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Good morning, City Desk readers (both insured and uninsured), and welcome to our muggiest Freedom Friday yet! Bad ideas thrive on attention, and the Henry Louis Gates Jr. story is getting a ton of it. According to the arrest report, which Gates has said contains “fabrications,” the arresting officer asked Gates to come outside and for his ID and Gates initially refused to cooperate. He was then able to prove himself the resident of the home and was instead arrested for being belligerent.
In essence, Gates was arrested for saying that he felt violated and oppressed on his own property. And President Barack Obama was right: The Cambridge police did “act stupidly.” The arresting officer, Sergeant Jim Crowley, claims “there was a lot of yelling, there was references to my mother,” and yet neither charge would hold up even as a ticketable offense.
But for the record, finding yourself in handcuffs after arguing with a police officer isn’t something that just happens to blacks and Latinos. Cops everywhere are always on the lookout for opportunities to assert their authority, and, as in Gates’ case, they’ll gladly misinterpret public safety laws in order to show a civilian who’s the boss.
Need another example of the universality of angry cops asserting their authority for no good reason? Last night, libertarian activistis J.D. Talley and Pete Eyre were turned away at the Canadian border after being detained for over four hours. The two are touring the U.S. and Canada as part of the Motorhome Diaries; basically, happy hours, talks, and meet-ups with other libertarians. Pretty harmless, right?
“[The mobile home was] searched by both state agents and the K-9 patrol. The MHD Guys were filming as the neared the check point, but the video was deleted and they were informed if they continued to film, record, or take pictures they would be arrested. A box of literature from the Alliance of the Libertarian Left was taken, and a copy of Crispin Sartwell’s “Against the State” was left out on the counter….
Their laptops are now in the possession of the state agents…
One agent has accused them of ’spreading misinformation.’
The guys have been told that the state agents are looking for “Pornography or Heinous Propaganda.” When asked for a definition of “Heinous Propaganda” or the applicable statute they were told it was available online, but they don’t have computers or Internet access.
Update 3: Computers returned, State Agents still in possession of box of ALL Literature.
The Canadian border patrol cited an incident in Jones County, Mississippi as the reason for denying Eyre and Talley entrance. We wrote about the same incident many Freedom Fridays back. To refresh your memory: Talley, Eyre, and an additional friend—all of them white—were pulled over by a Mississippi law enforcement officer. When the Motorhome Diaries crew asked why they had been pulled over and then refused to identify themselves until the officer answered them, the officer placed all three men under arrest, charged them with violating bogus public safety laws, and impounded their vehicle. They were held overnight and lost a lot of money in incarceration fees to the Jones County Sheriff’s Office.
In short, the color problem—which is real—is subsumed by the much, much larger cop problem, which affects everyone, even if it affects minorities disproportionately more so. We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the petty cases and we shouldn’t lose sight of this once Gates has won his lawsuit.