What'cha Gonna Do When They Come For You?

Today we have a post from Peace Tree contributing author, Chris Wilcox.
Good question, Chris.
The link to the complete video of the brutal and repeated use of a taser upon Mostafa Tabatabainejad - a 23-year old UCLA senior that was taped by a fellow student follows this post.

What'cha Gonna Do When They Come For You?
By Chris Wilcox

Scary news was all around over the weekend. I am trying to understand what the hell is going on in this country when we witness things like the tazzering of an Iranian-American UCLA student for objecting to being profiled for an id check in the UCLA library. Or, when we see helpless women janitors trampled by jack-booted police mounted on horseback in Houston because they were demonstrating for higher wages. These two horrid examples of police brutality on top the administrations plans to push their warrantless wiretapping agenda through the lame duck congress make me fearful that we are sliding the slippery slope to living in a police state. How did we get to a point where our government will result to physical violence as a means of moving people out of sight that are peacefully expressing that they feel oppressed?

These were not situations where people were belligerently threatening or causing real or potential harm to anybody. In the first example, the student at UCLA objected to a random request to show his student ID to “Community Service Officers” (CSO) because he was singled out for his Middle Eastern appearance. The second example involves Service Employees International Workers (SEIU) in Houston that were beginning to sit down peacefully for a non-violent act of civil disobedience.

The University student was sitting in the library finishing up an assignment which was due this coming Wednesday. He objected to being requested to present his student ID while the numerous white students around him were not approached. The CSO’s left and later returned with police officers. When they arrived the student had already packed his computer and was heading out of the library. The police officers grabbed him by the arm and the student, already disturbed that he had been racially profiled, demanded that the police get their hands off of him. When a second officer approached the student fell limply to the ground as an act of civil disobedience. He was then tazzered five separate times as the police attempted to remove him from the library. It is highly probable, from watching the video, that the young man was incapacitated by the initial tazer shock and unable to leave the library.

Tom Balanoff, the Houston janitors’ chief contract negotiator reported, “The Houston Police Department was contacted prior to today’s demonstration to explain their plan and reasons for demonstrating in order to ensure that exactly this type of incident would be avoided.” What happened was the women workers were violently charged into by mounted police officers in an attempt to disassemble their protest. The Janitors who make $20 a day with no health insurance were risking arrest in order to better provide for their families. Workers report they were stepped on by horses leaving an unknown number of protestors with bruises and other injuries. An 83 year-old janitor from New York City, was rushed to Ben Taub Hospital for an injury sustained on her arm.

While examples of excessive force are not new in America these particular examples are a glaring reminder that we have not evolved as much as we may have imagined. The lessons of Rodney King and Robert Davis, the retired school teacher in New Orleans, have had little effect on police training across the land. You would think at a minimum the police would be aware that no matter where they go there is a great chance that video will record the event. What is particularly cause for alarm at this point in history is that we are witnessing these events while there are plans for our Congress to pass legislation which will diminish our Fourth Amendment Rights. In the most extreme example it is frightening to imagine that the police would have the power to collect information on you with no oversight and then inflict punishment on you without the protections afforded by our Bill of Rights.

Proponents of warrantless spying on Americans living inside the United States claim the President needs authority to conduct warrantless surveillance to counter threats directed at the country from abroad. Opponent’s claim that the absence of congressional checks and balances have led to intelligence powers turning from foreign foes toward domestic political opponents, from real enemies of the nation onto those whose views the executive branch disdains.

Provision is already in place to protect our national security as provided in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. (FISA) Under the provisions of FISA the President may authorize, through the Attorney General, electronic surveillance without a court order for the period of one year provided it is only for foreign intelligence information. The act also provides for the interception of communications between foreign nationals and American citizens but probable cause must be demonstrated and a warrant must be acquired. In practice the reality is that the requirement of a warrant has not been a hindrance in gathering intelligence. Between the years of 1979 and 1999 FISC courts granted 11,833 warrants and rejected none. Furthermore there is no obstruction to the gathering of such information because the intelligence agency, with probable cause, can put their surveillance in place and has up to 30 days to obtain the warrant to make the surveillance admissible.

The idea that the government needs an ability to circumvent the Fourth Amendment and deny our protection of unreasonable searches and seizures in light of an increasing occurrence of strong armed police actions should be alarming to every citizen in America. Current laws give the government all of the resources they need to protect us from terrorism. The only possible justification for warrantless spying on Americans would be the prohibition of dissention. The widely misappropriated quote to Thomas Jefferson, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” seems antiquated and irrelevant to those who subscribe to the propaganda distributed from the White House. The notion of patriotism has been distorted to deflect criticism and mislead the nation. There are many who would say they do not mind if the government listens to their phone calls because they need to in order to protect us. Others justify their loss of rights by stating that they aren’t doing anything wrong so they have nothing to worry about. Perhaps Benjamin Franklin was ahead of his time when he said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

Christopher David Peter Wilcox


The video.

Peace y'all


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