“If the freedom of speech be taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”—George Washington

The architects of the American police state must think we’re idiots.

With every passing day, we’re being moved further down the road towards a totalitarian society characterized by government censorship, violence, corruption, hypocrisy and intolerance, all packaged for our supposed benefit in the Orwellian doublespeak of national security, tolerance and so-called “government speech.”

Long gone are the days when advocates of free speech could prevail in a case such as Tinker v. Des Moines. Indeed, it’s been 50 years since 13-year-old Mary Beth Tinker was suspended for wearing a black armband to school in protest of the Vietnam War. In taking up her case, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Were Tinker to make its way through the courts today, it would have to overcome the many hurdles being placed in the path of those attempting to voice sentiments that may be construed as unpopular, offensive, conspiratorial, violent, threatening or anti-government.

Consider, if you will, that the U.S. Supreme Court, historically a champion of the First Amendment, has declared that citizens can exercise their right to free speech everywhere it’s lawful—online, in social media, on a public sidewalk, etc.—as long as they don’t do so in front of the Court itself.

What is the rationale for upholding this ban on expressive activity on the Supreme Court plaza?

“Allowing demonstrations directed at the Court, on the Court’s own front terrace, would tend to yield the…impression…of a Court engaged with — and potentially vulnerable to — outside entreaties by the public.”

Translation: The appellate court that issued that particular ruling in Hodge v. Talkin actually wants us to believe that the Court is so impressionable that the justices could be swayed by the sight of a single man, civil rights activist Harold Hodge, standing alone and silent in the snow in a 20,000 square-foot space in front of the Supreme Court building wearing a small sign protesting the toll the police state is taking on the lives of black and Hispanic Americans. [You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xy1HQm67b2c]

My friends, we’re being played for fools.

The Supreme Court is not going to be swayed by you or me or Harold Hodge.

For that matter, the justices—all of whom hale from one of two Ivy League schools (Harvard or Yale) and most of whom are now millionaires and enjoy such rarefied privileges as lifetime employment, security details, ample vacations and travel perks—are anything but impartial.

If they are partial, it is to those with whom they are on intimate terms: with Corporate America and the governmental elite who answer to them, and they show their favor by investing in their businesses, socializing at their events, and generally marching in lockstep with their values and desires in and out of the courtroom.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 9.56.09 AMTo suggest that Harold Hodge, standing in front of the Supreme Court building on a day when the Court was not in session hearing arguments or issuing rulings, is a threat to the Court’s neutrality, while their dalliances with Corporate America is not, is utter hypocrisy.

Making matters worse, the Supreme Court has the effrontery to suggest that the government can discriminate freely against First Amendment activity that takes place within a government forum. Justifying such discrimination as “government speech,” the Court ruled that the Texas Dept. of Motor Vehicles could refuse to issue specialty license plate designs featuring a Confederate battle flag because it was offensive.

If it were just the courts suppressing free speech, that would be one thing to worry about, but First Amendment activities are being pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country.

The reasons for such censorship vary widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remains the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the “principal pillar of a free government.”

Officials at the University of Tennessee, for instance, recently introduced an Orwellian policy that would prohibit students from using gender specific pronouns and be more inclusive by using gender “neutral” pronouns such as ze, hir, zir, xe, xem and xyr, rather than he, she, him or her.

On many college campuses, declaring that “America is the land of opportunity” or asking someone “Where were you born?” are now considered microaggressions, “small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless.”  Trigger warnings are also being used to alert students to any material or ideas they might read, see or hear that might upset them.

More than 50 percent of the nation’s colleges, including Boston University, Harvard University, Columbia University and Georgetown University, subscribe to “red light” speech policies that restrict or ban so-called offensive speech, or limit speakers to designated areas on campus. The campus climate has become so hypersensitive that comedians such as Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld refuse to perform stand-up routines to college crowds anymore.

What we are witnessing is an environment in which political correctness has given rise to “vindictive protectiveness,” a term coined by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and educational First Amendment activist Greg Lukianoff. It refers to a society in which “everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression or worse.”

This is particularly evident in the public schools where students are insulated from anything—words, ideas and images—that might create unease or offense. For instance, the thought police at schools in Charleston, South Carolina, have instituted a ban on displaying the Confederate flag on clothing, jewelry and even cars on campus.

Added to this is a growing list of programs, policies, laws and cultural taboos that defy the First Amendment’s safeguards for expressive speech and activity. Yet as First Amendment scholar Robert Richards points out, “The categories of speech that fall outside of [the First Amendment’s] protection are obscenity, child pornography, defamation, incitement to violence and true threats of violence. Even in those categories, there are tests that have to be met in order for the speech to be illegal. Beyond that, we are free to speak.”

Technically, Richards is correct. On paper, we are free to speak.

In reality, however, we are only as free to speak as a government official may allow.

Free speech zones, bubble zones, trespass zones, anti-bullying legislation, zero tolerance policies, hate crime laws and a host of other legalistic maladies dreamed up by politicians and prosecutors have conspired to corrode our core freedoms.

Battlefield_Cover_300As a result, we are no longer a nation of constitutional purists for whom the Bill of Rights serves as the ultimate authority. As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have litigated and legislated our way into a new governmental framework where the dictates of petty bureaucrats carry greater weight than the inalienable rights of the citizenry.

It may seem trivial to be debating the merits of free speech at a time when unarmed citizens are being shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, challenge an order, or just breathe.

However, while the First Amendment provides no tangible protection against a gun wielded by a government agent, nor will it save you from being wrongly arrested or illegally searched, or having your property seized in order to fatten the wallets of government agencies, without the First Amendment, we are utterly helpless.

It’s not just about the right to speak freely, or pray freely, or assemble freely, or petition the government for a redress of grievances, or have a free press. The unspoken freedom enshrined in the First Amendment is the right to think freely and openly debate issues without being muzzled or treated like a criminal.

Just as surveillance has been shown to “stifle and smother dissent, keeping a populace cowed by fear,” government censorship gives rise to self-censorship, breeds compliance and makes independent thought all but impossible.

In the end, censorship and political correctness not only produce people that cannot speak for themselves but also people who cannot think for themselves. And a citizenry that can’t think for itself is a citizenry that will neither rebel against the government’s dictates nor revolt against the government’s tyranny.

The end result: a nation of sheep who willingly line up for the slaughterhouse.

The cluttered cultural American landscape today is one in which people are so distracted by the military-surveillance-entertainment complex that critical thinkers are in the minority and frank, unfiltered, uncensored speech is considered uncivil, uncouth and unacceptable.

That’s the point, of course.

The architects, engineers and lever-pullers who run the American police state want us to remain deaf, dumb and silent. They want our children raised on a vapid diet of utter nonsense, where common sense is in short supply and the only viewpoint that matters is the government’s.

We are becoming a nation of idiots, encouraged to spout political drivel and little else.

In so doing, we have adopted the lexicon of Newspeak, the official language of George Orwell’s fictional Oceania, which was “designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought.” As Orwell explained in 1984, “The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc [the state ideology of Oceania], but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”

If Orwell envisioned the future as a boot stamping on a human face, a fair representation of our present day might well be a muzzle on that same human face.

If we’re to have any hope for the future, it will rest with those ill-mannered, bad-tempered, uncivil, discourteous few who are disenchanted enough with the status quo to tell the government to go to hell using every nonviolent means available.

However, as Orwell warned, you cannot become conscious until you rebel.

WASHINGTON, DC — In a blow to First Amendment rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has upheld as “reasonable” a 60-year old federal statute criminalizing expressive First Amendment activity on the Supreme Court plaza. The appeals court’s ruling reverses a lower court decision in Hodge v. Talkin, et al., that found the ban to be “repugnant” to the Constitution and “unreasonable, substantially overbroad, and irreconcilable with the First Amendment.”

The ruling arose in response to a lawsuit filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute on behalf of activist Harold Hodge, who was arrested while standing silently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on a snowy day wearing a sign voicing his concerns about the government’s disparate treatment of African-Americans and Hispanics.

The opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Hodge v. Talkin is available at www.rutherford.org.

“If citizens cannot stand out in the open and voice their disapproval of their government, its representatives and its policies without fearing prosecution, then the First Amendment is little more than window-dressing on a store window—pretty to look at but serving little real purpose,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Through a series of carefully crafted legislative steps and politically expedient court rulings, government officials have managed to disembowel this fundamental freedom, rendering it with little more meaning than the right to file a lawsuit against government officials. The First Amendment has, for all intents and purposes, become an exercise in futility.”

On January 28, 2011, Harold Hodge quietly and peacefully stood in the plaza area near the steps leading to the United States Supreme Court Building, wearing a 3’ X 2’ sign around his neck that proclaimed: “The U.S. Gov. Allows Police To Illegally Murder And Brutalize African Americans And Hispanic People.” The plaza is a place where the public is allowed to gather and converse, and is in all relevant respects like a public square or park where citizens have traditionally met to express their views on matters of public interest. However, Hodge was handcuffed, placed under arrest, and then transported to U.S. Capitol Police Headquarters for violating 40 U.S.C. § 6135, which broadly makes it unlawful to display any flag, banner, or device designed to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement while on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court, thereby banning expressive activity on the Supreme Court plaza. Institute attorneys subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging § 6135, and in June 2013 a district court judge struck down the law finding it “plainly unconstitutional on its face.”

In response, the government not only appealed that ruling, but the marshal for the Supreme Court—with the approval of Chief Justice John Roberts—issued even more strident regulations outlawing expressive activity on the grounds of the high court, including the plaza. Rutherford Institute attorneys have since filed a related lawsuit challenging the Supreme Court’s more strident regulations. As Whitehead points out, “Ironically, it will be the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court who will eventually be asked to decide the constitutionality of their own statute in this case, yet they have already made their views on the subject quite clear.” Affiliate attorney Jeffrey Light is assisting The Rutherford Institute with Hodge.

Support the Fight


The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Va., is deeply committed to protecting the constitutional freedoms of every American and the integral human rights of all people through its extensive legal and educational programs. The Institute provides its legal services at no charge to those whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

Every dollar donated to support The Rutherford Institute’s legal and educational work helps to safeguard someone’s constitutional rights and religious freedoms. Whether you are a new donor, a Supporting Member wishing to renew your gift, or interested in becoming a Supporting Member, your generous support is crucial to continuing success in The Rutherford Institute’s fight for freedom.

The Rutherford Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which are deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes.

You can use your credit or debit card to make an online donation right now—it’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s totally secure.


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To mail your donation or for more information on any of these programs, please contact us at:

The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
Phone: 1-800-225-1791
Fax: 1-434-978-1789
E-mail: finance@rutherford.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of decorated Marine Brandon Raub who was seized by a swarm of Secret Service, FBI and local police officials and involuntarily committed to a mental institution for a week after posting controversial song lyrics and political views critical of the government on his Facebook page. In asking the Supreme Court to reinstate Brandon Raub v. Michael Campbell, Rutherford Institute attorneys are challenging a ruling by a lower court judge who characterized the Institute’s concerns over government suppression of dissident speech as “far-fetched.” Moreover, Institute attorneys are urging the Court to establish standards to guide and constrain mental health professionals when they seek to commit individuals and to prevent commitment on the basis of a person’s exercise of his right to free speech.

The Rutherford Institute’s petition for writ of certiorari in Raub v. Campbell is available at http://www.rutherford.org.

“This case has thus far been the unfortunate victim of a growing trend toward granting government officials—be they police officers or health care workers—‘qualified immunity’ in lawsuits over alleged constitutional violations,” stated constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “However, as this case makes clear, social media and the Internet have become tools for the government to monitor, control and punish the populace for behavior and speech that may be controversial but are far from criminal. It’s our hope that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the side of free speech and preserve one of the last truly free forums remaining to us in this country.”

Brandon Raub, a decorated Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions. On Aug.16, 2012, Chesterfield police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home, asked to speak with him about his Facebook posts, and without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, handcuffed Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to a medical facility, where he was held against his will for psychological evaluation and treatment. In coming to Raub’s aid, Rutherford Institute attorneys challenged the government’s actions as a violation of Raub’s First and Fourth Amendment rights. On Aug. 23, Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett ordered Raub’s immediate release, stating that the government’s case was “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.” Rutherford Institute attorneys filed a lawsuit in May 2013, challenging the government’s actions as procedurally improper and legally unjustified. In February 2014, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, rejecting concerns over government suppression of dissident speech as “far-fetched.” On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Institute attorneys claimed that the Chesterfield County mental health screener who recommended Raub’s seizure and commitment failed to exercise reasonable professional judgment in wrongly determining that Raub was mentally ill and dangerous, and that Raub’s seizure and detention were the result of a mental health screener’s dislike of Raub’s “unpatriotic” views on federal government misconduct, thereby violating the ex-Marine’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The appeals court subsequently affirmed the lower court judgment.

Attorneys William H. Hurd and Stephen C. Piepgrass of Troutman Sanders and Anthony Troy and Charles A. Zdebski of Eckert Seamens Cherin & Mellott are assisting The Rutherford Institute by representing Brandon Raub.

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated.

Support the Fight


The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Va., is deeply committed to protecting the constitutional freedoms of every American and the integral human rights of all people through its extensive legal and educational programs. The Institute provides its legal services at no charge to those whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

Every dollar donated to support The Rutherford Institute’s legal and educational work helps to safeguard someone’s constitutional rights and religious freedoms. Whether you are a new donor, a Supporting Member wishing to renew your gift, or interested in becoming a Supporting Member, your generous support is crucial to continuing success in The Rutherford Institute’s fight for freedom.

The Rutherford Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which are deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes.

You can use your credit or debit card to make an online donation right now—it’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s totally secure.


For PayPal donations, click the button below:


 

To mail your donation or for more information on any of these programs, please contact us at:

The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
Phone: 1-800-225-1791
Fax: 1-434-978-1789
E-mail: finance@rutherford.org

 

VIDEO: They Live, We Sleep: A Dictatorship Disguised as a Democracy

NOW PLAYING: All is not as it seems. In this week’s vodcast, John W. Whitehead looks back on John Carpenter’s iconic film They Live and examines the striking parallels between Carpenter’s nightmarish vision of reality with the current, perilous state of America.

Click here to watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mog7sIipans

Support the Fight


The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Va., is deeply committed to protecting the constitutional freedoms of every American and the integral human rights of all people through its extensive legal and educational programs. The Institute provides its legal services at no charge to those whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

Every dollar donated to support The Rutherford Institute’s legal and educational work helps to safeguard someone’s constitutional rights and religious freedoms. Whether you are a new donor, a Supporting Member wishing to renew your gift, or interested in becoming a Supporting Member, your generous support is crucial to continuing success in The Rutherford Institute’s fight for freedom.

The Rutherford Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which are deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes.

You can use your credit or debit card to make an online donation right now—it’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s totally secure.


For PayPal donations, click the button below:


 

To mail your donation or for more information on any of these programs, please contact us at:

The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
Phone: 1-800-225-1791
Fax: 1-434-978-1789
E-mail: finance@rutherford.org

 

 

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s an ill will blowing across the country. The economy is tanking. The people are directionless, and politics provides no answer. And like former regimes, the militarized police have stepped up to provide a façade of law and order manifested by an overt violence against the citizenry.

Despite the revelations of the past several years, nothing has changed to push back against the American police state. Our freedoms—especially the Fourth Amendment—continue to be choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

Despite the recent outrage and protests, nothing has changed to restore us to our rightful role as having dominion over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with the government.

Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases—these are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials. Thus far, the courts have done little to preserve our Fourth Amendment rights, let alone what shreds of bodily integrity remain to us.

Indeed, on a daily basis, Americans are being forced to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are—our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States.

In other words, we are all guilty until proven innocent.

Worst of all, it seems as if nothing will change as long as the American people remain distracted by politics, divided by their own prejudices, and brainwashed into believing that the Constitution still reigns supreme as the law of the land, when in fact, we have almost completed the shift into fascism.

In other words, despite our occasional bursts of outrage over abusive police practices, sporadic calls for government reform, and periodic bouts of awareness that all is not what it seems, the police state continues to march steadily onward.

Such is life in America today that individuals are being threatened with arrest and carted off to jail for the least hint of noncompliance, homes are being raided by police under the slightest pretext, and roadside police stops have devolved into government-sanctioned exercises in humiliation and degradation with a complete disregard for privacy and human dignity.

Consider, for example, what happened to Charnesia Corley after allegedly being pulled over by Texas police for “rolling” through a stop sign. Claiming they smelled marijuana, police handcuffed Corley, placed her in the back of the police cruiser, and then searched her car for almost an hour. They found nothing in the car.

As the Houston Chronicle reported:

Returning to his car where Corley was held, the deputy again said he smelled marijuana and called in a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she told Corley to pull her pants down, but Corley protested because she was cuffed and had no underwear on. The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, pulled down her pants and began to search her. Then…Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley’s legs apart to conduct the probe.

As shocking and disturbing as it seems, Corley’s roadside cavity search is becoming par for the course in an age in which police are taught to have no respect for the citizenry’s bodily integrity.

For instance, 38-year-old Angel Dobbs and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley, were pulled over by a Texas state trooper on July 13, 2012, allegedly for flicking cigarette butts out of the car window. Insisting that he smelled marijuana, he proceeded to interrogate them and search the car. Despite the fact that both women denied smoking or possessing any marijuana, the police officer then called in a female trooper, who carried out a roadside cavity search, sticking her fingers into the older woman’s anus and vagina, then performing the same procedure on the younger woman, wearing the same pair of gloves. No marijuana was found.

David Eckert was forced to undergo an anal cavity search, three enemas, and a colonoscopy after allegedly failing to yield to a stop sign at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Cops justified the searches on the grounds that they suspected Eckert was carrying drugs because his “posture [was] erect” and “he kept his legs together.” No drugs were found.

Leila Tarantino was subjected to two roadside strip searches in plain view of passing traffic during a routine traffic stop, while her two children—ages 1 and 4—waited inside her car. During the second strip search, presumably in an effort to ferret out drugs, a female officer “forcibly removed” a tampon from Tarantino. Nothing illegal was found. Nevertheless, such searches have been sanctioned by the courts, especially if accompanied by a search warrant (which is easily procured), as justified in the government’s pursuit of drugs and weapons.

Meanwhile, four Milwaukee police officers were charged with carrying out rectal searches of suspects on the street and in police district stations over the course of several years. One of the officers was accused of conducting searches of men’s anal and scrotal areas, often inserting his fingers into their rectums and leaving some of his victims with bleeding rectums. Halfway across the country, the city of Oakland, California, agreed to pay $4.6 million to 39 men who had their pants pulled down by police on city streets between 2002 and 2009.

It’s gotten so bad that you don’t even have to be suspected of possessing drugs to be subjected to a strip search.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Florence v. Burlington, any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials without reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband.

Examples of minor infractions which have resulted in strip searches include: individuals arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, driving with an inoperable headlight, failing to use a turn signal, riding a bicycle without an audible bell, making an improper left turn, engaging in an antiwar demonstration (the individual searched was a nun, a Sister of Divine Providence for 50 years). Police have also carried out strip searches for passing a bad check, dog leash violations, filing a false police report, failing to produce a driver’s license after making an illegal left turn, having outstanding parking tickets, and public intoxication. A failure to pay child support can also result in a strip search.

It must be remembered that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to prevent government agents from searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause (evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot). While the literal purpose of the amendment is to protect our property and our bodies from unwarranted government intrusion, the moral intention behind it is to protect our human dignity.

Unfortunately, the indignities being heaped upon us by the architects and agents of the American police state—whether or not we’ve done anything wrong—don’t end with roadside strip searches. They’re just a foretaste of what is to come.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government doesn’t need to strip you naked by the side of the road in order to render you helpless. It has other methods, less subtle perhaps but equally humiliating, devastating and mind-altering, of stripping you of your independence, robbing you of your dignity, and undermining your rights.

With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to a society in which we have little real control over our lives. As Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone and an insightful commentator on human nature, once observed, “We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

Indeed, not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them—tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on.

In this way, we have created a welfare state, a nanny state, a police state, a surveillance state, an electronic concentration camp—call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have no true freedom.

Government surveillance, police abuse, SWAT team raids, economic instability, asset forfeiture schemes, pork barrel legislation, militarized police, drones, endless wars, private prisons, involuntary detentions, biometrics databases, free speech zones, etc.: these are mile markers on the road to a fascist state where citizens are treated like cattle, to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse.

If there is any hope to be found it will be found in local, grassroots activism. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., it’s time for “militant nonviolent resistance.”

First, however, Americans must break free of the apathy-inducing turpor of politics, entertainment spectacles and manufactured news. Only once we are free of the chains that bind us—or to be more exact, the chains that “blind” us—can we become actively aware of the injustices taking place around us and demand freedom of our oppressors.

“The people have the power, all we have to do is awaken that power in the people. The people are unaware. They’re not educated to realize that they have power. The system is so geared that everyone believes the government will fix everything. We are the government.”—John Lennon

Saddled with a corporate media that marches in lockstep with the government, elected officials who dance to the tune of their corporate benefactors, and a court system that serves to maintain order rather than mete out justice, Americans often feel as if they have no voice, no authority and no recourse when it comes to holding government officials accountable and combatting rampant corruption and injustice.

We’re impotent in the face of SWAT teams that break down doors and leave toddlers scarred for life. We’re helpless to prevent police shootings that leave unarmed citizens dead for no other reason than the police officer involved felt “threatened.” We shrug dismissively over the plight of fellow citizens who have their heads cracked, their bodies broken and their rights violated for failing to jump to attention when a police officer issues an order. And we fail to care about the thousands of individuals who have been punished with extreme sentences for nonviolent offenses and are forced to spend their lives as modern-day slaves in bondage to private prisons and the profit-driven corporations they serve.

Make no mistake about it: virtually anything and everything is a crime nowadays (feeding the birds, growing vegetables in your front yard, etc.) to such an extent that if a prosecutor, police officer and judge were so inclined, you could be locked up for any inane reason.

This is tyranny dressed up in the official garb of the police state. It is the self-righteous, heavy-handed arm of the law being used as a decoy to divert your attention to the so-called criminals in your midst (the fisherman who threw back small fish into the ocean, the mother who let her child walk to the playground alone, the pastor holding Bible studies in his backyard) so that you don’t focus on the criminal behavior being perpetrated by the government (bribery, cronyism, electoral fraud, slush funds, graft, pork, theft, and on and on).

In the face of such abject injustice, outright corruption and overt inequality, it’s hard to feel empowered to believe the average citizen can make a difference. It’s hard to persuade anyone to stand against tyranny when all you can promise them as a reward is persecution, prosecution and a one-way trip to the morgue. And when the outcome seems to be a foregone conclusion—the government always wins—it can seem pointless, even foolhardy, to dare to challenge the system. As such, it’s far easier to buy into the political process, even though elections amount to nothing of consequence.

There are also those who subscribe to the notion that an armed revolution is the only thing that will save America. These armed resistors are making themselves easy targets and will be the first to be taken down by militarized police who are trained to kill and armed to the teeth with every kind of weapon imaginable, from grenade launchers and sniper rifles to armored vehicles and Black Hawk helicopters.

So how do you not only push back against the police state’s bureaucracy, corruption and cruelty but also launch a counterrevolution aimed at reclaiming control over the government using nonviolent means?

You start by changing the rules and engaging in some (nonviolent) guerilla tactics.

Employ militant nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience, which Martin Luther King Jr. used to great effect through the use of sit-ins, boycotts and marches.

Take part in grassroots activism, which takes a trickle-up approach to governmental reform by implementing change at the local level (in other words, think nationally, but act locally).

And then, while you’re at it, nullify everything the government does that is illegitimate, egregious or blatantly unconstitutional.

Various cities and states have been using this historic doctrine with mixed results on issues as wide ranging as gun control and healthcare to “claim freedom from federal laws they find onerous or wrongheaded.”

Where nullification can be particularly powerful, however, is in the hands of the juror.

As law professor Ilya Somin explains, jury nullification is the practice by which a jury refuses to convict someone accused of a crime if they believe the “law in question is unjust or the punishment is excessive.”

According to former federal prosecutor Paul Butler, the doctrine of jury nullification is “premised on the idea that ordinary citizens, not government officials, should have the final say as to whether a person should be punished.”

Imagine that: a world where the citizenry—not the government or its corporate controllers—actually calls the shots and determines what is just.

In a world of “rampant overcriminalization,” where the average citizen unknowingly breaks three laws a day, jury nullification acts as “a check on runaway authoritarian criminalization and the increasing network of confusing laws that are passed with neither the approval nor oftentimes even the knowledge of the citizenry.”

Indeed, Butler believes so strongly in the power of nullification to balance the scales between the power of the prosecutor and the power of the people that he advises:

If you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote “not guilty” — even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adult. As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer.

In other words, it’s “we the people” who can and should be determining what laws are just, what activities are criminal and who can be jailed for what crimes.

Not only should the punishment fit the crime, but the laws of the land should also reflect the concerns of the citizenry as opposed to the profit-driven priorities of Corporate America.

Unfortunately, for thousands of Americans who are serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes as a result of harsh mandatory sentencing laws passed by “tough on crime” politicians, the punishment rarely fits the crime.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, with every ill inflicted upon us by the American police state, from overcriminalization and surveillance to militarized police and private prisons, it’s money that drives the police state. And there is a lot of money to be made from criminalizing nonviolent activities and jailing Americans for nonviolent offenses.

This is where the power of jury nullification is so critical: to reject inane laws and extreme sentences and counteract the edicts of a profit-driven governmental elite that sees nothing wrong with jailing someone for a lifetime for a relatively insignificant crime.

Of course, the powers-that-be don’t want the citizenry to know that it has any power at all.

Battlefield_Cover_300They would prefer that we remain clueless about the government’s many illicit activities, ignorant about our constitutional rights, and powerless to bring about any real change. Indeed, so determined are they to keep us in the dark about the powers vested in “we the people” that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1895 that jurors had no right during trials to be told about nullification.

Moreover, anyone daring to educate a jury about nullification runs the risk of prosecution. Just recently, for example, 56-year-old Mark Iannicelli was charged with seven counts of jury tampering for handing out jury nullification fliers outside a Denver courtroom. Now Iannicelli is not being accused of advocating for or against any case in progress, nor is he charged with targeting any particular members of the jury. Nevertheless, Iannicelli could be sentenced to one to three years in prison because he dared to educate the jurors about an option that no judge or prosecutor ever mentions in court: the right to acquit someone who may be guilty if they also believe that the law is unjust.

Such intimidation tactics proved less successful when used against Julian Heicklen, who was accused of jury tampering for handing out nullifications pamphlets in Manhattan. A federal district court judge found Heicklen not only innocent of the charge of jury tampering, but went so far as to warn that the law—18 U.S.C. § 1504—raises significant First Amendment concerns (“the First Amendment squarely protects speech concerning judicial proceedings and public debate regarding the functioning of the judicial system, so long as that speech does not interfere with the fair and impartial administration of justice”).

Jury nullification has played a significant role in our nation’s history. It was championed early on by John Hancock and John Adams and relied on at various points since then to push back against laws deemed egregious, unjust or simply out of step with the times. Most recently, jury nullification has become a popular tactic to thwart laws that mandate harsh punishments for those convicted of possessing even minimal amounts of marijuana.

For instance, in one case I worked on years ago, a jury refused to convict a 54-year-old man who had been charged with possession of marijuana. Prosecutors claimed that a SWAT team, doing an area-wide land and air sweep, had spotted two marijuana plants growing in the hollow of a dead tree on the man’s 39-acre property. Had the man been found guilty, he would have been sentenced to jail and his 90-year-old mother, blind, deaf and dependent on him for care, would have had to be institutionalized.

In delivering his closing arguments, the prosecutor warned the jury that disagreement with the laws against pot possession and disapproval of police tactics are not valid reasons to nullify a case. Of course, those are exactly the reasons why more Americans should opt for nullification.

In an age in which government officials accused of wrongdoing—police officers, elected officials, etc.—are treated with general leniency, while the average citizen is prosecuted to the full extent of the law, jury nullification is a powerful reminder that, as the Constitution tells us, “we the people” are the government.

For too long we’ve allowed our so-called “representatives” to call the shots. Now it’s time to restore the citizenry to their rightful place in the republic: as the masters, not the servants.

Jury nullification is one way of doing so.

The reality with which we must contend is that justice in America is reserved for those who can afford to buy their way out of jail.

For the rest of us who are dependent on the “fairness” of the system, there exists a multitude of ways in which justice can and does go wrong every day. Police misconduct. Prosecutorial misconduct. Judicial bias. Inadequate defense. Prosecutors who care more about winning a case than seeking justice. Judges who care more about what is legal than what is just. Jurors who know nothing of the law and are left to deliberate in the dark about life-and-death decisions. And an overwhelming body of laws, statutes and ordinances that render the average American a criminal, no matter how law-abiding they might think themselves.

As I’ve said before, when you go into a courtroom, you’re going up against three adversaries who more often than not are operating off the same playbook: the police, the prosecutor and the judge.

If you’re to have any hope of remaining free—and I use that word loosely—your best bet remains in your fellow citizens.

They may not know what the Constitution says (studies have shown Americans to be abysmally ignorant about their rights), they may not know what the laws are (there are so many on the books that the average American breaks three laws a day without knowing it), and they may not even believe in your innocence, but if you’re lucky, they will have a conscience that speaks louder than the legalistic tones of the prosecutors and the judges and reminds them that justice and fairness go hand in hand.

That’s ultimately what jury nullification is all about: restoring a sense of fairness to our system of justice. It’s the best protection for “we the people” against the oppression and tyranny of the government, and God knows, we can use all the protection we can get.

Most of all, jury nullification is a powerful way to remind the government—all of those bureaucrats who have appointed themselves judge, jury and jailer over all that we are, have and do—that we’re the ones who set the rules.

If they don’t like it, they can get another job.

NORFOLK, Va. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the City of Hampton and three of its police officers for violating the free speech rights of two street preachers. In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of Don Karns and Nathan Magnusen, Rutherford Institute attorneys are challenging a Hampton, Va., law restricting voice amplifiers that was used to cite, convict and arrest the street preachers for sharing their message amidst crowds gathered for the City’s Hampton Bay Days. The complaint alleges that the noise ordinance that was the basis for the citations and subsequent prosecution of Karns and Magnusen is an unreasonable, vague and overbroad regulation of constitutionally-protected speech and requests that the court strike down the law.

The Rutherford Institute’s complaint in Karns v. City of Hampton is available at www.rutherford.org.

“The United States has historically stood for unfettered free speech, which is vital to a functioning democracy. Unfortunately, the tendency on the part of government and law enforcement officials to purge dissent has largely undermined the First Amendment’s safeguards for political free speech,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Whether you’re talking about a noise ordinance or a so-called free speech zone, the message from government officials is the same—there is no longer any such thing as unfettered free speech in America today.”

Don Karns and Nathan Magnusen are street preachers who regularly engage in free speech activities on sidewalks and streets as an expression of their sincerely held religious beliefs. On or about September 6, 2013, the two men engaged attended Hampton Bay Days, a festival that used to be held in downtown Hampton which attracted large crowds and numerous exhibitors. Because the ambient noise makes communication difficult, Karns and Magnusen used small amplifiers to moderately increase the volume of their voices so that their message could be heard. Although the pair conducted themselves lawfully, the complaint alleges that they were approached by two Hampton police officers who threatened to arrest them and issue criminal summonses to them if they did not stop using the amplifiers. When Karns and Magnusen failed to comply, Karns was issued a summons for “loud noise” in violation of the City’s noise ordinance. Magnusen was arrested for not producing a license or identifying himself to the satisfaction of the police officers, transported to Hampton City Jail, and subsequently issued a summons for operating a sound device without a permit in violation of the City code. Although the preachers were initially convicted on the charges, the charges were eventually dropped after they appealed. Magnusen returned to the Hampton Bay Days in September 2014 and was again cited for using an amplifier, but the charge was again dropped. In filing suit against the City and its police officers on behalf of the street preachers, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the restriction on amplifiers applied by the City in this case unreasonably interferes with the First Amendment rights of citizens to communicate with others in a public forum.

Attorney Steve C. Taylor of Chesapeake, Va., is assisting The Rutherford Institute in its defense of Don Karns’ and Nathan Magnusen’s First Amendment rights.

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated.

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