Federal Judge Katherine recently put in place a permanent injunction to block the Obama Administration from implementing the indefinite detention portions of the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act. President Obama has appealed this decision. In this law, American citizens’ right of due process and trial by jury have been severely weakened if not destroyed. Any citizen considered an ‘associated force’ to terrorism may be held indefinitely. This ambiguous language has left many to question what specifically an ‘associated force’ means.
Fear is a powerful motivator, and as such the government sometimes responds poorly to the irrational fear of its citizens. In 1942, due to a fear of all things Japanese during WWII, the federal government rounded up all the Japanese people they could, including native-born citizens, and placed them in destitute internment camps. Before rounding up Jews and other minorities in concentration camps, the Nazis forced them to identify with yellow badges in the shape of a star, claiming that they were responsible for their country’s problems. Through these events, we learned the hard way that fear and blame, however unfounded, can lead to atrocity.
Comparisons to such human rights abuses are a stretch in today’s case, of course, and perhaps somewhat unfair, and yet the parallels are striking. After 9/11, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York City started enforcing a rule known as “brand or segregate”, in which Sikh and Muslim workers were forced to either mark their turbans with an MTA logo or work out of the sight of the general public. See the similarities? Fueled by xenophobic sentiment after the 9/11 tragedy, the MTA responded to American fear by taking steps to appease it: hide all the scary foreigners, or at least mark them so the good red-blooded Americans know to stay away.
An Ohio teenager won the right to wear a “Jesus is not a homophobe” t-shirt at his high school. Maverick Couch first wore the t-shirt in April 2011 to commemorate a “Day of Silence”, an event where participants remain silent throughout the day, representative of the inability of many LGBT students to speak out against bullying due to fear, undeserved shame, doubt, etc. Being a young gay man himself and participating in an LGBT awareness event, Maverick thought nothing much of donning his thought-provoking and pro-LGBT t-shirt. The Powers that Be at the high school, however, probably incensed that dem der homos get a whole day to themselves in the first place, told Maverick that he had to wear the shirt inside-out in order to hide the supposedly-incendiary message. Later that same year, Maverick asked his principal for permission to wear the shirt again. This time, he was threatened with suspension if he wore the shirt. Unfortunately for the high school, instead of wearing the shirt, Maverick decided to sue the school, alleging that his First Amendment rights were trounced. The suit snowballed, and soon brought the controversy to a global audience, providing yet more evidence that the Streisand Effect should not be taken lightly.
The news in the past couple of days has been awash with the announcement of the California Supreme Court task force’s report on the infamous UC Davis pepper spraying incident. The report had been delayed by lawsuits citing privacy and safety concerns for the police officers involved, but was finally release yesterday after a settlement allowed its publication sans said officers names. The Chicago Tribune offers a good summary of the 190-page report, but I’ll do you one better: the pepper spray attack was a joint effort between UC Davis’s moronic decision making and overzealous policemen.
While this was happening, though, a smaller settlement was announced that seems to have slipped through the cracks of mainstream news.
Two court settlements have come down this week that shine light on the increasingly-common practice of videotaping police officers. In Las Vegas, Mitchell Crooks was beaten up by a police officer while videotaping a burglary investigation across the street from his house. In Boston, attorney Simon Glik was arrested and prosecuted under wiretapping laws for using his cell phone to record an arrest of another man. All charges were dropped in both cases, but both men also sued for violations to their civil rights. In both cases, they reached a settlement before going to court for a judgement, with Crooks receiving $100,000 and Glik receiving $170,000. Nearly 6 months ago, Glik’s case even went to the 1st Circuit Appeals Court, where they upheld the rights of citizens to record public police action in a landmark, often-cited decision.