Posts Tagged ‘police state’

“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”—Thomas Paine

“When the government violates the people’s rights, insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensable of duties.”—Marquis De Lafayette

Had the Declaration of Independence been written today, it would have rendered its signers extremists or 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.

This is no longer the stuff of speculation and warning.

In fact, Attorney General William Barr recently announced plans to target, track and surveil “anti-government extremists” and preemptively nip in the bud any “threats” to  public safety and the rule of law.

It doesn’t matter that the stated purpose of Barr’s anti-government extremist task force is to investigate dissidents on the far right (the “boogaloo” movement) and far left (antifa, a loosely organized anti-fascist group) who have been accused of instigating violence and disrupting peaceful protests.

Boogaloo and Antifa have given the government the perfect excuse for declaring war (with all that entails: surveillance, threat assessments, pre-crime, etc.) against so-called anti-government extremists.

Without a doubt, America’s revolutionary founders would have been at the top of Barr’s list.

After all, the people who fomented the American Revolution spoke out at rallies, distributed critical pamphlets, wrote scathing editorials and took to the streets in protest. They were rebelling against a government they saw as being excessive in its taxation and spending. For their efforts, they were demonized and painted as an angry mob, extremists akin to terrorists, by the ruler of the day, King George III.

Of course, it doesn’t take much to be considered an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) today.

If you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched by the police, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you’re at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.

Indeed, under Barr’s new task force, I and every other individual today who dares to speak truth to power could also be targeted for surveillance, because what we’re really dealing with is a government that wants to suppress dangerous words—words about its warring empire, words about its land grabs, words about its militarized police, words about its killing, its poisoning and its corruption—in order to keep its lies going.

This is how the government plans to snuff out any attempts by “we the people” to stand up to its tyranny: under the pretext of rooting out violent extremists, the government’s anti-extremism program will, in many cases, be utilized to render otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.

The danger is real.

Keep in mind that the government agencies involved in ferreting out American “extremists” will carry out their objectives—to identify and deter potential extremists—in concert with fusion centers, data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).

This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.

For example, in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released two reports, one on “Rightwing Extremism,” which broadly defines rightwing extremists as individuals and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely,” and one on “Leftwing Extremism,” which labeled environmental and animal rights activist groups as extremists

Incredibly, both reports use the words terrorist and extremist interchangeably

That same year, the DHS launched Operation Vigilant Eagle, which calls for surveillance of military veterans returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and other far-flung places, characterizing them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.

These reports indicate that for the government, anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—can be labeled an extremist.

Fast forward a few years, and you have the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Congress has continually re-upped, that allows the military to take you out of your home, lock you up with no access to friends, family or the courts if you’re seen as an extremist.

Now connect the dots, from the 2009 Extremism reports to the NDAA, the National Security Agency’s far-reaching surveillance networks, and fusion centers that collect and share surveillance data between local, state and federal police agencies

Add in tens of thousands of armed, surveillance drones that are beginning to blanket American skies, facial recognition technology that will identify and track you wherever you go and whatever you do. And then to complete the circle, toss in the real-time crime centers being deployed in cities across the country, which will be attempting to “predict” crimes and identify criminals before they happen based on widespread surveillance, complex mathematical algorithms and prognostication programs.

Hopefully you’re getting the picture, which is how easy it is for the government to identify, label and target individuals as “extremist.”

And just like that, we’ve come full circle.

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 (or anything that resembled a firearm) 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, drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

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.

Read the Declaration of Independence again, and ask yourself if the list of complaints tallied by Jefferson don’t bear a startling resemblance to the abuses “we the people” are suffering at the hands of the American police state.

If you find the purple prose used by the Founders hard to decipher, here’s my translation of what the Declaration of Independence would look and sound like if it were written in the modern vernacular:

There comes a time when a populace must stand united and say “enough is enough” to the government’s abuses, even if it means getting rid of the political parties in power. Believing that “we the people” have a natural and divine right to direct our own lives, here are truths about the power of the people and how we arrived at the decision to sever our ties to the government:

All people are created equal. All people possess certain innate rights that no government or agency or individual can take away from them. Among these are the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The government’s job is to protect the people’s innate rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The government’s power comes from the will of the people.

Whenever any government abuses its power, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish that government and replace it with a new government that will respect and protect the rights of the people. It is not wise to get rid of a government for minor transgressions. In fact, as history has shown, people resist change and are inclined to suffer all manner of abuses to which they have become accustomed. However, when the people have been subjected to repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the purpose of establishing a tyrannical government, people have a right and duty to do away with that tyrannical Government and to replace it with a new government that will protect and preserve their innate rights for their future wellbeing.

This is exactly the state of affairs we are suffering under right now, which is why it is necessary that we change this imperial system of government. The history of the present Imperial Government is a history of repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the intention of establishing absolute Tyranny over the country.

To prove this, consider the following:

The government has, through its own negligence and arrogance, refused to adopt urgent and necessary laws for the good of the people. The government has threatened to hold up critical laws unless the people agree to relinquish their right to be fully represented in the Legislature.

In order to expand its power and bring about compliance with its dictates, the government has made it nearly impossible for the people to make their views and needs heard by their representatives. The government has repeatedly suppressed protests arising in response to its actions.

The government has obstructed justice by refusing to appoint judges who respect the Constitution and has instead made the Courts march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

The government has allowed its agents to harass the people, steal from them, jail them and even execute them. The government has directed militarized government agents—a.k.a., a standing army—to police domestic affairs in peacetime. The government has turned the country into a militarized police state.

The government has conspired to undermine the rule of law and the Constitution in order to expand its own powers.

The government has allowed its militarized police to invade our homes and inflict violence on homeowners. The government has failed to hold its agents accountable for wrongdoing and murder under the guise of “qualified immunity.”

The government has jeopardized our international trade agreements. The government has overtaxed us without our permission.

The government has denied us due process and the right to a fair trial. The government has engaged in extraordinary rendition. The government has continued to expand its military empire in collusion with its corporate partners-in-crime and occupy foreign nations.

The government has eroded fundamental legal protections and destabilized the structure of government. The government has not only declared its federal powers superior to those of the states but has also asserted its sovereign power over the rights of “we the people.”

The government has ceased to protect the people and instead waged domestic war against the people. The government has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, and destroyed the lives of the people.

The government has employed private contractors and mercenaries to carry out acts of death, desolation and tyranny against other nations, totally unworthy of a civilized nation. The government through its political propaganda has pitted its citizens against each other. The government has stirred up civil unrest and laid the groundwork for martial law.

Repeatedly, we have asked the government to cease its abuses. Each time, the government has responded with more abuse.

An Imperial Ruler who acts like a tyrant is not fit to govern a free people.

We have repeatedly sounded the alarm to our fellow citizens about the government’s abuses. We have warned them about the government’s power grabs. We have appealed to their sense of justice. We have reminded them of our common bonds. They have rejected our plea for justice and brotherhood. Thus, our fellow citizens are equally at fault for the injustices being carried out by the government.

Thus, for the reasons mentioned above, we the people of the united States of America declare ourselves free from the chains of an abusive government. Relying on the Creator’s protection, we pledge to stand by this Declaration of Independence with our lives, our fortunes and our honor.

See what I mean? The abuses meted out by an imperial government and endured by the American people have not ended. They have merely evolved.

Two hundred and forty-four years after a group of anti-government extremists declared their independence from tyranny, the American people have once again managed to work their way back under the tyrant’s thumb.

“We the people” are still being robbed blind by a government of thieves. We are still being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and monsters. We are still being locked up by a government of greedy jailers. We are still being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms. We are still being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers.

We are still being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and corporate pirates. And we are still being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers: a standing army in the form of a militarized police.

The bipartisan coup that laid siege to our nation did not happen overnight. It snuck in under our radar, hiding behind the guise of national security, the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on immigration, political correctness, hate crimes and a host of other official-sounding programs aimed at expanding the government’s power at the expense of individual freedoms.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the building blocks for the bleak future we’re just now getting a foretaste of—police shootings of unarmed citizens, profit-driven prisons, weapons of compliance, a wall-to-wall surveillance state, pre-crime programs, a suspect society, school-to-prison pipelines, militarized police, overcriminalization, SWAT team raids, endless wars, etc.—were put in place by government officials we trusted to look out for our best interests and by American citizens who failed to heed James Madison’s warning to “take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.”

For too long now, we have suffered the injustices of a government that has no regard for our rights or our humanity.

We’ve suffered in silence for too long.

Frankly, what this country desperately needs is more anti-government extremists willing to take the government to task for its excesses, abuses and power grabs that fly in the face of every principle for which America’s founders risked their lives.

WC: 2543

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“What’s been most striking to me is just how one-sided the rules are when Americans take on their own government…. It has been dismaying to learn the extent to which rules and laws shield the government from accountability for its abuses—or even lawbreaking…. It’s been a long and frightening lesson…. The rules seem rigged to protect government lawlessness, and the playing field is uneven. Too many processes favor the government. The deck is still stacked.” —  Journalist Sharyl Attkisson

The system is rigged.

The system is rigged, the government is corrupt, and “we the people” continue to waste our strength by fighting each other rather than standing against the tyrant in our midst.

Because the system is rigged, because the government is corrupt, and because “we the people” remain polarized and divided, the police state will keep winning and “we the people” will keep losing.

Because the system is rigged and the U.S. Supreme Court—the so-called “people’s court”—has exchanged its appointed role as a gatekeeper of justice for its new role as maintainer of the status quo, there will be little if no consequences for the cops who brutalize and no justice for the victims of police brutality.

Because the system is rigged, there will be no consequences for police who destroyed a private home by bombarding it with tear gas grenades during a SWAT team raid gone awry, or for the cop who mistakenly shot a 10-year-old boy after aiming for and missing the non-threatening family dog, or for the arresting officer who sicced a police dog on a suspect who had already surrendered.

This is how unarmed Americans keep dying at the hands of militarized police.

By refusing to accept any of the eight or so qualified immunity cases before it this term that strove to hold police accountable for official misconduct, the Supreme Court delivered a chilling reminder that in the American police state, ‘we the people’ are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to ‘serve and protect.”

This is how qualified immunity keeps the police state in power.

Lawyers tend to offer a lot of complicated, convoluted explanations for the doctrine of qualified immunity, which was intended to insulate government officials from frivolous lawsuits, but the real purpose of qualified immunity is to rig the system, ensuring that abusive agents of the government almost always win and the victims of government abuse almost always lose.

How else do you explain a doctrine that requires victims of police violence to prove that their abusers knew their behavior was illegal because it had been deemed so in a nearly identical case at some prior time: it’s a setup for failure.

Do you know how many different ways a cop can kill, maim, torture and abuse someone without being held liable?

The cops know: in large part due to training classes that drill them on the art of sidestepping the Fourth Amendment, which protects us from being bullied, badgered, beaten, broken and spied on by government agents.

This is how “we the people” keep losing.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Harlow v. Fitzgerald (1982) that suing government officials for monetary damages is “the only realistic avenue” of holding them accountable for abusing their offices and violating the Constitution, it has ostensibly given the police and other government agents a green light to shoot first and ask questions later, as well as to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts.

Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching motorists on the side of the road, these instances of abuse are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to virtually every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.

Make no mistake about it: this is what constitutes “law and order” in the American police state.

These are the hallmarks of a police state: where police officers, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.

Unfortunately, we’ve been traveling this dangerous road for a long time now.

A review of critical court rulings over the past several decades, including rulings affirming qualified immunity protections for government agents by the U.S. Supreme Court, reveals a startling and steady trend towards pro-police state rulings by an institution concerned more with establishing order, protecting the ruling class, and insulating government agents from charges of wrongdoing than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Indeed, as Reuters reports, qualified immunity “has become a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims their constitutional rights.” Worse, as Reuters concluded, “the Supreme Court has built qualified immunity into an often insurmountable police defense by intervening in cases mostly to favor the police.”

The system is rigged.

Police can claim qualified immunity for warrantless searches. In Anderson v. Creighton, the Supreme Court ruled that FBI and state law enforcement agents were entitled to qualified immunity protections after they were sued for raiding a private home without a warrant and holding family members at gunpoint, all in a search for a suspected bank robber who was not in the house.

Police can claim qualified immunity for warrantless arrests based on mere suspicion. In Hunter v. Bryant, the Court ruled that police acted reasonably in arresting James Bryant without a warrant in order to protect the president. Bryant had allegedly written a letter that referenced a third-party plot to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, but police had no proof that he intended to harm Reagan beyond a mere suspicion. The charges against Bryant were eventually dropped.

Police can claim qualified immunity for using excessive force against protesters. In Saucier v. Katz, the Court ruled in favor of federal law enforcement agents who forcefully tackled a protester as he attempted to unfurl a banner at Vice President Gore’s political rally. The Court reasoned that the officers acted reasonably given the urgency of protecting the vice president.

Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a fleeing suspect in the back. In Brosseau v. Haugen, the Court dismissed a lawsuit against a police officer who shot Kenneth Haugen in the back as he entered his car in order to flee from police. The Court ruled that in light of existing case law, the cop’s conduct fell in the “hazy border between excessive and acceptable force” and so she did not violate clearly established law.

Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a mentally impaired person. In City of San Francisco v. Sheehan, the Court ruled in favor of police who repeatedly shot Teresa Sheehan during the course of a mental health welfare check. The Court ruled that it was not unreasonable for police to pepper spray and shoot Sheehan multiple times after entering her room without a warrant and encountering her holding a knife.

Police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits. In Plumhoff v. Rickard, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that police officers who used deadly force to terminate a car chase were immune from a lawsuit. The officers were accused of needlessly resorting to deadly force by shooting multiple times at a man and his passenger in a stopped car, killing both individuals.

Police can stop, arrest and search citizens without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. In a 5-3 ruling in Utah v. Strieff, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively gave police the go-ahead to embark on a fishing expedition of one’s person and property, rendering Americans completely vulnerable to the whims of any cop on the beat.

Police officers can stop cars based on “anonymous” tips or for “suspicious” behavior such as having a reclined car seat or driving too carefully. In a 5-4 ruling in Navarette v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that police officers, under the guise of “reasonable suspicion,” can stop cars and question drivers based solely on anonymous tips, no matter how dubious, and whether or not they themselves witnessed any troubling behavior. Then in State v. Howard, the Kansas Supreme Court declared that motorists who recline their car seats are guilty of suspicious behavior and can be subject to warrantless searches by police. That ruling, coupled with other court rulings upholding warrantless searches and seizures by police renders one’s car a Constitution-free zone.

Americans have no protection against mandatory breathalyzer tests at a police checkpoint, although mandatory blood draws violate the Fourth Amendment (Birchfield v. North Dakota). Police can also conduct sobriety and “information-seeking” checkpoints (Illinois v. Lidster and Mich. Dep’t of State Police v. Sitz).

Police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime. In Maryland v. King, a divided U.S. Supreme Court determined that a person arrested for a crime who is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty must submit to forcible extraction of their DNA. Once again the Court sided with the guardians of the police state over the defenders of individual liberty in determining that DNA samples may be extracted from people arrested for “serious” offenses. The end result of the ruling paves the way for a nationwide dragnet of suspects targeted via DNA sampling.

Police can use the “fear for my life” rationale as an excuse for shooting unarmed individuals. Upon arriving on the scene of a nighttime traffic accident, an Alabama police officer shot a driver exiting his car, mistakenly believing the wallet in his hand to be a gun. A report by the Justice Department found that half of the unarmed people shot by one police department over a seven-year span were “shot because the officer saw something (like a cellphone) or some action (like a person pulling at the waist of their pants) and misidentified it as a threat.”

Police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes.” In Florida v. Harris, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court determined that police officers may use highly unreliable drug-sniffing dogs to conduct warrantless searches of cars during routine traffic stops. The ruling turns man’s best friend into an extension of the police state, provided the use of a K-9 unit takes place within a reasonable amount of time (Rodriguez v. United States).

Not only are police largely protected by qualified immunity, but police dogs are also off the hook for wrongdoing. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a police officer who allowed a police dog to maul a homeless man innocent of any wrongdoing.

Police can subject Americans to strip searches, no matter the “offense.” A divided U.S. Supreme Court actually prioritized making life easier for overworked jail officials over the basic right of Americans to be free from debasing strip searches. In its 5-4 ruling in Florence v. Burlington, the Court declared that 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, which involves exposing the genitals and the buttocks. This “license to probe” is now being extended to roadside stops, as police officers throughout the country have begun performing roadside strip searches—some involving anal and vaginal probes—without any evidence of wrongdoing and without a warrant.

Police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. In an 8-1 ruling in Kentucky v. King, the U.S. Supreme Court placed their trust in the discretion of police officers, rather than in the dictates of the Constitution, when they gave police greater leeway to break into homes or apartments without a warrant. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by police.

Police can use knock-and-talk tactics as a means of sidestepping the Fourth Amendment. Aggressive “knock and talk” practices have become thinly veiled, warrantless exercises by which citizens are coerced and intimidated into “talking” with heavily armed police who “knock” on their doors in the middle of the night. Andrew Scott didn’t even get a chance to say no to such a heavy-handed request before he was gunned down by police who pounded aggressively on the wrong door at 1:30 a.m., failed to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shot and killed the man when he answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense.

Police can carry out no-knock raids if they believe announcing themselves would be dangerous. Police can perform a “no-knock” raid as long as they have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile or give occupants a chance to destroy evidence of a crime (Richards v. Wisconsin). Legal ownership of a firearm is also enough to justify a no-knock raid by police (Quinn v. Texas). For instance, a Texas man had his home subject to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally-owned firearms in his household. The homeowner was actually shot by police through his closed bedroom door.

Police can recklessly open fire on anyone that might be “armed.” Philando Castile was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop allegedly over a broken tail light merely for telling police he had a conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times in the presence of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter. A unanimous Supreme Court declared in County of Los Angeles vs. Mendez that police should not be held liable for recklessly firing 15 times into a shack where a homeless couple had been sleeping because the grabbed his BB gun in defense, fearing they were being attacked.

Police can destroy a home during a SWAT raid, even if the owner gives their consent to enter and search it. In West v. Winfield, the Supreme Court provided cover to police after they smashed the windows of Shaniz West’s home, punched holes in her walls and ceilings, and bombed the house with so much tear gas that it was uninhabitable for two months. All of this despite the fact that the suspect they were pursuing was not in the house and West, the homeowner, agreed to allow police to search the home to confirm that.

Police can suffocate someone, deliberately or inadvertently, in the process of subduing them. “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry following the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd, both of whom died after being placed in a chokehold by police. Dozens more have died in similar circumstances at the hands of police who have faced little repercussions for these deaths.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are dealing with a nationwide epidemic of court-sanctioned police violence carried out with impunity against individuals posing little or no real threat.

So what’s the answer to reforming a system that is clearly self-serving and corrupt?

Abolishing the police is not the answer: that will inevitably lead to outright anarchy, which will give the police state and those law-and-order zealots all the incentive it needs to declare martial law.

Looting and violence are not the answer: As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, “A riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt.” Using the looting and riots as justification for supporting police brutality is also not the answer:  As King recognized, “It is not enough … to condemn riots… without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

Police reform is necessary and unavoidable if we are to have any hope of living in an America in which freedom means something more than the right to stay alive, but how we reform the system is just as important as getting it done.

We don’t need to wait for nine members of a ruling aristocracy who primarily come from privileged backgrounds and who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo to fix what’s broken in America.

Nor do we need to wait for 535 highly paid politicians to do something about these injustices only when it suits their political ambitions

And we certainly don’t need to wait for a president with a taste for totalitarian tactics to throw a few crumbs our way.

This is as much a local problem as it is a national one.

Be fair. Be nonviolent. Be relentless in your pursuit of justice for all.

Let’s get it done.

Source: https://bit.ly/2YJrle3

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”— George Santayana

Watch and see: this debate over police brutality and accountability is about to get politicized into an election-year referendum on who should occupy the White House.

Don’t fall for it.

The Deep State, the powers-that-be, want us to turn this into a race war, but this is about so much more than systemic racism. This is the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

It’s the Reichstag Fire all over again.

It was February 1933, a month before national elections in Germany, and the Nazis weren’t expected to win. So they engineered a way to win: they began  by infiltrating the police and granting police powers to their allies; then Hitler brought in stormtroopers to act as auxiliary police; by the time an arsonist (who claimed to be working for the Communists in the hopes of starting an armed revolt) set fire to the Reichstag, the German parliamentary building, the people were eager for a return to law and order.

That was all it took: Hitler used the attempted “coup” as an excuse to declare martial law and seize absolute power in Germany, establishing himself as a dictator with the support of the German people.

Fast forward to the present day, and what do we have? The nation in turmoil after months of pandemic fear-mongering and regional lockdowns, a national election looming, a president with falling poll numbers, and a police state that wants to stay in power at all costs.

Note the similarities?

It’s entirely possible that Americans have finally reached a tipping point over police brutality after decades of abuse. After all, until recently, the legislatures and the courts have marched in lockstep with the police state, repeatedly rebuffing efforts to hold police accountable for official misconduct.

Then again, it’s also equally possible that the architects of the police state have every intention of manipulating this outrage for their own purposes.

It works the same in every age.

As author Jim Keith explains, “Create violence through economic pressures, the media, mind control, agent provocateurs: thesis. Counter it with totalitarian measures, more mind control, police crackdowns, surveillance, drugging of the population: antithesis. What ensues is Orwell’s vision of 1984, a society of total control: synthesis.”

Here’s what is going to happen: the police state is going to stand down and allow these protests, riots and looting to devolve into a situation where enough of the voting populace is so desperate for a return to law and order that they will gladly relinquish some of their freedoms to achieve it. And that’s how the police state will win, no matter which candidate gets elected to the White House.

You know who will lose? Every last one of us.

Listen, people should be outraged over what happened to George Floyd, but let’s get one thing straight: Floyd didn’t die merely because he was black and the cop who killed him is white. Floyd died because America is being overrun with warrior cops—vigilantes with a badge—who are part of a government-run standing army that is waging war on the American people in the so-called name of law and order.

Not all cops are warrior cops, trained to act as judge, jury and executioner in their interactions with the populace. Unfortunately, the good cops—the ones who take seriously their oath of office to serve and protect their fellow citizens, uphold the Constitution, and maintain the peace—are increasingly being outnumbered by those who believe the lives—and rights—of police should be valued more than citizens.

These warrior cops may get paid by the citizenry, but they don’t work for us and they certainly aren’t operating within the limits of the U.S. Constitution.

This isn’t about racism in America.

This is about profit-driven militarism packaged in the guise of law and order, waged by greedy profiteers who have transformed the American homeland into a battlefield with militarized police, military weapons and tactics better suited to a war zone. This is systemic corruption predicated on the police state’s insatiable appetite for money, power and control.

This is a military coup waiting to happen.

Why do we have more than a million cops on the taxpayer-funded payroll in this country whose jobs do not entail protecting our safety, maintaining the peace in our communities, and upholding our liberties?

I’ll tell you why.

These warrior cops—fitted out in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making—are the police state’s standing army.

This is the new face of war, and America has become the new battlefield.

Militarized police officers, the end product of the government—federal, local and state—and law enforcement agencies having merged, have become a “standing” or permanent army, composed of full-time professional soldiers who do not disband.

Yet these permanent armies are exactly what those who drafted the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights feared as tools used by despotic governments to wage war against its citizens.

American police forces were never supposed to be a branch of the military, nor were they meant to be private security forces for the reigning political faction. Instead, they were intended to be an aggregation of countless local police units, composed of citizens like you and me that exist for a sole purpose: to serve and protect the citizens of each and every American community.

As a result of the increasing militarization of the police in recent years, however, the police now not only look like the military—with their foreboding uniforms and phalanx of lethal weapons—but they function like them, as well.

Thus, no more do we have a civilian force of peace officers entrusted with serving and protecting the American people.  Instead, today’s militarized law enforcement officials have shifted their allegiance from the citizenry to the state, acting preemptively to ward off any possible challenges to the government’s power, unrestrained by the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment.

They don’t work for us. As retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis warned, “Corporate America is using police forces as their mercenaries.”

We were sold a bill of goods.

For years now, we’ve been told that cops need military weapons to wage the government’s wars on drugs, crime and terror. We’ve been told that cops need to be able to crash through doors, search vehicles, carry out roadside strip searches, shoot anyone they perceive to be a threat, and generally disregard the law whenever it suits them because they’re doing it to protect their fellow Americans from danger. We’ve been told that cops need extra legal protections because of the risks they take.

None of that is true.

In fact, a study by a political scientist at Princeton University concludes that militarizing police and SWAT teams “provide no detectable benefits in terms of officer safety or violent crime reduction.” According to researcher Jonathan Mummolo, if police in America are feeling less safe, it’s because the process of transforming them into extensions of the military makes them less safe, less popular and less trust-worthy.

The study, the first systematic analysis on the use and consequences of militarized force, reveals that “police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed.”

In other words, warrior cops aren’t making us or themselves any safer.

Militarized police armed with weapons of war who are allowed to operate above the law and break the laws with impunity are definitely not making America any safer or freer.

The problem, as one reporter rightly concluded, is “not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it’s that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone.” Consequently, Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist.

Militarism within the nation’s police forces is proving to be deadlier than any pandemic.

This battlefield mindset has gone hand in hand with the rise of militarized SWAT (“special weapons and tactics”) teams.

Frequently justified as vital tools necessary to combat terrorism and deal with rare but extremely dangerous criminal situations, such as those involving hostages, SWAT teams have become intrinsic parts of local law enforcement operations, thanks in large part to substantial federal assistance and the Pentagon’s military surplus recycling program, which allows the transfer of military equipment, weapons and training to local police for free or at sharp discounts while increasing the profits of its corporate allies.

Where this becomes a problem of life and death for Americans is when these SWAT teams— outfitted, armed and trained in military tactics—are assigned to carry out relatively routine police tasks, such as serving a search warrant. Nationwide, SWAT teams have been employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activity or mere community nuisances: angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession, to give a brief sampling.

Remember, SWAT teams originated as specialized units dedicated to defusing extremely sensitive, dangerous situations. They were never meant to be used for routine police work such as serving a warrant. Unfortunately, the mere presence of SWAT units has actually injected a level of danger and violence into police-citizen interactions that was not present as long as these interactions were handled by traditional civilian officers.

There are few communities without a SWAT team today, and there are more than 80,000 SWAT team raids per year.

Yet the tension inherent in most civilian-police encounter these days can’t be blamed exclusively on law enforcement’s growing reliance on SWAT teams and donated military equipment.

It goes far deeper, to a transformation in the way police view themselves and their line of duty.

Specifically, what we’re dealing with today is a skewed shoot-to-kill mindset in which police, trained to view themselves as warriors or soldiers in a war, whether against drugs, or terror, or crime, must “get” the bad guys—i.e., anyone who is a potential target—before the bad guys get them. The result is a spike in the number of incidents in which police shoot first, and ask questions later.

Making matters worse, when these officers, who have long since ceased to be peace officers, violate their oaths by bullying, beating, tasering, shooting and killing their employers—the taxpayers to whom they owe their allegiance—they are rarely given more than a slap on the hands before resuming their patrols.

This lawlessness on the part of law enforcement, an unmistakable characteristic of a police state, is made possible in large part by police unions which routinely oppose civilian review boards and resist the placement of names and badge numbers on officer uniforms; police agencies that abide by the Blue Code of Silence, the quiet understanding among police that they should not implicate their colleagues for their crimes and misconduct; prosecutors who treat police offenses with greater leniency than civilian offenses; courts that sanction police wrongdoing in the name of security; and legislatures that enhance the power, reach and arsenal of the police, and a citizenry that fails to hold its government accountable to the rule of law.

Indeed, not only are cops protected from most charges of wrongdoing—whether it’s shooting unarmed citizens (including children and old people), raping and abusing young women, falsifying police reports, trafficking drugs, or soliciting sex with minors—but even on the rare occasions when they are fired for misconduct, it’s only a matter of time before they get re-hired again.

Much of the “credit” for shielding these rogue cops goes to influential police unions and laws providing for qualified immunity, police contracts that “provide a shield of protection to officers accused of misdeeds and erect barriers to residents complaining of abuse,” state and federal laws that allow police to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing, and rampant cronyism among government bureaucrats.

It’s happening all across the country.

This is how perverse justice in America has become.

Incredibly, while our own Bill of Rights are torn to shreds, leaving us with few protections against government abuses, a growing number of states are adopting Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBoR), which provide cops accused of a crime with special due process rights and privileges not afforded to the average citizen.

This, right here, epitomizes everything that is wrong with America today.

Even when the system appears to work on the side of justice, it’s the American taxpayer who ends up paying the price.

Literally.

Because police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be held financially accountable for their actions. As Human Rights Watch explains, taxpayers actually pay three times for officers who repeatedly commit abuses: “once to cover their salaries while they commit abuses; next to pay settlements or civil jury awards against officers; and a third time through payments into police ‘defense’ funds provided by the cities.”

Deep-seated corruption of this kind doesn’t just go away because politicians and corporations suddenly become conscience-stricken in the face of mass protests and start making promises they don’t intend to keep.

As I explain in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we need civic engagement and citizen activism, especially at the local level. However, if it ends at the ballot box without achieving any real reform that holds government officials at all levels accountable to playing by the rules of the Constitution, then shame on us.

Source: https://bit.ly/2Aa70Xp

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you—pull your beard, flick your face—to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you.”—John Lennon

Brace yourselves.

There is something being concocted in the dens of power, far beyond the public eye, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of this country.

Anytime you have an entire nation so mesmerized by political theater and public spectacle that they are oblivious to all else, you’d better beware.

Anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware.

And anytime you have a government so far removed from its people as to ensure that they are never seen, heard or heeded by those elected to represent them, you’d better beware.

What is unfolding before us is not a revolution.

The looting, the burning, the rioting, the violence: this is an anti-revolution.

The protesters are playing right into the government’s hands, because the powers-that-be want this. They want an excuse to lockdown the nation and throw the switch to all-out martial law. They want a reason to make the police state stronger.

It’s happening faster than we can keep up.

The Justice Department is deploying federal prison riot teams to various cities. More than half of the nation’s governors are calling on the National Guard to quell civil unrest. Growing numbers of cities, having just barely emerged from a coronavirus lockdown, are once again being locked down, this time in response to the growing upheaval.

This is how it begins.

It’s that dystopian 2030 Pentagon training video all over again, which anticipates the need for the government to institute martial law (use armed forces to solve domestic political and social problems) in order to navigate a world bedeviled by “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” a “growing mass of unemployed,” and an urban landscape in which the prosperous economic elite must be protected from the impoverishment of the have nots.

We’re way ahead of schedule.

The architects of the police state have us exactly where they want us: under their stamping boot, gasping for breath, desperate for freedom, grappling for some semblance of a future that does not resemble the totalitarian prison being erected around us.

This way lies certain tyranny.

For just one fleeting moment, “we the people” seemed united in our outrage over this latest killing of an unarmed man by a cop hyped up on his own authority and the power of his uniform.

That unity didn’t last.

Indeed, it didn’t take long—no surprise there—for us to quickly become divided again, polarized by the misguided fury and senseless violence of mobs taking to the streets, reeking of madness and mayhem.

Deliberately or not, the rioters have directed our attention away from the government’s crimes and onto their own.

This is a distraction.

Don’t allow yourself to be so distracted.

Let’s not lose sight of what started all of this in the first place: the U.S. government.

More than terrorism, more than domestic extremism, more than gun violence and organized crime, the systemic violence being perpetrated by agents of the government constitutes a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.

Case in point: George Floyd died at the hands of the American police state.

The callous, cold-blooded murder of the unarmed, 46-year-old black man by police is nothing new: for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, police knelt on Floyd’s neck while the man pleaded for his life, struggled to breathe, cried out for his dead mother, and finally passed out and died.

Floyd is yet another victim of a broken system of policing that has placed “we the people” at the mercy of militarized cops who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”

Daily, Americans 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 exist.

I’m talking about the growing numbers of unarmed people are who being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

Killed by police for standing in a “shooting stance.” Killed for holding a cell phone. Killed for holding a baseball bat. Killed for opening the front door. Killed for being a child in a car pursued by police. Killed for approaching police while holding a metal spoon. Killed for running in an aggressive manner while holding a tree branch. Killed for crawling around naked. Killed for hunching over in a defensive posture. Killed because a police officer accidentally fired his gun instead of his taser. Killed for wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey. Killed for reaching for his license and registration during a traffic stop. Killed for driving while deaf. Killed for being homeless. Killed for brandishing a shoehorn. Killed for peeing outdoors. Killed for having his car break down on the road. Killed for holding a garden hose.

Now you can make all kinds of excuses to justify these shootings, and in fact that’s exactly what you’ll hear from politicians, police unions, law enforcement officials and individuals who are more than happy to march in lockstep with the police. However, as these incidents make clear, the only truly compliant, submissive and obedient citizen in a police state is a dead one.

Sad, isn’t it, how quickly we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat us all like suspects and criminals?

This is not how you keep the peace.

This is not justice. This is not even law and order.

This is certainly not freedom. This is the illusion of freedom.

Unfortunately, we are now being ruled by a government of psychopaths, scoundrels, spies, thugs, thieves, gangsters, ruffians, rapists, extortionists, bounty hunters, battle-ready warriors and cold-blooded killers who communicate using a language of force and oppression.

The facts speak for themselves.

We’re being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers. It’s not just the police shootings of unarmed citizens that are worrisome. It’s the SWAT team raids gone wrong that are leaving innocent citizens wounded, children terrorized and family pets killed. It’s the roadside strip searches—in some cases, cavity searches of men and women alike carried out in full view of the public—in pursuit of drugs that are never found. It’s the potentially lethal—and unwarranted—use of so-called “nonlethal” weapons such as tasers on children for “mouthing off to a police officer. For trying to run from the principal’s office. For, at the age of 12, getting into a fight with another girl.”

We’re being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers—a standing army. While Americans are being made to jump through an increasing number of hoops in order to exercise their Second Amendment right to own a gun, the government is arming its own civilian employees to the hilt with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment, authorizing them to make arrests, and training them in military tactics. Among the agencies being supplied with night-vision equipment, body armor, hollow-point bullets, shotguns, drones, assault rifles and LP gas cannons are the Smithsonian, U.S. Mint, Health and Human Services, IRS, FDA, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an assortment of public universities. There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government civilians armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the government’s arsenal, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, and the speed with which the nation could be locked down under martial law depending on the circumstances. Clearly, the government is preparing for war—and a civil war, at that—and “we the people” are the perceived enemy.

We’re being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and cowards. American satirist H.L. Mencken calculated that “Congress consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons.” By and large, Americans seem to agree. When you’ve got government representatives who spend a large chunk of their work hours fundraising, being feted by lobbyists, shuffling through a lucrative revolving door between public service and lobbying, and making themselves available to anyone with enough money to secure access to a congressional office, you’re in the clutches of a corrupt oligarchy. Mind you, these same elected officials rarely read the legislation they’re enacting, nor do they seem capable of enacting much legislation that actually helps rather than hinders the plight of the American citizen.

We’re being locked up by a government of greedy jailers. We have become a carceral state, spending three times more on our prisons than on our schools and imprisoning close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, despite the fact that crime is at an all-time low and the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world’s population. The rise of overcriminalization and profit-driven private prisons provides even greater incentives for locking up American citizens for such non-violent “crimes” as having an overgrown lawn.  As the Boston Review points out, “America’s contemporary system of policing, courts, imprisonment, and parole … makes money through asset forfeiture, lucrative public contracts from private service providers, and by directly extracting revenue and unpaid labor from populations of color and the poor. In states and municipalities throughout the country, the criminal justice system defrays costs by forcing prisoners and their families to pay for punishment. It also allows private service providers to charge outrageous fees for everyday needs such as telephone calls. As a result people facing even minor criminal charges can easily find themselves trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of debt, criminalization, and incarceration.”

We’re being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms. The government, aided by its corporate allies, is watching everything you do, reading everything you write, listening to everything you say, and monitoring everything you spend. Omnipresent surveillance is paving the way for government programs that profile citizens, document their behavior and attempt to predict what they might do in the future, whether it’s what they might buy, what politician they might support, or what kinds of crimes they might commit. The impact of this far-reaching surveillance, according to Psychology Today, is “reduced trust, increased conformity, and even diminished civic participation.” As technology analyst Jillian C. York concludes, “Mass surveillance without due process—whether undertaken by the government of Bahrain, Russia, the US, or anywhere in between—threatens to stifle and smother that dissent, leaving in its wake a populace cowed by fear.”

We’re being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and professional pirates. The American people have been repeatedly sold a bill of goods about how the government needs more money, more expansive powers, and more secrecy (secret courts, secret budgets, secret military campaigns, secret surveillance) in order to keep us safe. Under the guise of fighting its wars on terror, drugs, domestic extremism, pandemics and civil unrest, the government has spent billions in taxpayer dollars on endless wars that have sown the seeds of blowback, surveillance programs that have subjected all Americans to a surveillance society, and militarized police that have turned communities into warzones.

We’re being robbed blind by a government of thieves. Americans no longer have any real protection against government agents empowered to seize private property at will. For instance, police agencies under the guise of asset forfeiture laws are taking property based on little more than a suspicion of criminal activity.

And we’re being forced to live in a perpetual state of emergency. From 9/11 through the COVID-19 lockdowns and now the threat of martial law in the face of growing civil unrest, we have witnessed the rise of an “emergency state” that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security.

Whatever else it may be—a danger, a menace, a threat—the U.S. government is certainly not looking out for our best interests, nor is it in any way a friend to freedom.

When the government views itself as superior to the citizenry, when it no longer operates for the benefit of the people, when the people are no longer able to peacefully reform their government, when government officials cease to act like public servants, when elected officials no longer represent the will of the people, when the government routinely violates the rights of the people and perpetrates more violence against the citizenry than the criminal class, when government spending is unaccountable and unaccounted for, when the judiciary act as courts of order rather than justice, and when the government is no longer bound by the laws of the Constitution, then you no longer have a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

What we have is a government of wolves.

Our backs are against the proverbial wall.

The government and its cohorts have conspired to ensure that the only real recourse the American people have to express their displeasure with the government is through voting, which is no real recourse at all.

The penalties for civil disobedience, whistleblowing and rebellion are severe. If you refuse to pay taxes for government programs you believe to be immoral or illegal, you will go to jail. If you attempt to overthrow the government—or any agency thereof—because you believe it has overstepped its reach, you will go to jail. If you attempt to blow the whistle on government misconduct, there’s a pretty good chance you will go to jail.

For too long, the American people have obeyed the government’s dictates, no matter now extreme. We have paid its taxes, penalties and fines, no matter how outrageous. We have tolerated its indignities, insults and abuses, no matter how egregious. We have turned a blind eye to its indiscretions and incompetence, no matter how imprudent. We have held our silence in the face of its lawlessness, licentiousness and corruption, no matter how illicit.

We have suffered.

How long we will continue to suffer depends on how much we’re willing to give up for the sake of freedom.

America’s founders provided us with a very specific explanation about the purpose of government and a roadmap for what to do when the government abuses its authority, ignores our objections, and establishes itself as a tyrant.

We must choose between peaceful slavery (in other words, maintaining the status quo in servitude to the police state) and dangerous freedom. That will mean carving out a path in which we begin to take ownership of our government, starting at the local level, challenging the status quo, and raising hell—nonviolently—whenever a government official steps out of line.

We can no longer maintain the illusion of freedom.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are at our most vulnerable right now.

Source: https://bit.ly/3eGv7LW

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“The fundamental political question is why do people obey a government. The answer is that they tend to enslave themselves, to let themselves be governed by tyrants. Freedom from servitude comes not from violent action, but from the refusal to serve. Tyrants fall when the people withdraw their support.”—Étienne De La Boétie, The Politics Of Obedience

Don’t pity this year’s crop of graduates because this COVID-19 pandemic caused them to miss out on the antics of their senior year and the pomp and circumstance of graduation.

Pity them because they have spent their entire lives in a state of emergency.

They were born in the wake of the 9/11 attacks; raised without any expectation of privacy in a technologically-driven, mass surveillance state; educated in schools that teach conformity and compliance; saddled with a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion; made vulnerable by the blowback from a military empire constantly waging war against shadowy enemies; policed by government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moment’s notice; and forced to march in lockstep with a government that no longer exists to serve the people but which demands they be obedient slaves or suffer the consequences.

It’s a dismal start to life, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, we who should have known better failed to maintain our freedoms or provide our young people with the tools necessary to survive, let alone succeed, in the impersonal jungle that is modern America.

We brought them into homes fractured by divorce, distracted by mindless entertainment, and obsessed with the pursuit of materialism. We institutionalized them in daycares and afterschool programs, substituting time with teachers and childcare workers for parental involvement. We turned them into test-takers instead of thinkers and automatons instead of activists.

We allowed them to languish in schools which not only look like prisons but function like prisons, as well—where conformity is the rule and freedom is the exception. We made them easy prey for our corporate overlords, while instilling in them the values of a celebrity-obsessed, technology-driven culture devoid of any true spirituality. And we taught them to believe that the pursuit of their own personal happiness trumped all other virtues, including any empathy whatsoever for their fellow human beings

No, we haven’t done this generation any favors.

Given the current political climate and nationwide lockdown, things could only get worse.

For those coming of age today (and for the rest of us who are muddling along through this dystopian nightmare), here are a few bits of advice that will hopefully help as we navigate the perils ahead.

Be an individual. For all of its claims to champion the individual, American culture advocates a stark conformity which, as John F. Kennedy warned, is “the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.” Worry less about fitting in with the rest of the world and instead, as Henry David Thoreau urged, become “a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”

Learn your rights. We’re losing our freedoms for one simple reason: most of us don’t know anything about our freedoms. At a minimum, anyone who has graduated from high school, let alone college, should know the Bill of Rights backwards and forwards. However, the average young person, let alone citizen, has very little knowledge of their rights for the simple reason that the schools no longer teach them. So grab a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and study them at home. And when the time comes, stand up for your rights before it’s too late.

Speak truth to power. Don’t be naive about those in positions of authority. As James Madison, who wrote our Bill of Rights, observed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted.” We must learn the lessons of history. People in power, more often than not, abuse that power. To maintain our freedoms, this will mean challenging government officials whenever they exceed the bounds of their office.

Resist all things that numb you. Don’t measure your worth by what you own or earn. Likewise, don’t become mindless consumers unaware of the world around you. Resist all things that numb you, put you to sleep or help you “cope” with so-called reality. Those who establish the rules and laws that govern society’s actions desire compliant subjects. However, as George Orwell warned, “Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they rebelled, they cannot become conscious.” It is these conscious individuals who change the world for the better.

Don’t let technology turn you into zombies. Technology anesthetizes us to the all-too-real tragedies that surround us. Techno-gadgets are merely distractions from what’s really going on in America and around the world. As a result, we’ve begun mimicking the inhuman technology that surrounds us and have lost our humanity. We’ve become sleepwalkers. If you’re going to make a difference in the world, you’re going to have to pull the earbuds out, turn off the cell phones and spend much less time viewing screens.

Help others. We all have a calling in life. And I believe it boils down to one thing: You are here on this planet to help other people. In fact, none of us can exist very long without help from others. If we’re going to see any positive change for freedom, then we must change our view of what it means to be human and regain a sense of what it means to love and help one another. That will mean gaining the courage to stand up for the oppressed.

Refuse to remain silent in the face of evil. Throughout history, individuals or groups of individuals have risen up to challenge the injustices of their age. Nazi Germany had its Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The gulags of the Soviet Union were challenged by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. America had its color-coded system of racial segregation and warmongering called out for what it was, blatant discrimination and profiteering, by Martin Luther King Jr. And then there was Jesus Christ, an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day—namely, the Roman Empire—but provided a blueprint for civil disobedience that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him. What we lack today and so desperately need are those with moral courage who will risk their freedoms and lives in order to speak out against evil in its many forms.

Cultivate spirituality, reject materialism and put people first. When the things that matter most have been subordinated to materialism, we have lost our moral compass. We must change our values to reflect something more meaningful than technology, materialism and politics. Standing at the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City in April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged his listeners:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motive and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Pitch in and do your part to make the world a better place. Don’t rely on someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Don’t wait around for someone else to fix what ails you, your community or nation. As Mahatma Gandhi urged: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Stop waiting for political saviors to fix what is wrong with this country. Stop waiting for some political savior to swoop in and fix all that’s wrong with this country. Stop allowing yourselves to be drawn into divisive party politics. Stop thinking of yourselves as members of a particular political party, as opposed to citizens of the United States. Most of all, stop looking away from the injustices and cruelties and endless acts of tyranny that have become hallmarks of American police state. Be vigilant and do your part to recalibrate the balance of power in favor of “we the people.”

Say no to war. Addressing the graduates at Binghampton Central High School in 1968, at a time when the country was waging war “on different fields, on different levels, and with different weapons,” Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling declared:

Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history—even if history points this up by its repetition. That men die for causes does not necessarily sanctify that cause. And that men are maimed and torn to pieces every fifteen and twenty years does not immortalize or deify the act of war… find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow-man.

Finally, prepare yourselves for what lies ahead. The demons of our age—some of whom disguise themselves as politicians—delight in fomenting violence, sowing distrust and prejudice, and persuading the public to support tyranny disguised as patriotism. Overcoming the evils of our age will require more than intellect and activism. It will require decency, morality, goodness, truth and toughness. As Serling concluded in his remarks to the graduating class of 1968:

Toughness is the singular quality most required of you… we have left you a world far more botched than the one that was left to us… Part of your challenge is to seek out truth, to come up with a point of view not dictated to you by anyone, be he a congressman, even a minister… Are you tough enough to take the divisiveness of this land of ours, the fact that everything is polarized, black and white, this or that, absolutely right or absolutely wrong. This is one of the challenges. Be prepared to seek out the middle ground … that wondrous and very difficult-to-find Valhalla where man can look to both sides and see the errant truths that exist on both sides. If you must swing left or you must swing right—respect the other side. Honor the motives that come from the other side. Argue, debate, rebut—but don’t close those wondrous minds of yours to opposition. In their eyes, you’re the opposition. And ultimately … ultimately—you end divisiveness by compromise. And so long as men walk and breathe—there must be compromise…

Are you tough enough to face one of the uglier stains upon the fabric of our democracy—prejudice? It’s the basic root of most evil. It’s a part of the sickness of man. And it’s a part of man’s admission, his constant sick admission, that to exist he must find a scapegoat. To explain away his own deficiencies—he must try to find someone who he believes more deficient… Make your judgment of your fellow-man on what he says and what he believes and the way he acts. Be tough enough, please, to live with prejudice and give battle to it. It warps, it poisons, it distorts and it is self-destructive. It has fallout worse than a bomb … and worst of all it cheapens and demeans anyone who permits himself the luxury of hating.”

The only way we’ll ever achieve change in this country is for people to finally say “enough is enough” and fight for the things that truly matter.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your political ideology is: wake up, stand up, speak up, and make your citizenship count for something more than just voting.

Pandemic or not, don’t allow your freedoms to be curtailed and your voice to be muzzled.

It’s our civic duty to make the government hear us—and heed us—using every nonviolent means available to us: picket, protest, march, boycott, speak up, sound off and reclaim control over the narrative about what is really going on in this country.

Mind you, the government doesn’t want to hear us. It doesn’t even want us to speak. In fact, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government has done a diabolically good job of establishing roadblocks to prevent us from exercising our First Amendment right to speech and assembly and protest.

Still we must persist.

So get active, get outraged, and get going: there’s work to be done.

Source: https://bit.ly/3en68ge

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“You have no right not to be vaccinated, you have no right not to wear a mask, you have no right to open up your business… And if you refuse to be vaccinated, the state has the power to literally take you to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into your arm.”—Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor

You have no rights.

That’s the lesson the government wants us to learn from this COVID-19 business.

Well, the government is wrong.

For years now, the powers-that-be—those politicians and bureaucrats who think like tyrants and act like petty dictators regardless of what party they belong to—have attempted to brainwash us into believing that we have no right to think for ourselves, make decisions about our health, protect our homes and families and businesses, act in our best interests, demand accountability and transparency from government, or generally operate as if we are in control of our own lives.

We have every right, and you know why? Because we were born free.

As the Declaration of Independence states, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights—to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness—that no government can take away from us.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the government from constantly trying to usurp our freedoms at every turn. Indeed, the nature of government is such that it invariably oversteps its limits, abuses its authority, and flexes its totalitarian muscles.

Take this COVID-19 crisis, for example.

What started out as an apparent effort to prevent a novel coronavirus from sickening the nation (and the world) has become yet another means by which world governments (including our own) can expand their powers, abuse their authority, and further oppress their constituents.

Until now, the police state has been more circumspect in its power grabs, but this latest state of emergency has brought the beast out of the shadows.

We are on a slippery slope to outright despotism.

This road we are traveling is paved with lockdowns, SWAT team raids, mass surveillance and forced vaccinations. It is littered with the debris of our First and Fourth Amendment freedoms.

This is what we have to look forward to in the months and years to come unless we can find some way to regain control over our runaway government.

The government has made no secret of its plans.

Just follow the money trail, and you’ll get a sense of what’s in store: more militarized police, more SWAT team raids, more surveillance, more lockdowns, more strong-armed tactics aimed at suppressing dissent and forcing us to comply with the government’s dictates.

It’s chilling to think about, but it’s not surprising.

We’ve been warned.

Remember that Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command? The one that anticipates the future domestic political and social problems the government is grooming its armed forces to solve through the use of martial law?

The chilling five-minute training video, obtained by The Intercept through a FOIA request and made available online, paints a dystopian picture of the future bedeviled by “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” a “growing mass of unemployed,” and an urban landscape in which the prosperous economic elite must be protected from the impoverishment of the have nots.

But here’s the kicker: what they’re really talking about is martial law, packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security.

This COVID-19 crisis is pushing us that much closer to that dystopian vision becoming a present-day reality.

For starters, let’s talk about the COVID-19 stormtroopers, SWAT team raids and ongoing flare-ups of police brutality.

With millions of dollars in stimulus funds being directed towards policing agencies across the country, the federal government plans to fight this COVID-19 virus with riot gear, gas masks, ballistic helmets, drones, and hi-tech surveillance technology.

Indeed, although crime rates have fallen dramatically in the midst of this global COVID-19 lockdown, there’s been no relief from the brutality and violence of the American police state.

While the majority of the country has been social distancing under varying degrees of lockdowns, it’s been business as usual for the nation’s SWAT teams and police trained to shoot first and ask questions later.

In Kentucky, plain-clothed cops in unmarked cars used a battering ram to break down Breonna Taylor’s door and carry out a no-knock raid on her home after midnight. Fearing a home invasion, the 26-year-old emergency medical technician and her boyfriend—who had been in bed at the time of the invasion—called 911 and prepared to defend themselves. Taylor’s boyfriend shot one of the intruders—later identified as police—in the leg. Police fired at least 20 shots into the apartment and a neighboring home, killing Taylor. The drug dealer who was the target of the late-night raid lived 10 miles away and had already been arrested prior to the raid on Taylor’s home.

In Illinois, police opened fire in a subway station, shooting a 33-year-old man who allegedly resisted their attempts to tackle and arrest him for violating a city ordinance by passing between two cars of a moving train. Ariel Roman, a short-order cook, claimed he was suffering from an anxiety attack when he was “harassed, chased, tackled, pepper-sprayed, tasered and shot twice” by police.

In Maryland, police dispatched on a nuisance call to break up a crowd of neighborhood kids( half of them teenagers, and the other half youngsters around 4 and 5 years old) gathered in an apartment complex parking lot opened fire on a 29-year-old man seen exiting his car with a gun. An eyewitness claimed “the officer pointed a flashlight and his gun at the group immediately and began chasing and shooting a minute or two after getting out of the patrol car.” Police reportedly shot the man after he threw down his gun and ran in the opposite direction.

In Virginia, more than 80 local, state, and federal police agents risked spreading COVID-19 to “a highly vulnerable population” when they raided a low income, public housing community in an effort to crack down on six individuals suspected of selling, on average, $20 to $100 worth of drugs.

In Texas, a SWAT team backed up with a military tank Armored Personnel Carrier raided Big Daddy Zane’s Bar whose owner and patrons were staging a peaceful First and Second Amendment protest of the governor’s shutdown orders.

Police have even been called out to shut down churches, schools and public parks and beaches that have been found “in violation” of various lockdown orders.

Now there’s talk of mobilizing the military to deliver forced vaccinations, mass surveillance in order to carry out contact tracing, and heavy fines and jail time for those who dare to venture out without a mask, congregate in worship without the government’s blessing, or re-open their  businesses without the government’s say-so.

There are rumblings that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will start thermal screenings to monitor passengers’ temperatures in coming weeks. This is in addition to the virtual strip searches that have become routine aspects of airport security.

Restaurants in parts of the country are being tasked with keeping daily logs of phone numbers, emails, and arrival times for everybody who participates in dine-services, with no mention of how long such records will be kept on file, with whom they will be shared, and under what circumstances.

With the help of Google and Nest cameras, hospitals are morphing into real-time surveillance centers with round-the-clock surveillance cameras monitoring traffic in patients’ rooms. Forget patient privacy, however. Google has a track record of sharing surveillance footage with police.

And then rounding out the power-grabs, the Senate just voted to give police access to web browsing data without a warrant, which would dramatically expand the government’s Patriot Act surveillance powers. The Senate also voted to give Attorney General William Barr the ability to look through the web browsing history of any American — including journalists, politicians, and political rivals — without a warrant, just by saying it is relevant to an investigation. If enacted, privacy experts warn  that the new provisions threaten to undermine the free press by potentially preventing the media from exposing abuses of power or acting as a watchdog against political leaders.

If we haven’t already crossed over, we’re skating dangerously close to that line that keeps us on the functioning side of a constitutional republic. It won’t take much to push us over that edge into a full-blown banana republic.

In many ways, this is just more of the same heavy-handed tactics we’ve been seeing in recent years but with one major difference: this COVID-19 state of emergency has invested government officials (and those who view their lives as more valuable than ours) with a sanctimonious, self-righteous, arrogant, Big Brother Knows Best approach to top-down governing, and the fall-out can be seen far and wide.

It’s an ugly, self-serving mindset that views the needs, lives and rights of “we the people” as insignificant when compared to those in power.

That’s how someone who should know better such as Alan Dershowitz, a former Harvard law professor, can suggest that a free people—born in freedom, endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, and living in a country birthed out of a revolutionary struggle for individual liberty—have no rights to economic freedom, to bodily integrity, or to refuse to comply with a government order with which they disagree.

According to Dershowitz, who has become little more than a legal apologist for the power elite, “You have no right not to be vaccinated, you have no right not to wear a mask, you have no right to open up your business… And if you refuse to be vaccinated, the state has the power to literally take you to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into your arm.”

Dershowitz is wrong: while the courts may increasingly defer to the government’s brand of Nanny State authoritarianism, we still have rights.

The government may try to abridge those rights, it may refuse to recognize them, it may even attempt to declare martial law and nullify them, but it cannot litigate, legislate or forcefully eradicate them out of existence.

Up to now, we’ve been largely passive participants in this experiment in self-governance. Our inaction and inattention has left us at the mercy of power-hungry politicians, corrupt corporations and brutal, government-funded militias.

Wake up, America.

As I  make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, these ongoing violations of our rights—this attitude by the government that we have no rights—this tyrannical movement that is overtaking our constitutional republic and  gaining in momentum and power by the minute—this incessant auction block in which government officials appointed to represent our best interests keep selling us out to the highest bidder—all of these betrayals scream for a response.

To quote the great Rod Serling: “If we don’t listen to that scream—and if we don’t respond to it—we may well wind up sitting amidst our own rubble, looking for the truck that hit us—or the bomb that pulverized us. Get the license number of whatever it was that destroyed the dream. And I think we will find that the vehicle was registered in our own name.”

Source: https://bit.ly/2XekjgS

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

Concept of an immunity passport vector for people who have recovered from or are immune to COVID-19 coronavirus and can begin to travel and work again

The things we were worried would happen are happening.”—Angus Johnston, professor at the City University of New York

No one is safe.

No one is immune.

No one gets spared the anguish, fear and heartache of living under the shadow of an authoritarian police state.

That’s the message being broadcast 24/7 with every new piece of government propaganda, every new law that criminalizes otherwise lawful activity, every new policeman on the beat, every new surveillance camera casting a watchful eye, every sensationalist news story that titillates and distracts, every new prison or detention center built to house troublemakers and other undesirables, every new court ruling that gives government agents a green light to strip and steal and rape and ravage the citizenry, every school that opts to indoctrinate rather than educate, and every new justification for why Americans should comply with the government’s attempts to trample the Constitution underfoot.

Yes, COVID-19 has taken a significant toll on the nation emotionally, physically, and economically, but there are still greater dangers on the horizon.

As long as “we the people” continue to allow the government to trample our rights in the so-called name of national security, things will get worse, not better.

It’s already worse.

Now there’s talk of mass testing for COVID-19 antibodies, screening checkpoints, contact tracing, immunity passports to allow those who have recovered from the virus to move around more freely, and snitch tip lines for reporting “rule breakers” to the authorities.

If you can’t read the writing on the wall, you need to pay better attention.

These may seem like small, necessary steps in the war against the COVID-19 virus, but they’re only necessary to the police state in its efforts to further undermine the Constitution, extend its control over the populace, and feed its insatiable appetite for ever-greater powers.

Nothing is ever as simple as the government claims it is.

Whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now—whether it’s in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America healthy again—rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.

The war on drugs turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with SWAT teams and militarized police.

The war on terror turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with warrantless surveillance and indefinite detention.

The war on immigration turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with roving government agents demanding “papers, please.”

This war on COVID-19 will be yet another war on the American people, waged with all of the surveillance weaponry at the government’s disposal: thermal imaging cameras, drones, contact tracing, biometric databases, etc.

So you see, when you talk about empowering government agents to screen the populace in order to control and prevent spread of this virus, what you’re really talking about is creating a society in which ID cards, round ups, checkpoints and detention centers become routine weapons used by the government to control and suppress the populace, no matter the threat.

This is also how you pave the way for a national identification system of epic proportions.

Imagine it: a national classification system that not only categorizes you according to your health status but also allows the government to sort you in a hundred other ways: by gender, orientation, wealth, medical condition, religious beliefs, political viewpoint, legal status, etc.

Are you starting to get the bigger picture yet?

This is just another wolf in sheep’s clothing, a “show me your papers” scheme disguised as a means of fighting a virus.

Don’t fall for it.

The ramifications of such a “show me your papers” society in which government officials are empowered to stop individuals, demand they identify themselves, and subject them to patdowns, warrantless screenings, searches, and interrogations are beyond chilling.

By allowing government agents to establish a litmus test for individuals to be able to exit a state of lockdown and engage in commerce, movement and any other right that corresponds to life in a supposedly free society, it lays the groundwork for a society in which you are required to identify yourself at any time to any government worker who demands it for any reason.

Such tactics quickly lead one down a slippery slope that ends with government agents empowered to force anyone and everyone to prove they are in compliance with every statute and regulation on the books.

It used to be that unless police had a reasonable suspicion that a person was guilty of wrongdoing, they had no legal authority to stop the person and require identification. In other words, “we the people” had the right to come and go as we please without the fear of being questioned by police or forced to identify ourselves.

Unfortunately, in this age of COVID-19, that unrestricted right to move about freely is being pitted against the government’s power to lock down communities at a moment’s notice. And in this tug-of-war between individual freedoms and government power, “we the people” have been on the losing end of the deal.

Curiously enough, these COVID-19 restrictions dovetail conveniently with a national timeline for states to comply with the Real ID Act, which imposes federal standards on identity documents such as state drivers’ licenses, a prelude to this national identification system.

Talk about a perfect storm for bringing about a national ID card, the ultimate human tracking device.

Granted, in the absence of a national ID card, which would make the police state’s task of monitoring, tracking and singling out individual suspects far simpler, “we the people” are already tracked in a myriad of ways: through our state driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, bank accounts, purchases and electronic transactions; by way of our correspondence and communication devices—email, phone calls and mobile phones; through chips implanted in our vehicles, identification documents, even our clothing.

Add to this the fact that businesses, schools and other facilities are relying more and more on fingerprints and facial recognition to identify us. All the while, data companies such as Acxiom are capturing vast caches of personal information to help airports, retailers, police and other government authorities instantly determine whether someone is the person he or she claims to be.

This informational glut—used to great advantage by both the government and corporate sectors—has converged into a mandate for “an internal passport,” a.k.a., a national ID card that would store information as basic as a person’s name, birth date and place of birth, as well as private information, including a Social Security number, fingerprint, retinal scan and personal, criminal and financial records.

A federalized, computerized, cross-referenced, databased system of identification policed by government agents would be the final nail in the coffin for privacy (not to mention a logistical security nightmare that would leave Americans even more vulnerable to every hacker in the cybersphere).

Americans have always resisted adopting a national ID card for good reason: it gives the government and its agents the ultimate power to target, track and terrorize the populace according to the government’s own nefarious purposes.

National ID card systems have been used before, by other oppressive governments, in the name of national security, invariably with horrifying results.

For instance, in Germany, the Nazis required all Jews to carry special stamped ID cards for travel within the country. A prelude to the yellow Star of David badges, these stamped cards were instrumental in identifying Jews for deportation to death camps in Poland.

Author Raul Hilberg summarizes the impact that such a system had on the Jews:

The whole identification system, with its personal documents, specially assigned names, and conspicuous tagging in public, was a powerful weapon in the hands of the police. First, the system was an auxiliary device that facilitated the enforcement of residence and movement restrictions. Second, it was an independent control measure in that it enabled the police to pick up any Jew, anywhere, anytime. Third, and perhaps most important, identification had a paralyzing effect on its victims.

In South Africa during apartheid, pass books were used to regulate the movement of black citizens and segregate the population. The Pass Laws Act of 1952 stipulated where, when and for how long a black African could remain in certain areas. Any government employee could strike out entries, which cancelled the permission to remain in an area. A pass book that did not have a valid entry resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of the bearer.

Identity cards played a crucial role in the genocide of the Tutsis in the central African country of Rwanda. The assault, carried out by extremist Hutu militia groups, lasted around 100 days and resulted in close to a million deaths. While the ID cards were not a precondition to the genocide, they were a facilitating factor. Once the genocide began, the production of an identity card with the designation “Tutsi” spelled a death sentence at any roadblock.

Identity cards have also helped oppressive regimes carry out eliminationist policies such as mass expulsion, forced relocation and group denationalization. Through the use of identity cards, Ethiopian authorities were able to identify people with Eritrean affiliation during the mass expulsion of 1998. The Vietnamese government was able to locate ethnic Chinese more easily during their 1978-79 expulsion. The USSR used identity cards to force the relocation of ethnic Koreans (1937), Volga Germans (1941), Kamyks and Karachai (1943), Crimean Tartars, Meshkhetian Turks, Chechens, Ingush and Balkars (1944) and ethnic Greeks (1949). And ethnic Vietnamese were identified for group denationalization through identity cards in Cambodia in 1993, as were the Kurds in Syria in 1962.

And in the United States, post-9/11, more than 750 Muslim men were rounded up on the basis of their religion and ethnicity and detained for up to eight months. Their experiences echo those of 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were similarly detained 75 years ago following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Despite a belated apology and monetary issuance by the U.S. government, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to declare such a practice illegal. Moreover, laws such as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) empower the government to arrest and detain indefinitely anyone they “suspect” of being an enemy of the state.

You see, you may be innocent of wrongdoing now, but when the standard for innocence is set by the government, no one is safe.

Everyone is a suspect.

And anyone can be a criminal when it’s the government determining what is a crime.

It’s no longer a matter of if, but when.

Remember, the police state does not discriminate.

At some point, it will not matter whether your skin is black or yellow or brown or white. It will not matter whether you’re an immigrant or a citizen. It will not matter whether you’re rich or poor. It won’t even matter whether you’re driving, flying or walking.

After all, government-issued bullets will kill you just as easily whether you’re a law-abiding citizen or a hardened criminal. Government jails will hold you just as easily whether you’ve obeyed every law or broken a dozen. And whether or not you’ve done anything wrong, government agents will treat you like a suspect simply because they have been trained to view and treat everyone like potential criminals.

Eventually, when the police state has turned that final screw and slammed that final door, all that will matter is whether some government agent—poorly trained, utterly ignorant and dismissive of the Constitution, way too hyped up on the power of their badges, and authorized to detain, search, interrogate, threaten and generally harass anyone they see fit—chooses to single you out for special treatment.

We’ve been having this same debate about the perils of government overreach for the past 50-plus years, and still we don’t seem to learn, or if we learn, we learn too late.

All of the excessive, abusive tactics employed by the government today—warrantless surveillance, stop and frisk searches, SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, indefinite detention, militarized police, etc.—started out as a seemingly well-meaning plan to address some problem in society that needed a little extra help.

Be careful what you wish for: you will get more than you bargained for, especially when the government’s involved.

In the case of a national identification system, it might start off as a means of tracking COVID-19 cases in order to “safely” re-open the nation, but it will end up as a means of controlling the American people.

For those tempted to justify these draconian measures for whatever reason—for the sake of their health, the economy, or national security—remember, you can’t have it both ways.

You can’t live in a constitutional republic if you allow the government to act like a police state.

You can’t claim to value freedom if you allow the government to operate like a dictatorship.

You can’t expect to have your rights respected if you allow the government to treat whomever it pleases with disrespect and an utter disregard for the rule of law.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if you’re inclined to advance this double standard because you believe you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, beware: there’s always a boomerang effect.

Source: https://bit.ly/2AnIxgW

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“If 2019 was the year of the street protest, of tear gas and rubber bullets, 2020 might be the year the street protest died, or perhaps fell into a deep sleep, and went online.”—Journalist Christopher Miller

Despite all appearances to the contrary, martial law has not been declared in America.

We still have rights.

Technically, at least.

The government may act as if its police state powers suppress individual liberties during this COVID-19 pandemic, but for all intents and purposes, the Constitution—especially the battered, besieged Bill of Rights—still stands in theory, if not in practice.

Indeed, while federal and state governments have adopted specific restrictive measures in an effort to lockdown the nation and decelerate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the current public health situation has not resulted in the suspension of fundamental constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and the right of assembly.

Mind you, that’s not to say that the government has not tried its best to weaponize this crisis as it has weaponized so many other crises in order to expand its powers and silence its critics.

All over the country, government officials are using COVID-19 restrictions to muzzle protesters.

It doesn’t matter what the protest is about (church assemblies, the right to work, the timing for re-opening the country, discontent over police brutality, etc.): this is activity the First Amendment protects vociferously with only one qualification—that it be peaceful.

Yet even peaceful protesters mindful of the need to adhere to social distancing guidelines because of this COVID-19 are being muzzled, arrested and fined.

For example, a Maryland family was reportedly threatened with up to a year in jail and a $5000 fine if they dared to publicly protest the injustice of their son’s execution by a SWAT team.

If anyone had a legitimate reason to get out in the streets and protest, it’s the Lemp family, whose 21-year-old son Duncan was gunned down in his bedroom during an early morning, no-knock SWAT team raid on his family’s home.

Imagine it.

It was 4:30 a.m. on March 12, 2020, in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has most of the country under a partial lockdown and sheltering at home, when this masked SWAT team—deployed to execute a “high risk” search warrant for unauthorized firearms—stormed the suburban house where 21-year-old Duncan, a software engineer and Second Amendment advocate, lived with his parents and 19-year-old brother.

The entire household, including Lemp and his girlfriend, was reportedly asleep when the SWAT team directed flash bang grenades and gunfire through Lemp’s bedroom window.

Lemp was killed and his girlfriend injured.

No one in the house that morning, including Lemp, had a criminal record.

No one in the house that morning, including Lemp, was considered an “imminent threat” to law enforcement or the public, at least not according to the search warrant.

Now what was so urgent that militarized police felt compelled to employ battlefield tactics in the pre-dawn hours of a day when most people are asleep in bed, not to mention stuck at home as part of a nationwide lockdown?

According to police, they were tipped off that Lemp was in possession of “firearms.”

So instead of approaching the house by the front door at a reasonable hour in order to investigate this complaint—which is what the Fourth Amendment requires—police instead strapped on their guns, loaded up their flash bang grenades and acted like battle-crazed warriors.

This is the blowback from all that military weaponry flowing to domestic police departments.

This is what happens when you use SWAT teams to carry out routine search warrants.

This is what happens when you adopt red flag gun laws, which Maryland did in 2018, painting anyone who might be in possession of a gun—legal or otherwise—as a threat that must be neutralized.

These red flag gun laws allow the police to remove guns from people merely suspected of being threats.

While in theory it appears perfectly reasonable to want to “stop dangerous people before they act,” where the problem arises is when you put the power to determine who is a potential danger in the hands of government agencies, the courts and the police.

Remember, this is the same government that uses the words “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably.

This is the same government whose agents are spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports using automated eyes and ears, social media, behavior sensing software, and citizen spies to identify potential threats.

This is the same government that keeps re-upping the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the military to arrest and detain American citizens with no access to friends, family or the courts if the government believes them to be a threat.

This is the same government that has a growing list—shared with fusion centers and law enforcement agencies—of ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that could flag someone as suspicious and result in their being labeled potential enemies of the state.

Let that sink in a moment.

If you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you are most likely at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.

Moreover, as a New York Times editorial warns, you may be an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) in the eyes of the police if you are afraid that the government is plotting to confiscate your firearms, if you believe the economy is about to collapse and the government will soon declare martial law, or if you display an unusual number of political and/or ideological bumper stickers on your car.

Needless to say, if you happen to be passionate about the Constitution and a vocal critic of government corruption, you’ve already been flagged in a government database somewhere.

Likely, Lemp was, too.

Now Lemp is dead and his family is devastated, outraged and desperate to make sense of what appears to be an insensible act of violence resulting in an inexcusable loss of life.

As usual in these kinds of shootings, government officials have not been forthcoming with details about the shooting: police have refused to meet with family members, the contents of the warrant supporting the raid have not been revealed, and bodycam footage of the raid has not been disclosed.

So in order to voice their objections to police violence and demand answers about the shooting, Lemp’s family and friends planned to conduct an outdoor public demonstration—adhering to social distancing guidelines—only to be threatened with arrest, a year in jail and a $5000 fine for violating Maryland’s stay at home orders.

Yet here’s the thing: we don’t have to be muzzled and remain silent about government corruption, violence and misconduct just because we’re wearing masks and social distancing.

That’s not the point of this whole COVID-19 exercise, or is it?

While there is a moral responsibility to not endanger other lives with our actions, that does not mean relinquishing all of our freedoms.

Be responsible in how you exercise your freedoms, but don’t allow yourselves to be muzzled or your individual freedoms to be undermined.

Understandably, no one wants to talk about individual freedoms when tens of thousands of people the world over are dying, and yet we must.

The decisions we make right now—about freedom, commerce, free will, how we care for the least of these in our communities, what it means to provide individuals and businesses with a safety net, how far we allow the government to go in “protecting” us against this virus, etc.—will haunt us for a long time to come.

At times like these, when emotions are heightened, fear dominates, common sense is in short supply, liberty takes a backseat to public safety, and democratic societies approach the tipping point towards mob rule, there is a tendency to cast those who exercise their individual freedoms (to freely speak, associate, assemble, protest, pursue a living, engage in commerce, etc.) as foolishly reckless, criminally selfish, or outright villains.

Sometimes that is true, but not always.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, there is always a balancing test between individual freedoms and the communal good.

What we must figure out is how to strike a balance that allows us to protect those who need protecting without leaving us chained and in bondage to the police state.

We must find ways to mitigate against this contagion needlessly claiming any more lives and crippling any more communities, but let’s not lose our heads: blindly following the path of least resistance—acquiescing without question to whatever the government dictates—can only lead to more misery, suffering and the erection of a totalitarian regime in which there is no balance.

Source: https://bit.ly/3d0R1IV

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”—Martin Luther King Jr. (A Knock at Midnight, June 11, 1967)

In every age, we find ourselves wrestling with the question of how Jesus Christ—the itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist who died challenging the police state of his time, namely, the Roman Empire—would respond to the moral questions of our day.

For instance, what would Jesus do in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic?

Would he disregard social distancing guidelines to visit and tend to the sick and dying? Would he take the assets belonging to those massive megachurches—the expensive real estate, the lucrative bank accounts—and put them to work where they can do the most good right now, tending to the sick, housing the homeless, and providing for the needy?

Would he advocate, as so many evangelical Christian leaders have done in recent years, for congregants to “submit to your leaders and those in authority,” which in the American police state translates to complying, conforming, submitting, obeying orders, deferring to authority and generally doing whatever a government official tells you to do? Or would he defy government shutdowns to hold church worship services as some have done?

It’s a quandary, all right: what would Jesus do?

Suddenly, that evangelical message of abject compliance to the government, no matter how immoral or unjust that government may seem, is running up against government mandates that test not only how far the religious community will go to exercise its religious freedoms but what that even means in a COVID-19 world.

As the world prepares to spend Holy Week and Easter Sunday in a state of near-isolation, varying degrees of lockdowns imposed by world governments to blunt the deadly impact of this novel coronavirus pandemic have all but ensured that there will be no massive Easter Egg hunts, no Easter parades, and no flower-bedecked church services this year.

We can debate and litigate and legislate whether churches have a lawful right to remain open during this pandemic and allow their congregants to worship in person, but surely Jesus would have us fight an altogether different battle.

Study the life and teachings of Jesus, and you may be surprised at how relevant he is to our modern age.

A radical nonconformist who challenged authority at every turn, Jesus spent his adult life speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo of his day, pushing back against the abuses of the Roman Empire, and providing a blueprint for standing up to tyranny that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him.

Those living through this present age of militarized police, SWAT team raids, police shootings of unarmed citizens, roadside strip searches, invasive surveillance, and government lockdowns might feel as if these events are unprecedented, but the characteristics of a police state and its reasons for being are no different today than they were in Jesus’ lifetime: control, power and money.

Much like the American Empire today, the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day was characterized by secrecy, surveillance, a widespread police presence, a citizenry treated like suspects with little recourse against the police state, perpetual wars, a military empire, martial law, and political retribution against those who dared to challenge the power of the state.

A police state extends far beyond the actions of law enforcement.  In fact, a police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

Indeed, the police state in which Jesus lived and its striking similarities to modern-day America are beyond troubling.

Secrecy, surveillance and rule by the elite. As the chasm between the wealthy and poor grew wider in the Roman Empire, the ruling class and the wealthy class became synonymous, while the lower classes, increasingly deprived of their political freedoms, grew disinterested in the government and easily distracted by “bread and circuses.” Much like America today, with its lack of government transparency, overt domestic surveillance, and rule by the rich, the inner workings of the Roman Empire were shrouded in secrecy, while its leaders were constantly on the watch for any potential threats to its power. The resulting state-wide surveillance was primarily carried out by the military, which acted as investigators, enforcers, torturers, policemen, executioners and jailers. Today that role is fulfilled by the NSA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the increasingly militarized police forces across the country.

Widespread police presence. The Roman Empire used its military forces to maintain the “peace,” thereby establishing a police state that reached into all aspects of a citizen’s life. In this way, these military officers, used to address a broad range of routine problems and conflicts, enforced the will of the state. Today SWAT teams, comprised of local police and federal agents, are employed to carry out routine search warrants for minor crimes such as marijuana possession and credit card fraud.

Citizenry with little recourse against the police state. As the Roman Empire expanded, personal freedom and independence nearly vanished, as did any real sense of local governance and national consciousness. Similarly, in America today, citizens largely feel powerless, voiceless and unrepresented in the face of a power-hungry federal government. As states and localities are brought under direct control by federal agencies and regulations, a sense of learned helplessness grips the nation.

Perpetual wars and a military empire. Much like America today with its practice of policing the world, war and an over-arching militarist ethos provided the framework for the Roman Empire, which extended from the Italian peninsula to all over Southern, Western, and Eastern Europe, extending into North Africa and Western Asia as well. In addition to significant foreign threats, wars were waged against inchoate, unstructured and socially inferior foes.

Martial law. Eventually, Rome established a permanent military dictatorship that left the citizens at the mercy of an unreachable and oppressive totalitarian regime. In the absence of resources to establish civic police forces, the Romans relied increasingly on the military to intervene in all matters of conflict or upheaval in provinces, from small-scale scuffles to large-scale revolts. Not unlike police forces today, with their martial law training drills on American soil, militarized weapons and “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset, the Roman soldier had “the exercise of lethal force at his fingertips” with the potential of wreaking havoc on normal citizens’ lives.

A nation of suspects. Just as the American Empire looks upon its citizens as suspects to be tracked, surveilled and controlled, the Roman Empire looked upon all potential insubordinates, from the common thief to a full-fledged insurrectionist, as threats to its power. The insurrectionist was seen as directly challenging the Emperor.  A “bandit,” or revolutionist, was seen as capable of overturning the empire, was always considered guilty and deserving of the most savage penalties, including capital punishment. Bandits were usually punished publicly and cruelly as a means of deterring others from challenging the power of the state.  Jesus’ execution was one such public punishment.

Acts of civil disobedience by insurrectionists. Starting with his act of civil disobedience at the Jewish temple, the site of the administrative headquarters of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council, Jesus branded himself a political revolutionary. When Jesus “with the help of his disciples, blocks the entrance to the courtyard” and forbids “anyone carrying goods for sale or trade from entering the Temple,” he committed a blatantly criminal and seditious act, an act “that undoubtedly precipitated his arrest and execution.” Because the commercial events were sponsored by the religious hierarchy, which in turn was operated by consent of the Roman government, Jesus’ attack on the money chargers and traders can be seen as an attack on Rome itself, an unmistakable declaration of political and social independence from the Roman oppression.

Military-style arrests in the dead of night. Jesus’ arrest account testifies to the fact that the Romans perceived Him as a revolutionary. Eerily similar to today’s SWAT team raids, Jesus was arrested in the middle of the night, in secret, by a large, heavily armed fleet of soldiers.  Rather than merely asking for Jesus when they came to arrest him, his pursuers collaborated beforehand with Judas. Acting as a government informant, Judas concocted a kiss as a secret identification marker, hinting that a level of deception and trickery must be used to obtain this seemingly “dangerous revolutionist’s” cooperation.

Torture and capital punishment. In Jesus’ day, religious preachers, self-proclaimed prophets and nonviolent protesters were not summarily arrested and executed. Indeed, the high priests and Roman governors normally allowed a protest, particularly a small-scale one, to run its course. However, government authorities were quick to dispose of leaders and movements that appeared to threaten the Roman Empire. The charges leveled against Jesus—that he was a threat to the stability of the nation, opposed paying Roman taxes and claimed to be the rightful King—were purely political, not religious. To the Romans, any one of these charges was enough to merit death by crucifixion, which was usually reserved for slaves, non-Romans, radicals, revolutionaries and the worst criminals.

Jesus was presented to Pontius Pilate “as a disturber of the political peace,” a leader of a rebellion, a political threat, and most gravely—a claimant to kingship, a “king of the revolutionary type.” After Jesus is formally condemned by Pilate, he is sentenced to death by crucifixion, “the Roman means of executing criminals convicted of high treason.”  The purpose of crucifixion was not so much to kill the criminal, as it was an immensely public statement intended to visually warn all those who would challenge the power of the Roman Empire. Hence, it was reserved solely for the most extreme political crimes: treason, rebellion, sedition, and banditry. After being ruthlessly whipped and mocked, Jesus was nailed to a cross.

As Professor Mark Lewis Taylor observed:

The cross within Roman politics and culture was a marker of shame, of being a criminal. If you were put to the cross, you were marked as shameful, as criminal, but especially as subversive. And there were thousands of people put to the cross. The cross was actually positioned at many crossroads, and, as New Testament scholar Paula Fredricksen has reminded us, it served as kind of a public service announcement that said, “Act like this person did, and this is how you will end up.”

Jesus—the revolutionary, the political dissident, and the nonviolent activist—lived and died in a police state. Any reflection on Jesus’ life and death within a police state must take into account several factors: Jesus spoke out strongly against such things as empires, controlling people, state violence and power politics. Jesus challenged the political and religious belief systems of his day. And worldly powers feared Jesus, not because he challenged them for control of thrones or government but because he undercut their claims of supremacy, and he dared to speak truth to power in a time when doing so could—and often did—cost a person his life.

Unfortunately, the radical Jesus, the political dissident who took aim at injustice and oppression, has been largely forgotten today, replaced by a congenial, smiling Jesus trotted out for religious holidays but otherwise rendered mute when it comes to matters of war, power and politics.

Yet for those who truly study the life and teachings of Jesus, the resounding theme is one of outright resistance to war, materialism and empire.

Ultimately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is the contradiction that must be resolved if the radical Jesus—the one who stood up to the Roman Empire and was crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be—is to be an example for our modern age.

After all, there is so much suffering and injustice in the world, and so much good that can be done by those who truly aspire to follow Jesus Christ’s example.

We must decide whether we will follow the path of least resistance—willing to turn a blind eye to what Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as the “evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination, to the moral degeneracy of religious bigotry and the corroding effects of narrow sectarianism, to economic conditions that deprive men of work and food, and to the insanities of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence”—or whether we will be transformed nonconformists “dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.”

As King explained in a powerful sermon delivered in 1954, “This command not to conform comes … [from] Jesus Christ, the world’s most dedicated nonconformist, whose ethical nonconformity still challenges the conscience of mankind.”

We need to recapture the gospel glow of the early Christians, who were nonconformists in the truest sense of the word and refused to shape their witness according to the mundane patterns of the world.  Willingly they sacrificed fame, fortune, and life itself in behalf of a cause they knew to be right.  Quantitatively small, they were qualitatively giants.  Their powerful gospel put an end to such barbaric evils as infanticide and bloody gladiatorial contests.  Finally, they captured the Roman Empire for Jesus Christ… The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.  The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists.  In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!

…Honesty impels me to admit that transformed nonconformity, which is always costly and never altogether comfortable, may mean walking through the valley of the shadow of suffering, losing a job, or having a six-year-old daughter ask, “Daddy, why do you have to go to jail so much?”  But we are gravely mistaken to think that Christianity protects us from the pain and agony of mortal existence.  Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear.  To be a Christian, one must take up his cross, with all of its difficulties and agonizing and tragedy-packed content, and carry it until that very cross leaves its marks upon us and redeems us to that more excellent way that comes only through suffering.

In these days of worldwide confusion, there is a dire need for men and women who will courageously do battle for truth.  We must make a choice. Will we continue to march to the drumbeat of conformity and respectability, or will we, listening to the beat of a more distant drum, move to its echoing sounds?  Will we march only to the music of time, or will we, risking criticism and abuse, march to the soul saving music of eternity?

Source: https://bit.ly/2yCtO0B

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”—Viktor Frankl

We still have choices.

Just because we’re fighting an unseen enemy in the form of a virus doesn’t mean we have to relinquish every shred of our humanity, our common sense, or our freedoms to a nanny state that thinks it can do a better job of keeping us safe.

Whatever we give up willingly now—whether it’s basic human decency, the ability to manage our private affairs, the right to have a say in how the government navigates this crisis, or the few rights still left to us that haven’t been disemboweled in recent years by a power-hungry police state—we won’t get back so easily once this crisis is past.

The government never cedes power willingly.

Neither should we.

Every day brings a drastic new set of restrictions by government bodies (most have been delivered by way of executive orders) at the local, state and federal level that are eager to flex their muscles for the so-called “good” of the populace.

This is where we run the risk of this whole fly-by-night operation going completely off the rails.

It’s one thing to attempt an experiment in social distancing in order to flatten the curve of this virus because we can’t afford to risk overwhelming the hospitals and exposing the most vulnerable in the nation to unavoidable loss of life scenarios. However, there’s a fine line between strongly worded suggestions for citizens to voluntarily stay at home and strong-armed house arrest orders with penalties in place for non-compliance.

More than three-quarters of all Americans have now been ordered to stay at home and that number is growing as more states fall in line.

Schools have cancelled physical classes, many for the remainder of the academic year.

Many of the states have banned gatherings of more than 10 people.

At least three states (Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) have ordered non-essential businesses to close.

In Washington, DC, residents face 90 days in jail and a $5,000 fine if they leave their homes during the coronavirus outbreak. Residents of Maryland, Hawaii and Washington State also risk severe penalties of up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine for violating the stay-at-home orders. Violators in Alaska could face jail time and up to $25,000 in fines.

Kentucky residents are prohibited from traveling outside the state, with a few exceptions.

New York City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., is offering its Rikers Island prisoners $6 an hour to help dig mass graves.

In San Francisco, cannabis dispensaries were included among the essential businesses allowed to keep operating during the city-wide lockdown.

New Jersey’s governor canceled gatherings of any number, including parties, weddings and religious ceremonies, and warned the restrictions could continue for weeks or months. One city actually threatened to prosecute residents who spread false information about the virus.

Oregon banned all nonessential social and recreational gatherings, regardless of size.

Rhode Island has given police the go-ahead to pull over anyone with New York license plates to record their contact information and order them to self-quarantine for 14 days.

South Carolina’s police have been empowered to break up any public gatherings of more than three people.

Of course, there are exceptions to all of these stay-at-home orders (in more than 30 states and counting), the longest of which runs until June 10. Essential workers (doctors, firefighters, police and grocery store workers) can go to work. Everyone else will have to fit themselves into a variety of exceptions in order to leave their homes: for grocery runs, doctor visits, to get exercise, to visit a family member, etc.

Throughout the country, more than 14,000 “Citizen-Soldiers” of the National Guard have been mobilized to support the states and the federal government in their fight against the coronavirus. While the Guard officials insist they have not been tasked with martial law, they are coordinating with the Pentagon, FEMA and the states/territories on COVID-19 response missions.

A quick civics lesson: Martial law is a raw exercise of executive power that can override the other branches of government and assume control over the functioning of a nation, state, or smaller area within a state. The power has been exercised by the president, as President Lincoln did soon after the start of the Civil War, and by governors, as was done in Idaho to quell a miner’s strike that broke out there in 1892.

In areas under martial law, all power rests with the military authority in charge. As British General Wellington wrote, “martial law” is not law at all, but martial rule; it abolishes all law and substitutes for it the will of the military commander. Military personnel are not bound by constitutional restrictions requiring a warrant, and may enter and search homes at without judicial authorization or oversight. Indeed, civil courts would no longer be functioning to hear citizen complaints or to enforce their constitutional rights.

Thus far, we have not breached the Constitution’s crisis point: martial law has yet to be overtly imposed (although an argument could be made to the contrary given the militarized nature of the American police state).

It’s just a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.

If this is not the defining point at which we cross over into all-out totalitarianism, then it is at a minimum a test to see how easily we will surrender.

Curiously enough, although Americans have been generally compliant with the government’s suggestions and orders with a few notable exceptions, there’s been a small groundswell of resistance within parts of the religious community over whether churches, synagogues and other religious institutions that hold worship services should be exempt from state-wide bans on mass gatherings. While many churches have resorted to drive-in services and live-streamed services for its congregants, others have refused to close their doors. One pastor of a 4,000-member church who stood his ground, claiming that the government’s orders violate his right to religious freedom, was arrested after holding multiple church services during which attendees were reportedly given hand sanitizer and made to keep a six-foot distance between family groups.

It’s an interesting test of the First Amendment’s freedom of assembly and religious freedom clauses versus the government’s compelling state interest in prohibiting mass gatherings in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Generally, the government has to show a compelling state interest before it can override certain critical rights such as free speech, assembly, press, search and seizure, etc. Most of the time, it lacks that compelling state interest, but it still manages to violate those rights, setting itself up for legal battles further down the road.

These lockdown measures—on the right of the people to peaceably assemble, to travel, to engage in commerce, etc.—unquestionably restrict fundamental constitutional rights, which might pass muster for a short period of time, but can it be sustained for longer stretches legally?

That’s the challenge before us, of course, if these days and weeks potentially stretch into months-long quarantines.

For example, the First Amendment guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”  While the freedom to travel has been specifically recognized only as in the context of interstate or international travel, the freedom of movement is implicit liberty given that government agents may not stop and question or search persons unless they have some legal justification.

As Supreme Court Justice William Douglas once wrote:

The right to travel is a part of the “liberty” of which the citizen cannot be deprived without the due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. . . .  Freedom of movement across frontiers in either direction, and inside frontiers as well, was a part of our heritage. Travel abroad, like travel within the country, may be necessary for a livelihood. It may be as close to the heart of the individual as the choice of what he eats, or wears, or reads. Freedom of movement is basic in our scheme of values.

As a rule, people are free to roam and loiter in public places and are not required to provide police with their identity or give an account of their purpose for exercising their freedom.

However, as with all constitutional rights, these freedoms, as the Courts have ruled, are not unqualified. Even content-based restrictions on speech are allowed under the First Amendment if the restriction is needed to serve a compelling government interest.

The Supreme Court long ago “distinctly recognized the authority of a state to enact quarantine laws and health laws of every description[.]” Such laws are an exercise of the state’s police power, and if there is a rational basis for believing they are needed to protect the public health, they will be deemed to serve a compelling government interest.

The point was made over 100 years ago in circumstances similar to today’s COVID-19 outbreak when a smallpox outbreak occurred in Cambridge, Mass., invoking a state law allowing localities to make vaccinations mandatory and enforceable by criminal penalties.  In upholding the law and local order against a claim that it violated the constitutional liberty to control one’s own body and health, the Supreme Court declared:

The possession and enjoyment of all rights are subject to such reasonable conditions as may be deemed by the governing authority of the country essential to the safety, health, peace, good order, and morals of the community. Even liberty itself, the greatest of all rights, is not unrestricted license to act according to one’s own will.

The Court went on to write that “[u]pon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

Most states have enacted laws that recognize the need for prompt action in times of emergency, including epidemics, and have delegated the authority to and executive officer to take action to address that emergency.  For example, Tennessee law provides that the governor is given the power to issue orders that have the force and effect of law to address emergencies, which include disease outbreaks and epidemics. That state’s law similarly grants mayors or other local chief executive officers the power to issue orders and directives deemed necessary, including closing public facilities, in order to address civil emergencies.

Courts have ruled that they will defer to the decisions of an executive authority on the decision as to whether an emergency exists and whether the means employed to address the emergency are reasonable and legal, although there could be situations where a court would declare that the executive decision is arbitrary and unreasonable.

When governments act under their police power to control plagues and epidemics, those laws are valid even though they may restrict individuals in the exercise of constitutional rights.  As one legal scholar recently noted, the balance between individual rights and protection of the public “assumes that there will be times when there are truly compelling emergencies justifying severe measures. A global pandemic that spreads even among those who are asymptomatic and could exceed the capacity of the American health care system would appear to be just such a compelling situation.”

At the moment, the government believes it has a compelling interest—albeit a temporary one—in restricting gatherings, assemblies and movement in public in order to minimize the spread of this virus.

The key point is this: while we may tolerate these restrictions on our liberties in the short term, we should never fail to be on guard lest these one-time constraints become a slippery slope to a total lockdown mindset.

What we must guard against, more than ever before, is the tendency to become so accustomed to our prison walls—these lockdowns, authoritarian dictates, and police state tactics justified as necessary for national security—that we allow the government to keep having its way in all things, without any civic resistance or objections being raised.

Martin Niemoller learned that particular lesson the hard way.

A German military officer turned theologian, Niemoller was an early supporter of Hitler’s rise to power, having believed his promises to protect the church and not allow pogroms against the Jewish people. It didn’t take long for Hitler to break those promises, but by the time the German people realized they had been double-crossed, it was too late.

As Niemoller warned: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The lesson for those of us housebound and watching from a distance as the Fourth Reich emerges from the shadows is this: all freedoms hang together.

Niemoller’s warning for our modern age would probably go something like this: First the government went after the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and I did not object, because I had nothing to hide. Then they went after the right to not be spied upon, and I did not object, because I had done nothing wrong. Then they went after the right to criticize the government, and I still did not object, because I had nothing to criticize them for. Then they went after the right to speak—worship—and assemble freely, and I did not object, because I had nothing to say, no one to worship, and nowhere to congregate. By the time the government came to lock me up, there was no one left to set me free.

In other words, don’t be naïve: the government will use this crisis to expand its powers far beyond the reach of the Constitution. The Justice Department has already signaled its desire to suspend parts of the Constitution indefinitely.

That’s how it starts.

Travel too far down that slippery slope, and there will be no turning back.

Curiously enough, although Americans have not been inclined to agree on anything much lately, given the extreme polarization of the country politically, a recent survey indicates that “people of both parties seem rather okay with undermining core civil liberties in order to fight the pandemic.”

This way lies madness.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if you wait to speak out—stand up—and resist until the government’s lockdowns impact your freedoms personally, it could be too late.

What would be far worse, however, is handing over your freedoms voluntarily—without even a semblance of protest—to a government that cares little to nothing about your freedoms or your lives.

Source: https://bit.ly/3aBsR6R

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

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