. “Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments,” he said. The list included tracked armored vehicles (essentially tanks), bayonets, grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms, and guns and ammo of .50 caliber or higher. In reality, what use could a local police department have for bayonets, grenade launchers, or the kinds of bullets that resemble small missiles, pierce armor, and can blow people’s limbs off?
Yet the sheriffs’ association has no problem complaining that “the White House announced the government would no longer provide equipment like helicopters and MRAPs [mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles] to local law enforcement.” And it’s not even true. Police departments can still obtain both helicopters and MRAPs if they establish community policing practices, institute training protocols, and get community approval before the equipment transfer occurs.
“Helicopters rescue runaways and natural disaster victims,” the sheriff’s association adds gravely, “and MRAPs are used to respond to shooters who barricade themselves in neighborhoods and are one of the few vehicles able to navigate hurricane, snowstorm, and tornado-strewn areas to save survivors.”
As with our wars abroad, think mission creep at home. A program started to wage the war on drugs, and strengthened after 9/11, is now being justified on the grounds that certain equipment is useful during disasters or emergencies. In reality, the police have clearly become hooked on a militarized look. Many departments are ever more attached to their weapons of war and evidently don’t mind the appearance of being an occupying force in their communities, which leaves groups like the sheriffs’ association fighting fiercely for a militarized future.
In July, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona suedlaw enforcement in Pinal County, Arizona, on behalf of Rhonda Cox. Two years before, her son had stolen some truck accessories and, without her knowledge, fitted them on her truck. When the county sheriff’s department arrested him, it also seized the truck.
Arriving on the scene of her son’s arrest, Cox asked a deputy about getting her truck back. No way, he told her. After she protested, explaining that she had nothing to do with her son’s alleged crimes, he responded “too bad.” Under Arizona law, the truck could indeed be taken into custody and kept or sold off by the sheriff’s department even though she was never charged with a crime. It was guilty even if she wasn’t.
Welcome to America’s civil asset forfeiture laws, another product of law enforcement’s failed war on drugs, updated for the twenty-first century. Originally designed to deprive suspected real-life Scarfaces of the spoils of their illicit trade — houses, cars, boats — it now regularly deprives people unconnected to the war on drugs of their property without due process of law and in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Not surprisingly, corruption follows.
Federal and state law enforcement can now often keep property seized or sell it and retain a portion of the revenue generated. Some of this, in turn, can be repurposed and distributed as bonuses in police and other law enforcement departments. The only way the dispossessed stand a chance of getting such “forfeited” property back is if they are willing to take on the government in a process where the deck is stacked against them.
In such cases, for instance, property owners have no right to an attorney to defend them, which means that they must either pony up additional cash for a lawyer or contest the seizure themselves in court. “It is an upside-down world where,” says the libertarian Institute for Justice, “the government holds all the cards and has the financial incentive to play them to the hilt.”
In this century, civil asset forfeiture has mutated into what’s now called “for-profit policing” in which police departments and state and federal law enforcement agencies indiscriminately seize the property of citizens who aren’t drug kingpins. Sometimes, for instance, distinctly ordinary citizenssuspected of driving drunk or soliciting prostitutes get their cars confiscated. Sometimes they simply get cash taken from them on suspicion of low-level drug dealing.
Like most criminal justice issues, race matters in civil asset forfeiture. This summer, the ACLU of Pennsylvania issued a report, Guilty Property, documenting how the Philadelphia Police Department and district attorney’s office abused state civil asset forfeiture by taking at least $1 million from innocent people within the city limits. Approximately 70% of the time, those people were black, even though the city’s population is almost evenly dividedbetween whites and African-Americans.
Currently, only one state, New Mexico, has done away with civil asset forfeiture entirely, while also severely restricting state and local law enforcement from profiting off similar national laws when they work with the feds. (The police in Albuquerque are, however, actively defying the new law, demonstrating yet again the way in which police departments believe the rules don’t apply to them.) That no other state has done so is hardly surprising. Police departments have become so reliant on civil asset forfeiture to pad their budgets and acquire “little goodies” that reforming, much less repealing, such laws are a tough sell.
As with militarization, when police defend such policies, you sense their urgent desire to maintain what many of them now clearly think of as police rights. In August, for instance, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu sent afundraising email to his supporters using the imagined peril of the ACLU lawsuit as clickbait. In justifying civil forfeiture, he failed to mention that a huge portion of the money goes to enrich his own department, but praised the program in this fashion:
“[O]ver the past seven years, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has donated $1.2 million of seized criminal money to support youth programs like the Boys & Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts, YMCA, high school graduation night lock-in events, youth sports as well as veterans groups, local food banks, victims assistance programs, and Home of Home in Casa Grande.”
Under this logic, police officers can steal from people who haven’t even been charged with a crime as long as they share the wealth with community organizations — though, in fact, neither in Pinal County or elsewhere is that where most of the confiscated loot appears to go. Think of this as the development of a culture of thievery masquerading as Robin Hood in blue.
Contempt for Civilian Control
Post-Ferguson developments in policing are essentially a struggle over whether the police deserve special treatment and exceptions from the rules the rest of us must follow. For too long, they have avoided accountability for brutal misconduct, while in this century arming themselves for war on America’s streets and misusing laws to profit off the public trust, largely in secret. The events of the past two years have offered graphic evidence that police culture is dysfunctional and in need of a democratic reformation.
There are, of course, still examples of law enforcement leaders who see the police as part of American society, not exempt from it. But even then, the reformers face stiff resistance from the law enforcement communities they lead. In Minneapolis, for instance, Police Chief Janeé Harteau attempted to have state investigators look into incidents when her officers seriously hurt or killed someone in the line of duty. Police union opposition killed her plan. In Philadelphia, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey ordered his department to publicly release the names of officers involved in shootings within 72 hours of any incident. The city’s police union promptly challenged his policy, while the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill in November to stop the release of the names of officers who fire their weapon or use force when on the job unless criminal charges are filed. Not surprisingly, three powerful police unions in the state supported the legislation.
In the present atmosphere, many in the law enforcement community see the Harteaus and Ramseys of their profession as figures who don’t speak for them, and groups or individuals wanting even the most modest of police reforms as so many police haters. As former New York Police Department Commissioner Howard Safir told Fox News in May, “Similar to athletes on the playing field, sometimes it’s difficult to tune out the boos from the no-talents sipping their drinks, sitting comfortably in their seats. It’s demoralizing to read about the misguided anti-cop gibberish spewing from those who take their freedoms for granted.”
The disdain in such imagery, increasingly common in the world of policing, is striking. It smacks of a police-state, bunker mentality that sees democratic values and just about any limits on the power of law enforcement as threats. In other words, the Safirs want the public — particularly in communities of color and poor neighborhoods — to shut up and do as it’s told when a police officer says so. If the cops give the orders, compliance — so this line of thinking goes — isn’t optional, no matter how egregious the misconduct or how sensible the reforms. Obey or else.
The post-Ferguson public clamor demanding better policing continues to get louder, and yet too many police departments have this to say in response: Welcome to Cop Land. We make the rules around here.
Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years.
He’s been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.
Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana.
Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.
Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.
FDLE records show that Sampson was stopped at least once a week for the past four years, and sometimes several times a week and even as many as three times in one day. The stops are often conducted by the same police officers, who have arrested him time and time again.
The problem here isn’t just the endless harassment of one resident who doesn’t seem to be a threat to anyone. The problem here is the fact that Sampson works for the 207 Quickstop. It’s pretty hard to “trespass” on property when you have the explicit permission to be there. It would be shady enough if the cops were just picking up Sampson every time he visited the store, but they’ve been patting him down, questioning him and sometimes arresting him for trespassing during his shifts.
One video, recorded on June 26, 2012, shows Sampson, clearly stocking coolers, being interrupted by MGPD Sgt. William Dunaske, who orders him to put his hands behind his back, and then handcuffs him, leads him out of the store and takes him to jail for trespassing.
Another video posted at the Miami Herald website shows Sampson being arrested for trespassing when he returns to the store after taking out the trash. (That arrest report says Sampson was “loitering” outside the store, but the video clearly shows he left, threw trash in the container, and went back in followed by the police officer who arrested him.)
Sampson’s not the only one being harassed by the MGPD, although he is the main concern of the owner of the 207 Quickstop, Alex Saleh. Saleh fought back, though, installing 15 cameras to catch the endless harassment of Sampson and customers of his store.
The videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests.
Saleh pins this invasion by Miami Gardens PD on his unfortunate decision to mark his store as part of the PD’s “zero tolerance zone.”
Almost immediately after Saleh put the “zero-tolerance” sign in his window, he regretted it.
Miami Gardens police officers, he said, began stopping his patrons regularly, citing them for minor infractions such as trespassing, or having an open container of alcohol. The officers, he said, would then pat them down or stick their hands in citizens’ pockets. But what bothered Saleh the most was the emboldened behavior of the officers who came into his store unannounced, searched his store without his permission and then hauled his employees away in the middle of their shifts.
The “zero tolerance zone” turns over a whole lot of power to the Miami Gardens PD. Here’s part of the description from the MGPD’s website (which hasn’t been updated in more than 5 years…).
This simple program asks local business owners to complete a simple affidavit, and post a sign on their properties, which allows MGPD officers to act on behalf of the business owners in their absence. The program also gives MGPD officers the authority to direct unauthorized personnel to leave private property or risk enforcement action from the officers…
This program is designed to reduce the number of individuals who are sometimes seen trespassing and loitering on private property without legitimate business.
This would explain all the “trespassing” charges. The affidavit gives the MGPD permission to patrol the store and surrounding area and make arrests/question citizens as officers see fit. This lowers the bar for police officers, removing anything resembling probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
But even as limitless as this is, the MGPD went even further when “patrolling” the 207 Quickstop. You’ll note that the agreement gives the PD permission to act on behalf of business owners “in their absence.” Saleh was present for a great many of these “interactions.” Not only that, but the officers’ idea of acting on Saleh’s “behalf” was to harass and arrest many of his customers, which is a strange way of construing this relationship. Stores need customers to purchase their goods, something that occurs less frequently when the patrons are being detained, questioned or arrested.
Saleh regretted this decision after seeing what “zero tolerance” (as applied by the MGPD) actually entailed. But Miami Gardens PD doesn’t take “no” for answer.
He finally told them he no longer wanted to participate in the program and removed the sign.
The officers, however, continued their surveillance of his store over his objections. The officers even put the sign back on his store against his wishes, he said.
Things got worse when Saleh took copies of his video to MGPD Internal Affairs.
One evening, shortly after he had complained a second time, a squadron of six uniformed Miami Gardens police officers marched into the store, he says. They lined up, shoulder to shoulder, their arms crossed in front of them, blocking two grocery aisles.
“Can I help you?” Saleh recalls asking. It was an entire police detail, known as the department’s Rapid Action Deployment (RAD) squad, whom he had come to know from their frequent arrest sweeps. One went to use the restroom, and five of them stood silently for a full 10 minutes. Then they all marched out.
Saleh also details a recent incident where an MGPD officer pulled him over for having a tag light out. By the time it was all done, six officers had arrived on the scene and one searched Saleh’s vehicle without his permission. Saleh’s recordings show him leaving the store that night in his vehicle. His tag lights were working.
As is usually the case in incidents like these, the police department has not offered a comment on this story. Police Chief Matthew Boyd did apparently issue a boilerplate statement about the PD’s “commitment” to “serving and protecting citizens and businesses,” but didn’t address any specific complaints.
Violent crime, particularly murder, has spiked in Miami Gardens in recent months, but this application of “zero tolerance” policies will do very little to bring those numbers down. What it will do, however, is fill activity logs and ledgers that will show the PD is very busy keeping Miami Gardens free of “trespassers” and handing out open container citations. Even if this story hadn’t broken, a few years of skyrocketing arrests and tickets without a corresponding drop in violent crime would have exposed the MGPD’s superficial, shoddy and ultimately unconstitutional efforts.
Saleh’s filing a lawsuit against the city for this non-stop harassment, including warrantless searches of his premises. Not unsurprisingly, the announcement of his litigation has led to a sharp drop in police presence at the 207 Quickstop. Sampson himself hasn’t been arrested since this announcement, either. If the MGPD sincerely believed they were helping curb violent crime by questioning/arresting Sampson and other Quickstop employees and customers, discussion of a lawsuit wouldn’t have deterred those efforts. This withdrawal indicates the cops patrolling Saleh’s store were, to put it most generously, padding arrest numbers. The reality is that they’ve been called out for their harassment of Miami Gardens’ residents and are now making themselves scarce in order to prevent adding to the evidence against them.
Imagine living in a country where armed soldiers crash through doors to arrest and imprison citizens merely for criticizing government officials. Imagine that in this very same country, you’re watched all the time, and if you look even a little bit suspicious, the police stop and frisk you or pull you over to search you on the off chance you’re doing something illegal. Keep in mind that if you have a firearm of any kind while in this country, it may get you arrested and, in some circumstances, shot by police.
If you’re thinking this sounds like America today, you wouldn’t be far wrong. However, the scenario described above took place more than 200 years ago, when American colonists suffered under Great Britain’s version of an early police state. It was only when the colonists finally got fed up with being silenced, censored, searched, frisked, threatened, and arrested that they finally revolted against the tyrant’s fetters.
No document better states their grievances than the Declaration of Independence. A document seething with outrage over a government which had betrayed its citizens, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, by 56 men who laid everything on the line, pledged it all—“our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”—because they believed in a radical idea: that all people are created to be free.
Labeled traitors, these men were charged with treason, a crime punishable by death. For some, their acts of rebellion would cost them their homes and their fortunes. For others, it would be the ultimate price—their lives. Yet even knowing the heavy price they might have to pay, these men dared to speak up when silence could not be tolerated. Even after they had won their independence from Great Britain, these new Americans worked to ensure that the rights they had risked their lives to secure would remain secure for future generations. The result: our Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
Imagine the shock and outrage these 56 men would feel were they to discover that 238 years later, the government they had risked their lives to create has been transformed into a militaristic police state in which exercising one’s freedoms is often viewed as a flagrant act of defiance. Indeed, had the Declaration of Independence been written today, it would have rendered its signers terrorists, resulting in them being placed on a government watch list, targeted for surveillance of their activities and correspondence, and potentially arrested, held indefinitely, stripped of their rights and labeled enemy combatants.
Indeed, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, a cursory review of the true state of our freedoms as outlined in the Bill of Rights shows exactly how dismal things have become:
The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind and protest in peace without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans cannot be silenced by the government. Yet despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Whether it’s a Marine detained for criticizing the government on Facebook, a reporter persecuted for refusing to reveal his sources, or a protester arrested for standing silently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, these are dangerous times for those who choose to exercise their rights.
The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Yet while gun ownership has been recognized as an individual citizen right, Americans continue to face an uphill battle in the courts when it comes to defending themselves against militarized, weaponized government agents armed to the hilt. In fact, court rulings in recent years have affirmed that citizens don’t have the right to resist police officers who enter their homes illegally, mistakenly or otherwise.
The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” Unfortunately, the wall of separation between civilian and military policing has been torn down in recent years, as militarized SWAT teams are now allowed to burst into homes unannounced in order to investigate minor crimes such as marijuana possession and credit card fraud. With domestic police increasingly posing as military forces—complete with weapons, uniforms, assault vehicles, etc.—a good case could be made for the fact that SWAT team raids constitute the forced quartering of soldiers within the private home, which the Third Amendment was written to prevent.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from touching you or placing you under surveillance or entering your property without probable cause and even then, only with a court-sanctioned warrant. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has been all but eviscerated in recent years by court rulings and government programs that sanction all manner of intrusions, including giving police carte blanche authority to break into homes or apartments without a warrant, conduct roadside strip searches, and generally manhandle any person in manner they see fit. Moreover, in the so-called name of national security, intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency now have the ability to conduct mass unwarranted electronic intrusions into the personal and private transactions of all Americans, including phone, mail, computer and medical records. All of this data is available to other government agencies, including local police.
The Fifth Amendment is supposed to ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without following strict legal guidelines. Unfortunately, those protections have been largely extinguished in recent years, especially in the wake of Congress’ passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the president and the military to arrest and detain Americans indefinitely without due process.
The Sixth Amendment was intended to not only ensure a “speedy and public trial,” but it was supposed to prevent the government from keeping someone in jail for unspecified offenses. That too has been a casualty of the so-called war on terror. Between the NDAA’s indefinite detention clause and the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) legislation, which has been used as justification for using drones to kill American citizens in the absence of a court trial, the Sixth Amendment’s guarantees become meaningless.
The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. However, when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears.
The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether. America’s continued reliance on the death penalty, which has been shown to be flawed in its application and execution, is a perfect example of this.
The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so. Thus, once the government began violating the non-enumerated rights granted in the Ninth Amendment, it was only a matter of time before it began to trample the enumerated rights of the people, as explicitly spelled out in the rest of the Bill of Rights.
As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC power elite—the president, Congress and the courts. Indeed, the federal governmental bureaucracy has grown so large that it has made local and state legislatures relatively irrelevant. Through its many agencies, the federal government has stripped states of the right to regulate countless issues that were originally governed at the local level.
Thus, even on those rare occasions when the courts provide us with a slight glimmer of hope that all may not be lost, those brief reprieves of judicial sensibility are quickly overwhelmed by a bureaucratic machine that continues to march relentlessly in lockstep with the police state.
This brings me back to those 56 men who risked everything—their fortunes and their lives—to speak truth to power in that sweltering Philadelphia heat 238 summers ago. Of those 56 signers, 9 died during the Revolution, 5 were captured by British soldiers, 18 had their homes looted and burned by the Red Coats, 2 were wounded in battle and 2 lost their sons during the war. Remarkably, these men—who were community leaders, business owners, judges, lawyers and inventors—sacrificed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor so that you and I could live freely in a nation where we have the right to stand up and speak out against tyrannical government. In the face of torture and even death, they did not waver.
The choice before us is clear. In the words of Patrick Henry, will we choose dangerous freedom or peaceful slavery?
TODAY 19 REASIONS THE GOVERNMENT MIGHT THINK YOU ARE DOMESTIC TERRORIST.
1. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my government perpetrating crimes against the world . (Iraq, Ukraine, Syria,
2. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my government stripping me of my constitutional rights.
3. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my government and there immigration laws.
4. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with no knock raids by law enforcement officers. (includes
DHS,ATF,NSA, SWAT Teams BLM)
5. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with the governments version of what happen on 9/11.
6. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my governments version of what happen at the Sandy Hook School
7. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my governments version of what happened at the Boston bombings
8.. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my government on the right to keep and bear arms.
9. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my government on the NSA’s right to spy on me.
10. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with the president of the United States.
11. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I am
not a Democrat.
12. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my government forcing health care I cannot afford.
13. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
speak out about the crimes my governments commits.
14. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I question my Government.
15. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I am
an American veteran.
16. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my government on gay rights.
17. I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because I
disagree with my government on freedom of religion.
18 I am a domestic terrorist in my own country because my
government disagrees with me for being prepared for having a supply of food and
water in case of a local or national emergency.(Also known as being a prepper).
19. I am a domestic
terrorist in the eyes of my government because I am an American citizen