Posts Tagged ‘SWAT team raids’

“They came again this morning at about 8:00 o’clock. A large cargo-type helicopter flew low over the cabin, shaking it on its very foundations. It shook all of us inside, too. I feel frightened … I see how helpless and tormented I am becoming with disgust and disillusionment with the government which has turned this beautiful country into a police state … I feel like I am in the middle of a war zone.”—Journal entry from a California resident describing the government’s aerial searches for marijuana plants

Backyard gardeners, beware: tomato plants have become collateral damage in the government’s war on drugs, especially marijuana.

In fact, merely growing a vegetable garden on your own property, or in a greenhouse on your property, or shopping at a gardening store for gardening supplies—incredibly enough—could set you up for a drug raid sanctioned by the courts.

It’s happened before.

After shopping for hydroponic tomatoes at their local gardening store, a Kansas family found themselves subjected to a SWAT team raid as part of a multi-state, annual campaign dubbed “Operation Constant Gardener,” in which police collected the license plates of hundreds of customers at the gardening store and then investigated them for possible marijuana possession.

By “investigated,” I mean that police searched through the family’s trash. (You can thank the Supreme Court and their 1978 ruling in California v. Greenwood for allowing police to invade your trash can.) Finding “wet glob vegetation” in the garbage, the cops somehow managed to convince themselves—and a judge—that it was marijuana.

In fact, it was loose-leaf tea, but those pesky details don’t usually bother the cops when they’re conducting field tests.

Indeed, field tests routinely read positive for illegal drugs even when no drugs are present. According to investigative journalist Radley Balko, “it’s almost as if these tests come up positive whenever the police need them to. A partial list of substances that the tests have mistaken for illegal drugs would include sage, chocolate chip cookies, motor oil, spearmint, soap, tortilla dough, deodorant, billiard’s chalk, patchouli, flour, eucalyptus, breath mints, Jolly Ranchers and vitamins.”

There’s a long list of innocent ingredients that could be mistaken for drugs and get you subjected to a raid, because that’s all it takes—just the barest whiff of a suspicion by police that you might be engaged in criminal activity—to start the ball rolling.

From there, these so-called “investigations” follow the usual script: judge issues a warrant for a SWAT raid based on botched data, cops raid the home and terrorize the family at gunpoint, cops find no drugs, family sues over a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, and then the courts protect the cops and their botched raid on the basis of qualified immunity.

It happens all the time.

As Balko reports, “Police have broken down doors, screamed obscenities, and held innocent people at gunpoint only to discover that what they thought were marijuana plants were really sunflowers, hibiscus, ragweed, tomatoes, or elderberry bushes. (It’s happened with all five.)”

Surely, you might think, the government has enough on its hands right now—policing a novel coronavirus pandemic, instituting nationwide lockdowns, quelling civil unrests over police brutality—that it doesn’t need to waste time and resources ferreting out pot farmers.

You’d be wrong.

This is a government that excels at make-work projects in which it assigns at-times unnecessary jobs to government agents to keep them busy or employed.

In this case, however, the make-work principle (translation: making work to keep the police state busy at taxpayer expense) is being used to justify sending police and expensive military helicopters likely equipped with sophisticated surveillance and thermal imaging devices on exploratory sorties every summer—again at taxpayer expense—in order to uncover illegal marijuana growing operations.

Often, however, what these air and ground searches end up targeting are backyard gardeners growing tomato plants.

Just recently, in fact, eyewitnesses in Virginia reported low-flying black helicopters buzzing over rural and suburban neighborhoods as part of a multi-agency operation to search for marijuana growers. Oftentimes these joint operations involve local police, state police and the Army National Guard.

One woman reported having her “tomato plants complimented by the 7 cops that pulled up in my yard in unmarked SUVs, after a helicopter hovered over our house for 20 minutes this morning.” Another man reported a similar experience from a few years ago when police “showed up in unmarked SUV’s with guns pulled. Then the cops on the ground argued with the helicopter because the heat signature in the ‘copter didn’t match what was growing.”

Back in 2013, an aerial surveillance mission spotted what police thought might be marijuana plants. Two days later, dozens of city officials, SWAT team, police officers and code compliance employees, and numerous official vehicles including dozens of police cars and several specialized vehicular equipment, including helicopters and unmanned flying drones, descended on The Garden of Eden, a 3.5-acre farm in Arlington, Texas, for a 10-hour raid in search of marijuana that turned up nothing more than tomato, blackberry and okra plants.

These aerial and ground sweeps have become regular occurrences across the country, part of the government’s multi-million dollar Domestic Cannabis Eradication Program. Local cops refer to the annual military maneuvers as “Eradication Day.”

Started in 1979 as a way to fund local efforts to crack down on marijuana growers in California and Hawaii, the Eradication Program went national in 1985, right around the time the Reagan Administration enabled the armed forces to get more involved in the domestic “war on drugs.”

Writing for The Washington Post, Radley Balko describes how these raids started off, with the National Guard, spy planes and helicopters:

The project was called the Campaign Against Marijuana Production, or CAMP… In all, thirteen California counties were invaded by choppers, some of them blaring Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” as they dropped Guardsmen and law enforcement officers armed with automatic weapons, sandviks, and machetes into the fields of California … In CAMP’s first year, the program conducted 524 raids, arrested 128 people, and seized about 65,000 marijuana plants. Operating costs ran at a little over $1.5 million. The next year, 24 more sheriffs signed up for the program, for a total of 37. CAMP conducted 398 raids, seized nearly 160,000 plants, and made 218 arrests at a cost to taxpayers of $2.3 million.

The area’s larger growers had been put out of business (or, probably more accurately, had set up shop somewhere else), so by the start of the second campaign in 1984, CAMP officials were already targeting increasingly smaller growers. By the end of that 1984 campaign, the helicopters had to fly at lower and lower altitudes to spot smaller batches of plants. The noise, wind, and vibration from the choppers could knock out windows, kick up dust clouds, and scare livestock. The officials running the operation made no bones about the paramilitary tactics they were using. They considered the areas they were raiding to be war zones. In the interest of “officer safety,” they gave themselves permission to search any structures relatively close to a marijuana supply, without a warrant. Anyone coming anywhere near a raid operation was subject to detainment, usually at gunpoint.

Right around the same time, in the mid-1980s, the federal government started handing out grants to local police departments to assist with their local boots-on-the-ground “war on drugs.” These grants (through the Byrne Grant program and COPS program, both of which started to be phased out under George W. Bush, only to be re-upped by Barack Obama) could be used to pay for additional police personnel, equipment, training, technical assistance and information systems. However, studies show that while these federal grants did not improve police effectiveness or drug deterrence, they did incentivize SWAT team raids.

But how do you go from a “war on drugs” to SWAT-style raids on vegetable gardens?

Connect the dots, starting with the government’s war on marijuana, the emergence of SWAT teams, the militarization of local police forces through the federal 1033 Program, which allows the Pentagon to transfer “vast amounts of military equipment—machine guns and ammunition, helicopters, night-vision gear, armored cars—to local police departments,” and the transformation of American communities into battlefields: as always, it comes back to the make work principle, which starts with local police finding ways to justify the use of military equipment and federal funding.

Each year, the government spends between $14 and $18 million funding helicopter sweeps and police overtime to help the states track down illegal marijuana plants. These sweeps are even being carried out in states where it’s now legal to grow marijuana.

The sweeps work like this: Local police, working with multiple state agencies including the National Guard, carry out ground and air searches of different sectors. Air spotters flying overhead in helicopters relay their findings to police on the ground, who then carry out a search-and-destroy mission.

Mark my words: the use of police drones will make these kinds of aerial missions even more common.

For the most part, aerial surveillance is legal. As Arthur Holland Michel writes for The Atlantic: “When it comes to law enforcement, police are likewise free to use aerial surveillance without a warrant or special permission. Under current privacy law, these operations are just as legal as policing practices whereby an officer spots unlawful activity while walking or driving through a neighborhood.”

There have been a few notable exceptions.

In 2015, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that surveillance from a low-flying helicopter conducting an aerial search for marijuana by state police and the national guard was illegal under the U.S. Constitution. The court reasoned that “when low-flying aerial activity leads to more than just observation and actually causes an unreasonable intrusion on the ground—most commonly from an unreasonable amount of wind, dust, broken objects, noise, and sheer panic—then at some point courts are c and require a warrant before law enforcement engages in such activity. The Fourth Amendment and its prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures demands no less.”

In Philip Cobbs’ case, helicopter spotters claimed to have seen two lone marijuana plants growing in the wreckage of a fallen oak tree on the Virginia native’s 39-acre family farm.

Cobbs noticed the black helicopter circling overhead while spraying the blueberry bushes near his house. After watching the helicopter for several moments, Cobbs went inside to check on his blind, deaf 90-year-old mother. By the time he returned outside, several unmarked police SUVs had driven onto his property, and police (ten in all) in flak jackets, carrying semi-automatic weapons and shouting unintelligibly, had exited the vehicles and were moving toward him.

Of course, it was never about the two pot plants.

What the cops were really after was an excuse to search Cobbs’ little greenhouse, which he had used that spring to start tomato plants, cantaloupes, and watermelons, as well as asters and hollyhocks, which he planned to sell at a roadside stand near his home. The search of the greenhouse turned up nothing more than used tomato seedling containers.

Nevertheless, police charged Cobbs with misdemeanor possession of marijuana for the two plants they claimed to have found. Eventually, the charges were dismissed but not before The Rutherford Institute took up Cobbs’ case, which revealed that police hadn’t even bothered to secure a warrant before embarking on their raid of Cobbs’ property—a raid that had to cost taxpayers upwards of $25,000, at the very least—part of their routine sweep of the countryside in search of pot-growing operations.

Two plants or two hundred or no plants at all: it doesn’t matter.

A SWAT team targeted one South Carolina man for selling $50 worth of pot on two different occasions. The Washington Post reports: The SWAT team “broke down Betton’s door with a battering ram, then fired at least 57 bullets at him, hitting him nine times. He lost portions of his gallbladder, colon, bowel and rectum, and is paralyzed from the waist down. He also suffered damage to his liver, lung, small intestine and pancreas. Two of his vertebrae were damaged, and another was partially destroyed. Another bullet shattered his leg.” After security footage showed that most of what police said about the raid was a lie, the cops settled the case for $2.75 million.

Monetary awards like that are the exception, however.

Most of the time, the cops get away with murder and mayhem. Literally.

Bottom line: no amount of marijuana is too insignificant if it allows police to qualify for federal grants and equipment and lay claim to seized assets (there’s the profit motive) under the guise of fighting the War on Drugs.

SWAT teams carry out more than 80,000 no-knock raids every year. The vast majority of these raids are to serve routine drug warrants, many times for crimes no more serious than possession of marijuana.

Although growing numbers of states continue to decriminalize marijuana use and 9 out of 10 Americans favor the legalization of either medical or recreational/adult-use marijuana, the government’s profit-driven “War on Drugs”—waged with state and local police officers dressed in SWAT gear, armed to the hilt, and trained to act like soldiers on a battlefield, all thanks to funding provided by the U.S. government, particularly the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—has not abated.

Since the formation of the DHS post-9/11, hundreds of billions of dollars in grants have flowed to local police departments for SWAT teams, giving rise to a “police industrial complex” that routinely devastates communities, terrorizes families, and destroys innocent lives.

No longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for relatively routine police matters, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day. 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.

Unfortunately, general incompetence, collateral damage (fatalities, property damage, etc.) and botched raids tend to go hand in hand with an overuse of paramilitary forces.

In some cases, officers misread the address on the warrant. In others, they simply barge into the wrong house or even the wrong building. In another subset of cases, police conduct a search of a building where the suspect no longer resides.

SWAT teams have even on occasion conducted multiple, sequential raids on wrong addresses or executed search warrants despite the fact that the suspect is already in police custody. Police have also raided homes on the basis of mistaking the presence or scent of legal substances for drugs. Incredibly, these substances have included tomatoes, sunflowers, fish, elderberry bushes, kenaf plants, hibiscus, and ragweed.

All too often, the shock-and-awe tactics utilized by many SWAT teams only increases the likelihood that someone will get hurt with little consequences for law enforcement, even when the raids are botched.

Botched SWAT team raids have resulted in the loss of countless lives, including children and the elderly. Usually, however, the first to be shot are the family dogs.

SWAT raids are usually carried out late at night or shortly before dawn. Unfortunately, to the unsuspecting homeowner—especially in cases involving mistaken identities or wrong addresses—a raid can appear to be nothing less than a violent home invasion, with armed intruders crashing through their door.

That’s exactly what happened to Jose Guerena, the young ex-Marine who was killed after a SWAT team kicked open the door of his Arizona home during a drug raid and opened fire. According to news reports, Guerena, 26 years old and the father of two young children, grabbed a gun in response to the forced invasion but never fired. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. Police officers were not as restrained. The young Iraqi war veteran was allegedly fired upon 71 times. Guerena had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.

The problems inherent in these situations are further compounded by the fact that SWAT teams are granted “no-knock” warrants at high rates such that the warrants themselves are rendered practically meaningless.

This sorry state of affairs is made even worse by U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have essentially done away with the need for a “no-knock” warrant altogether, giving the police authority to disregard the protections afforded American citizens by the Fourth Amendment.

Clearly, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplesomething must be done.

When the war on drugs—a.k.a. the war on the American people—becomes little more than a thinly veiled attempt to keep SWAT teams employed and special interests appeased, it’s time to revisit our drug policies and laws.

“You take the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, all the rights you expect to have—when they come in like that, the only right you have is not to get shot if you cooperate. They open that door, your life is on the line,” concluded Bob Harte, whose home was raided by a SWAT team simply because the family was seen shopping at a garden store, cops found loose tea in the family’s trash and mistook it for marijuana.

Our family will never be the same,” said Addie Harte, recalling the two-hour raid that had police invading their suburban home with a battering ram and AR-15 rifles. As The Washington Post reports:

Bob found himself flat on floor, hands behind his head, his eyes locked on the boots of the officer standing over him with an AR-15 assault rifle. “Are there kids?” the officers were yelling. “Where are the kids?” “And I’m laying there staring at this guy’s boots fearing for my kids’ lives, trying to tell them where my children are,” Harte recalled later in a deposition on July 9, 2015. “They are sending these guys with their guns drawn running upstairs to bust into my children’s house, bedroom, wake them out of bed.”

It didn’t matter that no drugs were found—nothing but a hydroponic tomato garden and loose tea leaves. The search and SWAT raid were reasonable, according to the courts.

There’s a lesson here for the rest of us. As Bob Harte concluded: “If this can happen to us, everybody in the country needs to be afraid.”

Source: https://bit.ly/3aSa8oE

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.

 

The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”—Hillary Clinton, Meet the Press (April 3, 2016)

When presidential candidate Hillary Clinton declares that unborn babies do not have constitutional rights, she’s not just spouting partisan rhetoric in the heated national debate over abortion. She’s providing us with a glimpse into an increasingly troubling mindset among government officials who believe that the government not only has the power to determine who is deserving of constitutional rights in the eyes of the law but also has the authority to deny those rights to an American citizen.

The unborn are not the only persons being denied their rights under the Constitution.

American families who have their dogs shot, their homes trashed and their children terrorized or, worse, killed by errant SWAT team raids in the middle of the night are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Disabled individuals who are being strip searched, handcuffed, arrested and “diagnosed” by police as dangerous or mentally unstable merely because they stutter and walk unevenly are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

School-aged children as young as 4-years-old who are leg shackled, handcuffed and strip searched for violating school zero tolerance policies by chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun and playing an imaginary game of cops and robbers, or engaging in childish behavior such as crying or jumping are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Unarmed citizens who are tasered or shot by police for daring to hesitate, stutter, move a muscle, flee or disagree in any way with a police order are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Likewise, Americans—young and old alike—who are shot by police because they pointed a garden hose at a police officer, reached for their registration in their glove box, relied upon a cane to steady themselves, or were seen playing with air rifles or BB guns are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Female motorists who are unlucky enough to be pulled over for a questionable traffic infraction only to be subjected by police to cavity searches by the side of the road are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Male pedestrians and motorists alike who are being subjected to roadside strip searches and rectal probes by police based largely on the color of their skin are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

American citizens subjected to government surveillance whereby their phone calls are being listened in on, their mail and text messages read, their movements tracked and their transactions monitored are being denied their rights under the Constitution. The same goes for individuals who are being denied access to body camera footage of their interactions with police, school officials and even medical professionals.

Homeowners who are being fined and arrested for raising chickens in their backyard, allowing the grass in their front yards to grow too long, and holding Bible studies in their homes are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Decorated military veterans who are being arrested for criticizing the government on social media such as Facebook are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Homeless individuals who are being harassed, arrested and run out of towns by laws that criminalize homelessness are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Individuals whose DNA has been forcibly collected and entered into federal and state law enforcement databaseswhether or not they have been convicted of any crime are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Drivers whose license plates are being scanned, uploaded to a police database and used to map their movements, whether or not they are suspected of any crime, are being denied their rights under the Constitution. The same goes fordrivers who are being ticketed for running afoul of red light cameras without any real opportunity to defend themselves against such a charge are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Protesters and activists who are being labeled domestic terrorists and extremists and accused of hate crimes for speaking freely are being denied their rights under the Constitution. Likewise, American citizens who being targeted for assassination by drone strikes abroad without having been charged, tried and convicted of treason are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Hard-working Americans whose bank accounts, homes, cars, electronics and cash are seized by police (operating according to asset forfeiture schemes that provide profit incentives for highway robbery) are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

So what is the common denominator here?

These are all American citizens—endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, rights that no man or government can take away from them, among these the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—and they are all being oppressed in one way or another by a government that has grown drunk on power, money and its own authority.

If the government—be it the President, Congress, the courts or any federal, state or local agent or agency—can decide that any person has no rights, then that person becomes less than a citizen, less than human, less than deserving of respect, dignity, civility and bodily integrity. He or she becomes an it, a faceless number that can be tallied and tracked, a quantifiable mass of cells that can be discarded without conscience, an expendable cost that can be written off without a second thought, or an animal that can be bought, sold, branded, chained, caged, bred, neutered and euthanized at will.

It’s a slippery slope that justifies all manner of violations in the name of national security, the interest of the state and the so-called greater good.

Yet those who founded this country believed that what we conceive of as our rights were given to us by God—we are created equal, according to the nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence—and that government cannot create nor can they extinguish our God-given rights. To do so would be to anoint the government with god-like powers and elevate it above the citizenry.

Battlefield_Cover_300Unfortunately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have been dancing with this particular devil for quite some time now, allowing the government to dictate to us, rather than “we the people” giving marching orders to those whose paychecks are funded with taxpayer dollars.

If we continue to wait for the government to restore our freedoms, respect our rights, rein in its abuses and restrain its agents from riding roughshod over our lives, our liberty and our happiness, then we will be waiting forever.

So what is the answer?

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor,” warned Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated 48 years ago on April 4, 1968. “It must be demanded by the oppressed.”

But how do we demand freedom from our oppressor?

Start by studying history. Take note of the movements that succeeded and the ones that failed. Adopt the tactics of those who successfully brought about reform through nonviolent resistance. Think nationally, but act locally. If you’re not prepared to challenge injustice in your own community, when it happens in your own backyard, then there can be no hope for reining in the government’s abuses at the national level.

Most of all, stop giving the government the power to play god—all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful—and start putting it in its rightful place as our servant: an institution that derives its powers from the consent of the governed (“we the people”) whose primary purpose is to safeguard our rights.

“Two thousand years later … the memory of the revolutionary zealot who walked across Galilee gathering an army of disciples with the goal of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, the magnetic preacher who defied the authority of the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, the radical Jewish nationalist who challenged the Roman occupation and lost, has been almost completely lost to history.” ― Reza Aslan, religious scholar

The Christmas narrative of a baby born in a manger is a familiar one.

The Roman Empire, a police state in its own right, had ordered that a census be conducted. Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary traveled to the little town of Bethlehem so that they could be counted. There being no room for the couple at any of the inns, they stayed in a stable, where Mary gave birth to a baby boy. That boy, Jesus, would grow up to undermine the political and religious establishment of his day and was eventually crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be.

But what if Jesus, the revered preacher, teacher, radical and prophet, had been born 2,000 years later? How would Jesus’ life have been different had he be born and raised in the American police state?

Consider the following if you will.

Had Jesus been born in the year 2015…

Rather than traveling to Bethlehem for a census, Jesus’ parents would have been mailed a 28-page American Community Survey, a mandatory government questionnaire documenting their habits, household inhabitants, work schedule, and even how many toilets were in their home, etc. The penalty for not responding to this invasive survey would have resulted in a fine of $5,000.

Instead of being born in a manger, Jesus might have been born at home. Rather than wise men and shepherds bringing gifts, however, the baby’s parents might have been forced to ward off visits from state social workers intent on prosecuting them for the home birth. One couple in Washington had all three of their children removed after social services objected to the two youngest being birthed in an unassisted home delivery.

Had Jesus been born in a hospital, his blood and DNA would have been taken and entered into a government biobank without his parents’ knowledge or consent. While most states require newborn screening, a growing number are indefinitely holding onto that genetic material long-term for research, analysis and purposes yet to be disclosed.

Then again, had his parents been undocumented immigrants, they and the newborn baby might have been shuffled to aprofit-driven, private detention center for illegals. There’s quite a lot of money to be made from imprisoning immigrants, especially when taxpayers are footing the bill.

Once in school, Jesus would have been drilled in lessons of compliance and obedience to government authorities, all the while learning little about his own rights. And if he dared to challenge school officials, he might have found himself suspended under a school zero tolerance policy that punishes minor infractions (such as doodling or talking in class) as harshly as more serious offenses (such as bringing a weapon to class).

According to scripture, Jesus, at the age of twelve, wandered the temple courts in Jerusalem alone and unsupervised. Today, had Jesus disappeared for a few hours let alone days, his parents would have been handcuffed, arrested and jailed for parental negligence. Parents across the country have been arrested for far less “offenses” such as allowing their children to walk to the park unaccompanied and play in their front yard alone.

Rather than disappearing from the history books from his early teenaged years to adulthood, Jesus’ movements and personal data—including his biometrics—would have been documented, tracked, monitored and filed by governmental agencies and corporations such as Google and Microsoft. Incredibly, 95 percent of school districts share their student records with outside companies contracted to manage the data.

If Jesus were to ever make contact with the likes of John the Baptist, he would have been flagged for surveillance because of his association with a prominent activist, peaceful or otherwise. Since 9/11, the FBI has actively carried out surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations on a broad range of activist groups, from animal rights groups to poverty relief and anti-war organizations.

Rather than being permitted to live as an itinerant preacher, Jesus might have found himself threatened with arrest for daring to live off the grid or sleeping outside. In fact, the number of cities that have resorted to criminalizing homelessness by enacting bans on camping, sleeping in vehicles, loitering and begging in public has doubled in recent years.

Had his travels taken him from community to community, Jesus might have been reported to government officials as “suspicious” under the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” programs. Many states, including New York, are providing individuals with phone apps that allow them to take photos of suspicious activity and report them to their state Intelligence Center, where they are reviewed and forwarded to law-enforcement agencies.

Perceived as a dissident and a potential threat to the government’s power, Jesus might have had government spies planted among his followers in order to monitor his activities, report on his movements, and entrap him into breaking the law.

Jesus’ anti-government views would certainly have resulted in him being labeled a domestic extremist. Law enforcement agencies are being trained to recognize signs of anti-government extremism during interactions with potential extremists who share a “belief in the approaching collapse of government and the economy.”

Assuming Jesus used the internet to spread his radical message of peace and love, he might have found his blog posts infiltrated by government spies attempting to undermine his integrity, discredit him or plant incriminating information online about him. At the very least, he would have had his website hacked and his email monitored.

Had Jesus attempted to feed large crowds of people, he would have been threatened with arrest for violating various ordinances prohibiting the distribution of food without a permit. Florida officials arrested a 90-year-old man for feeding the homeless on a public beach.

Had Jesus spoken publicly about his 40 days in the desert and his conversations with the devil, he might have been labeled mentally ill and detained in a psych ward against his will for a mandatory involuntary psychiatric hold with no access to family or friends. One Virginia man was arrested, strip searched, handcuffed to a table, diagnosed as having “mental health issues,” and locked up for five days in a mental health facility against his will apparently because of his slurred speech and unsteady gait.

Without a doubt, had Jesus attempted to overturn tables in a Jewish temple and raged against the materialism of religious institutions, he would have been charged with a hate crime. Currently, 45 states and the federal government have hate crime laws on the books.

Rather than having armed guards capture Jesus in a public place, government officials would have ordered that a SWAT team carry out a raid on Jesus and his followers, complete with flash-bang grenades and military equipment. There are upwards of 80,000 such SWAT team raids carried out every year, many on unsuspecting Americans who have no defense against such government invaders, even when such raids are done in error.

Instead of being detained by Roman guards, Jesus might have been made to “disappear” into a secret government detention center where he would have been interrogated, tortured and subjected to all manner of abuses. Chicago police “disappeared” more than 7,000 people into a secret, off-the-books interrogation warehouse at Homan Square.

Charged with treason and labeled a domestic terrorist, Jesus might have been sentenced to a life-term in a private prison where he would have been forced to provide slave labor for corporations or put to death by way of the electric chair or a lethal mixture of drugs.

Either way, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, whether Jesus had been born in our modern age or his own, he still would have died at the hands of a police state.

“Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.”—Gore Vidal

The countdown has begun.

We now have less than one year until the 2016 presidential election, and you can expect to be treated to an earful of carefully crafted, expensive sound bites and political spin about climate change, education, immigration, taxes and war.

Despite the dire state of our nation, however, you can rest assured that none of the problems that continue to undermine our freedoms will be addressed in any credible, helpful way by any of the so-called viable presidential candidates and certainly not if doing so might jeopardize their standing with the unions, corporations or the moneyed elite bankrolling their campaigns.

The following are just a few of the issues that should be front and center in every presidential debate. That they are not is a reflection of our willingness as citizens to have our political elections reduced to little more than popularity contests that are, in the words of Shakespeare, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The national debt. Why aren’t politicians talking about the whopping $18.1 trillion and rising that our government owes to foreign countries, private corporations and its retirement programs? Not only is the U.S. the largest debtor nation in the world, but according to Forbes, “the amount of interest on the national debt is estimated to be accumulating at a rate of over one million dollars per minute.” Shouldn’t the government being on the verge of bankruptcy be an issue worth talking about?

Black budget spending. It costs the American taxpayer $52.6 billion every year to be spied on by the sixteen or so intelligence agencies tasked with surveillance, data collection, counterintelligence and covert activities. The agencies operating with black budget (top secret) funds include the CIA, NSA and Justice Department. Clearly, our right to privacy seems to amount to nothing in the eyes of the government and those aspiring to office.

Government contractors. Despite all the talk about big and small government, what we have been saddled with is a government that is outsourcing much of its work to high-paid contractors at great expense to the taxpayer and with no competition, little transparency and dubious savings. According to the Washington Post, “By some estimates, there are twice as many people doing government work under contract than there are government workers.” These open-ended contracts, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, “now account for anywhere between one quarter and one half of all federal service contracting.” Moreover, any attempt to reform the system is “bitterly opposed by federal employee unions, who take it as their mission to prevent good employees from being rewarded and bad employees from being fired.”

Cost of war. Then there’s the detrimental impact the government’s endless wars (fueled by the profit-driven military industrial complex) is having on our communities, our budget and our police forces. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest employer, with more than 3.2 million employees. Since 9/11, we’ve spent more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. When you add in our military efforts in Pakistan, as well as the lifetime price of health care for disabled veterans and interest on the national debt, that cost rises to $4.4 trillion.

Education. Despite the fact that the U.S. spends more on education than any other developed nation, our students continue to lag significantly behind other advanced industrial nations. Incredibly, teenagers in the U.S. ranked 36th in the world in math, reading and science.

Civics knowledge. Americans know little to nothing about their rights or how the government is supposed to operate. This includes educators and politicians. For example, 27 percent of elected officials cannot name even one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, while 54 percent do not know the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. As one law professor notes:

Only 36 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government. Fewer than half of 12th grade students can describe the meaning of federalism. Only 35% of teenagers can identify “We the People” as the first three words of the Constitution. Fifty-eight percent of Americans can’t identify a single department in the United States Cabinet. Only 5% of high school seniors can identify checks on presidential power, only 43% could name the two major political parties, only 11% knew the length of a Senator’s term, and only 23% could name the first President of the United States.

A citizenry that does not know its rights will certainly not rebel while they are being systematically indoctrinated into compliance.

Asset forfeiture. Under the guise of fighting the war on drugs, government agents (usually the police) have been given broad leeway to seize billions of dollars’ worth of private property (money, cars, TVs, etc.) they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity. Then—and here’s the kicker—whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property, often divvying it up with the local police who did the initial seizure. The police are actually being trained in seminars on how to seize the “goodies” that are on police departments’ wish lists. According to the New York Times, seized monies have been used by police to “pay for sports tickets, office parties, a home security system and a $90,000 sports car.”

Surveillance. Not only is the government spying on Americans’ phone calls and emails, but police are also being equipped with technology such as Stingray devices that can track your cell phone, as well as record the content of your calls and the phone numbers dialed. That doesn’t even touch on what the government’s various aerial surveillance devices are tracking, or the dangers posed to the privacy and safety of those on the ground. Just recently, a 243-foot, multi-billion dollar military surveillance blimp drifted off, leaving a path of wreckage and power outages in its wake, before finally crash landing.

Police misconduct. Americans have no protection against police abuse. It is no longer unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later. What is increasingly common, however, is the news that the officers involved in these incidents get off with little more than a slap on the hands. Moreover, while increasing attention has been paid to excessive police force, sexual misconduct by police has been largely overlooked. A year-long investigation by the Associated Press “uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period” for sexual misconduct. “Victims included unsuspecting motorists, schoolchildren ordered to raise their shirts in a supposed search for drugs, police interns taken advantage of, women with legal troubles who succumbed to performing sex acts for promised help, and prison inmates forced to have sex with guards.” Yet the numbers are largely underreported, covered up by police departments that “stay quiet about improprieties to limit liability, allowing bad officers to quietly resign, keep their certification and sometimes jump to other jobs.”

Prison population. With more than 2 million Americans in prison, and close to 7 million adults in correctional care, the United States has the largest prison population in the world. Many of the nation’s privately run prisons—a $5 billion industry—require the state to keep the prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, “regardless of whether crime was rising or falling.” As Mother Jones reports, “private prison companies have supported and helped write ‘three-strike’ and ‘truth-in-sentencing’ laws that drive up prison populations. Their livelihoods depend on towns, cities, and states sending more people to prison and keeping them there.” Private prisons are also doling out harsher punishments for infractions by inmates in order to keep them locked up longer in order to “boost profits” at taxpayer expense. All the while, the prisoners are being forced to provide cheap labor for private corporations.

SWAT team raids. Over 80,000 SWAT team raids are conducted on American homes and businesses each year. Police agencies, already empowered to crash through your door if they suspect you’re up to no good, now have radars that allow them to “see” through the walls of your home.

Oligarchy. We are no longer a representative republic. The U.S. has become a corporate oligarchy. As a Princeton University survey indicates, our elected officials, especially those in the nation’s capital, represent the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the average citizen.

Young people. Nearly one out of every three American children live in poverty, ranking America among the worst countries in the developed world. Patrolled by police, our schools have become little more than quasi-prisons in which kids as young as age 4 are being handcuffed for “acting up,” subjected to body searches and lockdowns, and suspended for childish behavior.

Private property. Private property means little at a time when SWAT teams and other government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, wound or kill you, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family. Likewise, if government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property.

Strip searches. Court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, forcibly take our DNA, strip search us, and probe us intimately. Accounts are on the rise of individuals—men and women alike—being subjected to what is essentially government-sanctioned rape by police in the course of “routine” traffic stops.

Fiscal corruption. If there is any absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off. This is true, whether you’re talking about taxpayers being forced to fund high-priced weaponry that will be used against us, endless wars that do little for our safety or our freedoms, or bloated government agencies such as the National Security Agency with its secret budgets, covert agendas and clandestine activities. Rubbing salt in the wound, even monetary awards in lawsuits against government officials who are found guilty of wrongdoing are paid by the taxpayer.

Militarized police. Americans are powerless in the face of militarized police. In early America, government agents were not permitted to enter one’s home without permission or in a deceitful manner. And citizens could resist arrest when a police officer tried to restrain them without proper justification or a warrant. Daring to dispute a warrant with a police official today who is armed with high-tech military weapons would be nothing short of suicidal. Moreover, as police forces across the country continue to be transformed into extensions of the military, Americans are finding their once-peaceful communities transformed into military outposts, complete with tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield.

These are not problems that can be glibly dismissed with a few well-chosen words, as most politicians are inclined to do. Nor will the 2016 elections do much to alter our present course towards a police state. Indeed, it is doubtful whether the popularity contest for the new occupant of the White House will significantly alter the day-to-day life of the average American greatly at all. Those life-changing decisions are made elsewhere, by nameless, unelected government officials who have turned bureaucracy into a full-time and profitable business.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, these problems will continue to plague our nation unless and until Americans wake up to the fact that we’re the only ones who can change things for the better and then do something about it.

This was a recurring theme for Martin Luther King Jr., who urged Americans to engage in militant nonviolent resistance in response to government corruption. In a speech delivered just a few months before his assassination, King called on Americans to march on Washington in order to take a stand against the growing problems facing the nation—problems that were being ignored by those in office because they were unpopular, not profitable or risky. “I don’t determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Nor do I determine what is right and wrong by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion,” remarked King. “Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.”

Guided by Gallup polls, influenced by corporate lobbyists, and molded by party politics, the 2016 presidential candidates are playing for high stakes, but they are not looking out for the best interests of “we the people.” As King reminds us:

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And Vanity comes along and asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”

 

“Since mankind’s dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves. By doing so, they took our power. By doing nothing, we gave it away. We’ve seen where their way leads, through camps and wars, towards the slaughterhouse.” ― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

What began with the passage of the USA Patriot Act in October 2001 has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse. Since then, we have been terrorized, traumatized, and acclimated to life in the American Surveillance State.

The bogeyman’s names and faces change over time, but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has transitioned us to life in a society where government agents routinely practice violence on the citizens while, in conjunction with the Corporate State, spying on the most intimate details of our personal lives.

Ironically, the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks occurs just days before the 228th anniversary of the ratification of our Constitution. Yet while there is much to mourn about the loss of our freedoms in the years since 9/11, there is virtually nothing to celebrate.

The Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which has historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, roving VIPR raids and the like—all sanctioned by a corrupt government run by Congress, the White House and the courts—a recitation of the Bill of Rights now sounds more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we should possess.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the Constitution has been on life support for some time now and all efforts at resuscitating it may soon prove futile.

We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document. However, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned, and “we the people” are seen as little more than cattle to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse.

Consider the state of our freedoms, and judge for yourself whether Osama Bin Laden was right when he warned that “freedom and human rights in America are doomed,” and that the “U.S. government will lead the American people in — and the West in general — into an unbearable hell and a choking life.”

Here is what it means to live under the Constitution today.

The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind, assemble and protest nonviolently without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans should not be silenced by the government. To the founders, all of America was a free speech zone.

Yet despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Increasingly, Americans are being arrested and charged with bogus “contempt of cop” charges such as “disrupting the peace” or “resisting arrest” for daring to film police officers engaged in harassment or abusive practices. Journalists are being prosecuted for reporting on whistleblowers. States are passing legislation to muzzle reporting on cruel and abusive corporate practices. Religious ministries are being fined for attempting to feed and house the homeless. Protesters are being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and forced into “free speech zones.” And under the guise of “government speech,” the courts have reasoned that the government can discriminate freely against any First Amendment activity that takes place within a government forum.

The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Yet while gun ownership has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as an individual citizen right, Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against SWAT team raids and government agents armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited for the battlefield than for a country founded on freedom. Police shootings of unarmed citizens continue to outrage communities, while little is really being done to demilitarize law enforcement agencies. Indeed, just recently, North Dakota became the first state to legalize law enforcement use of drones armed with weapons such as tear gas, rubber bullets, beanbags, pepper spray and Tasers.

The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces—complete with military weapons, assault vehicles, etc.—it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil. Moreover, as a result of SWAT team raids (more than 80,000 a year) where police invade homes, often without warrants, and injure and even kill unarmed citizens, the barrier between public and private property has been done away with, leaving us with armed government agents who act as if they own our property.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from conducting surveillance on you or touching you or invading you, unless they have some evidence that you’re up to something criminal. In other words, the Fourth Amendment ensures privacy and bodily integrity. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has suffered the greatest damage in recent years and been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors. Case in point: Texas police forced a 21-year-old woman to undergo a warrantless vaginal search by the side of the road after she allegedly “rolled” through a stop sign.

The use of civil asset forfeiture schemes to swell the coffers of police forces has also continued to grow in popularity among cash-strapped states. The federal government continues to strong-arm corporations into providing it with access to Americans’ private affairs, from emails and online transactions to banking and web surfing. Coming in the wake of massive leaks about the inner workings of the NSA and the massive secretive surveillance state, it was revealed that the government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 every day for failing to comply with the NSA’s mass data collection program known as PRISM. Meanwhile, AT&T has enjoyed a profitable and “extraordinary, decades-long” relationship with the NSA.

The technological future appears to pose even greater threats to what’s left of our Fourth Amendment rights, with advances in biometric identification and microchip implants on the horizon making it that much easier for the government to track not only our movements and cyber activities but our very cellular beings. Barclays has already begun using a finger-scanner as a form of two-step authentication to give select customers access to their accounts. Similarly, Motorola has been developing thin “digital tattoos” that will ensure that a phone’s owner is the only person who may unlock it. Not to be overlooked are the aerial spies—surveillance drones—about to take to the skies in coming years, as well as the Drive Smart programs that will spy on you (your speed, movements, passengers, etc.) while you travel the nation’s highways and byways.

The Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment work in tandem. These amendments supposedly ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without the right to an attorney and a fair trial before a civilian judge. However, in the new suspect society in which we live, where surveillance is the norm, these fundamental principles have been upended. Certainly, if the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights. That’s the crux of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the government’s use of asset forfeiture to strip American citizens of the funds needed to hire a defense attorney of their choosing.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. However, when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears. However, as a growing number of citizens are coming to realize, the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—is not to be underestimated. Jury nullification reminds the government that it’s “we the people” who can and should be determining what laws are just, what activities are criminal and who can be jailed for what crimes.

The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether. For example, a California appeals court is being asked to consider “whether years of unpredictable delays from conviction to execution” constitute cruel and unusual punishment. For instance, although 900 individuals have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, only 13 have been executed. As CBS News reports, “More prisoners have died of natural causes on death row than have perished in the death chamber.”

The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so. Thus, once the government began violating the non-enumerated rights granted in the Ninth Amendment, it was only a matter of time before it began to trample the enumerated rights of the people, as explicitly spelled out in the rest of the Bill of Rights.

As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite—the president, Congress and the courts. Indeed, the federal governmental bureaucracy has grown so large that it has made local and state legislatures relatively irrelevant. Through its many agencies and regulations, the federal government has stripped states of the right to regulate countless issues that were originally governed at the local level.

If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded, while reducing us to a system of slavery disguised as a democracy.

The film V for Vendetta is a powerful commentary on how totalitarian governments such as our own exploit fear and use mass surveillance, censorship, terrorism, and militarized tactics to control, oppress and enslave.

As the lead character V observes:

Where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.

How will you have it? Will you simply comply while the train heads down the track to a modern-day Auschwitz? Or will you become a free person and resist? To quote Patrick Henry, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! — I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

“Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled, they cannot become conscious.”—George Orwell

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s a shell game intended to keep us focused on and distracted by all of the politically expedient things that are being said—about militarized police, surveillance, and government corruption—while the government continues to frogmarch us down the road toward outright tyranny.

Unarmed citizens are still getting shot by militarized police trained to view them as the enemy and treated as if we have no rights. Despite President Obama’s warning that the nation needs to do some “soul searching” about issues such as race, poverty and the strained relationship between law enforcement and the minority communities they serve, police killings and racial tensions are at an all-time high. Just recently, in Texas, a white police officer was suspended after video footage showed him “manhandling, arresting and drawing his gun on a group of black children outside a pool party.”

Americans’ private communications and data are still being sucked up by government spy agencies. The USA Freedom Act was just a placebo pill intended to make us feel better without bringing about any real change. As Bill Blunden, a cybersecurity researcher and surveillance critic, points out, “The theater we’ve just witnessed allows decision makers to boast to their constituents about reforming mass surveillance while spies understand that what’s actually transpired is hardly major change.”

Taxpayer dollars are still being squandered on roads to nowhere, endless wars that do not make us safer, and bloated government agencies that should have been shut down long ago. A good example is the Transportation Security Administration, which, despite its $7 billion annual budget, has shown itself to be bumbling and ineffective.

And military drills are still being carried out on American soil under the pretext of training soldiers for urban warfare overseas. Southeastern Michigan, the site of one of the many military training drills taking place across the country this summer, has had Black Hawk helicopters buzzing its skies and soldiers dressed for combat doing night combat drills in abandoned buildings around the state.

In other words, freedom, or what’s left of it, is being threatened from every direction. The threats are of many kinds: political, cultural, educational, media, and psychological. However, as history shows us, freedom is not, on the whole, wrested from a citizenry. It is all too often given over voluntarily and for such a cheap price: safety, security, bread, and circuses.

This is part and parcel of the propaganda churned out by the government machine. That said, what we face today—mind manipulation and systemic violence—is not new. What is different are the techniques used and the large-scale control of mass humanity, coercive police tactics and pervasive surveillance. As we have seen with the erection of the electronic concentration camp, there is virtually no escaping the invisible prison surrounding us. Once upon a time, one could run and hide or duck into a cave, but that is no longer feasible as caves are quite scarce, and those running the camp have their eyes watching everything.

Moreover, we are presented with the illusion that we act of our own volition when most of the time we are being watched, prodded, and controlled. “The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative,” Aldous Huxley stated. “The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him, the walls of his prison are invisible.”

In fact, with the merger of the Internet and the corporate state, unless you are alert and aware, it will be increasingly difficult to discern the difference between freedom and enslavement. With the methods of mind manipulation available to the corporate state, the very nature of democratic government has been changed. Again, as Aldous Huxley writes:

[T]he quaint old forms—elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the rest will remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of nonviolent totalitarianism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial . . . Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.

To many, the situation seems hopeless. But is it?

From the day you’re born until the day you die, the choices you exercise are very limited. You don’t choose to be born or choose what sex you are or who your parents are or where you live. When you are a child, you are told what to do, and when you enter school, you sit plastered to a desk and are taught what others demand you should know. Yes, the indoctrinating process begins on day one.

Then there are the rules, the endless rules. If you say the wrong word, write the wrong story or wear the wrong clothes, you can get thrown out of school or even arrested. You live where you are told and eat what others think you should eat. As you grow older, this list expands into employment, marriage and so on. In other words, your so-called reality is socially constructed. It is predetermined for you, and if you step out of line and disagree with what the current society deems proper, you will be ostracized. If you speak your mind to the governing authorities, you might find yourself behind bars.

The point is that in order to develop a compliant citizenry, people must be forced to live in a mental matrix of words, ideas, ideologies, and teachings that are designed to make us conform. “As the Matrix in the movie was used to facilitate the exploitation of humans,” writes author Henry H. Lindner, “so the current ideological Matrix was created for, and serves to exploit us, turning us into unthinking workers and consumers—slaves of the ruling elite who themselves are trapped in the Matrix.” In fact, “few of us are able to escape the Matrix. We do not even know it exists.”

For there to be any hope of real change, you’ll have to change how you think about yourself, your fellow human beings, freedom, society, and the government. This means freeing your mind, realizing the truth, and unlearning all the myths you have been indoctrinated with since the day you were able to comprehend language.

Battlefield_Cover_300The following principles, taken from my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, may help any budding freedom fighters in the struggle to liberate themselves and our society.

First, we must come to grips with the reality that the present system does not foster freedom. It denies freedom and must be altered. “Our authoritarian system is based on cruelty and control—it increasingly drives natural love and feelings from our society and produces violence and greed,” Lindner recognizes. “Our society is deteriorating morally and intellectually. This system cannot be reformed.”

To start with, we must recognize that the government’s primary purpose is maintaining power and control. It’s an oligarchy composed of corporate giants wedded to government officials who benefit from the relationship. In other words, it is motivated by greed and exists to perpetuate itself. As George Orwell writes:

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution in order to establish a dictatorship. . . .. The object of power is power.

Second, voting is practically worthless. “In principle, it is a great privilege,” Aldous Huxley recognized. “In practice, as recent history has repeatedly shown, the right to vote, by itself, is no guarantee of liberty.”

We live in a secretive surveillance state that has virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. As Jordan Michael Smith, writing for the Boston Globe, concludes about the American government:

There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.

How many times have the various politicians, when running for office, lied about all they were going to do to bring hope and change to America? Once they get elected, what do they do? They do whatever the corporate powers want. Yes, the old boss is the same as the new boss. The maxim: power follows money.

Moreover, voting is a way to keep the citizenry pacified. However, many Americans intuitively recognize that something is wrong with the way the electoral process works and have withdrawn from the process. That’s why the government places so much emphasis on the reassurance ritual of voting. It provides the illusion of participation.

Third, question everything. Don’t assume anything government does is for the good of the citizenry. Again, that is not the purpose of modern government. It exists to perpetuate a regime. Remember the words of James Madison, considered the father of the U.S. Constitution: “All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.” Power corrupts. And as the maxim goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Fourth, materialism is a death knell to freedom. While it may be true that Americans are better off than citizens of other nations—we have jobs, food, entertainment, shopping malls, etc.—these are the trappings meant to anesthetize and distract us.

Like the dodo, any “bird that has learned how to grub up a good living without being compelled to use its wings will soon renounce the privilege of flight and remain forever grounded,” Huxley warned. “Same thing is true of human beings. If bread is supplied regularly and capaciously three times a day, many of them will be perfectly content to live by bread alone—or at least by bread and circuses alone.” Free as a bird, some say, but only if you’re willing to free your mind and sacrifice all for a dangerous concept—freedom.

In other words, the hope is that the cry of “‘give me television and hamburgers, but don’t bother me with the responsibilities of liberty,’ may give place, under altered circumstances, to the cry of ‘give me liberty or give me death.’” This is indeed dangerous freedom.

Fifth, there is little hope for any true resistance if you are mindlessly connected to the electronic concentration camp. Remember, what you’re being electronically fed by those in power is meant to pacify, distract, and control you. You can avoid mind manipulations to a large degree by greatly limiting your reliance on electronic devices—cell phones, laptops, televisions, and so on.

Sixth, an armed revolt will not work. Although we may have returned to a 1776 situation where we need to take drastic actions to restore freedom, this is not colonial America with its muskets and people’s armies. Local police departments have enough militarized firepower to do away with even a large-scale armed revolt. Even attempting to repel a SWAT team raid on your home is futile. You’ll get blown away.

Seventh, be wise and realize that there is power in numbers. Networks, coalitions, and movements can accomplish much—especially if their objectives are focused and practical—and they are very much feared by government authorities. That’s why the government is armed to the teeth and prepared to put down even small nonviolent protests.

Eighth, act locally but think nationally. The greatest impact can be had at local governing bodies such as city councils. Join together with friends and neighbors and start a Civil Liberties Oversight Committee. Regularly attend council meetings and demand that government corruption be brought under control and that police activities be brought under the scrutiny of local governing bodies and, thus, the citizenry.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, police were involved in 39 shootings dating back to 2010. After a 2014 police shooting of an unarmed homeless man camped out in a public park, residents engaged in nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to disrupt the normal functioning of the city government and demand that the police department be brought under control. Community activists actually went so far as to storm a city council meeting and announce that they would be performing a citizens’ arrest of the police chief, charging him with “harboring fugitives from justice at the Albuquerque police department” and “crimes against humanity.”

In Davis County, California, in August 2014, after a public uproar over the growing militarization of local police, council members ordered the police to find a way of getting rid of the department’s newly acquired MRAP tank. One man at the council meeting was quoted as saying: “I would like to say I do not suggest you take this vehicle and send it out of Davis, I demand it.”

Ninth, local towns, cities and states can nullify or say “no” to federal laws that violate the rights and freedoms of the citizenry. In fact, several states have passed laws stating that they will not comply with the National Defense Authorization Act which allows for the military to indefinitely detain (imprison) American citizens. Again, when and if you see such federal laws passed, gather your coalition of citizens and demand that your local town council nullify such laws. If enough towns and cities across the country would speak truth to power in this way, we might see some positive movement from the federal governmental machine.

Tenth, understand what freedom is all about. “Who were the first persons to get the unusual idea that being free was not only a value to be cherished but the most important thing that someone can possess?” asks Professor Orlando Patterson. “The answer in a word: slaves.”

Freedom arose from the hearts and minds of those who realized that they were slaves. It became a primary passion of those who were victims of slavery.

Some Americans are beginning to realize that they are slaves and that if they don’t act soon, they will find themselves imprisoned in the electronic concentration camp indefinitely. Mind you, there may not be any chains hanging from the dungeon walls, but it is a prison nonetheless, and we are, without a doubt, inmates serving life sentences.

 

“The government is merely a servant―merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.” ― Mark Twain

How many Americans have actually bothered to read the Constitution, let alone the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights (a quick read at 462 words)?

Take a few minutes and read those words for yourself—rather than having some court or politician translate them for you—and you will be under no illusion about where to draw the line when it comes to speaking your mind, criticizing your government, defending what is yours, doing whatever you want on your own property, and keeping the government’s nose out of your private affairs.

In an age of overcriminalization, where the average citizen unknowingly commits three crimes a day, and even the most mundane activities such as fishing and gardening are regulated, government officials are constantly telling Americans what not to do. Yet it was not always this way. It used to be “we the people” telling the government what it could and could not do. Indeed, the three words used most frequently throughout the Bill of Rights in regards to the government are “no,” “not” and “nor.”

Compare the following list of “don’ts” the government is prohibited from doing with the growing list of abuses to which “we the people” are subjected on a daily basis, and you will find that we have reached a state of crisis wherein the government is routinely breaking the law and violating its contractual obligations.

For instance, the government is NOT allowed to restrict free speech, press, assembly or the citizenry’s ability to protest and correct government wrongdoing. Nevertheless, the government continues to prosecute whistleblowers, persecute journalists, cage protesters, criminalize expressive activities, crack down on large gatherings of citizens mobilizing to voice their discontent with government policies, and insulate itself and its agents from any charges of wrongdoing (or what the courts refer to as “qualified immunity”).

The government may NOT infringe on a citizen’s right to defend himself. Nevertheless, in many states, it’s against the law to carry a concealed weapon (gun, knife or even pepper spray), and the average citizen is permitted little self-defense against militarized police officers who shoot first and ask questions later.

The government may NOT enter or occupy a citizen’s house without his consent (the quartering of soldiers). Nevertheless, government soldiers (i.e., militarized police) carry out more than 80,000 no-knock raids on private homes every year, while maiming children, killing dogs and shooting citizens.

The government may NOT carry out unreasonable searches and seizures on the citizenry or their possessions. NOR can government officials issue warrants without some evidence of wrongdoing (probable cause). Unfortunately, what is unreasonable to the average American is completely reasonable to a government agent, for whom the ends justify the means. In such a climate, we have no protection against roadside strip searches, blood draws, DNA collection, SWAT team raids, surveillance or any other privacy-stripping indignity to which the government chooses to subject us.

The government is NOT to deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without due process. Nevertheless, the government continues to incarcerate tens of thousands of Americans whose greatest crime is being poor and brown-skinned. The same goes for those who are put to death, some erroneously, by a system weighted in favor of class and wealth.

The government may NOT take private property for public use without just compensation. Nevertheless, under the guise of the “greater public interest,” the government often hides behind eminent domain laws in order to allow megacorporations to tear down homes occupied by less prosperous citizens in order to build high-priced resorts and shopping malls.

Government agents may NOT force a citizen to testify against himself. Yet what is the government’s extensive surveillance network that spies on all of our communications but a thinly veiled attempt at using our own words against us?

The government is NOT allowed to impose excessive fines on the citizenry or inflict cruel and unusual punishments upon them. Nevertheless Americans are subjected to egregious fines and outrageous punishments for minor traffic violations, student tardiness and absence from school, and generally having the misfortune of being warm bodies capable of filling privatized, profit-driven jails.

The government is NOT permitted to claim any powers that are not expressly granted to them by the Constitution. This prohibition has become downright laughable as the government continues to claim for itself every authority that serves to swell its coffers, cement its dominion, and expand its reach.

Despite what some special interest groups have suggested to the contrary, the problems we’re experiencing today did not arise because the Constitution has outlived its usefulness or become irrelevant, nor will they be solved by a convention of states or a ratification of the Constitution.

Battlefield_Cover_300No, as I document in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the problem goes far deeper. It can be traced back to the point at which “we the people” were overthrown as the center of the government. As a result, our supremacy has been undone, our authority undermined, and our experiment in democratic self-governance left in ruins. No longer are we the rulers of this land. We have long since been deposed and dethroned, replaced by corporate figureheads with no regard for our sovereignty, no thought for our happiness, and no respect for our rights.

In other words, without our say-so and lacking any mandate, the point of view of the Constitution has been shifted from “we the people” to “we the government.” Our taxpayer-funded employees—our appointed servants—have stopped looking upon us as their superiors and started viewing as their inferiors. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten so used to being dictated to by government agents, bureaucrats and militarized police alike that we’ve forgotten that WE are supposed to be the ones calling the shots and determining what is just, reasonable and necessary.

Then again, we’re not the only ones guilty of forgetting that the government was established to serve us as well as obey us. Every branch of government, from the Executive to the Judicial and Legislative, seems to be suffering this same form of amnesia. Certainly, when government programs are interpreted from the government’s point of view (i.e., the courts and legislatures), there is little the government CANNOT do in its quest for power and control.

We’ve been so brainwashed and indoctrinated into believing that the government is actually looking out for our best interests, when in fact the only compelling interesting driving government programs is maintain power and control by taking away our money and control. This vital truth, that the government exists for our benefit and operates at our behest, seems to have been lost in translation over two centuries dominated by government expansion, endless wars and centralized federal power.

Have you ever wondered why the Constitution begins with those three words “we the people”? It was intended to be a powerful reminder that everything flows from the citizenry. We the people are the center of the government and the source of its power. That “we” is crucial because it reminds us that there is power and safety in numbers, provided we stand united. We can accomplish nothing alone.

This is the underlying lesson of the Constitution, which outlines the duties and responsibilities of government. It was a mutual agreement formed by early Americans in order to ensure that when problems arose, they could address them together.

It’s like the wagon trains of the Old West, comprised of individual groups of pioneers. They rarely ventured out alone but instead traveled as convoys. And when faced with a threat, these early Americans formed their wagons into a tight circle in order to defend against invaders. In doing so, they presented a unified front and provided protection against an outside attack. In much the same way, the Constitution was intended to work as an institutionalized version of the wagon circle, serving as a communal shield against those who would harm us.

Unfortunately, we have been ousted from that protected circle, left to fend for ourselves in the wilderness that is the American frontier today. Those who did the ousting—the courts, the politicians, and the corporations—have since replaced us with yes-men, shills who dance to the tune of an elite ruling class. In doing so, they have set themselves as the central source of power and the arbiters of what is just and reasonable.

Once again we’re forced to navigate hostile terrain, unsure of how to protect ourselves and our loved ones from militarized police, weaponized drones, fusion centers, Stingray devices, SWAT team raids, the ongoing military drills on American soil, the government stockpiling of ammunition, the erection of mass detention centers across the country, and all other manner of abuses.

Read the smoke signals, and the warning is clear: It’s time to circle the wagons, folks. The government is on the warpath, and if we are to have any hope of surviving whatever is coming at us, we’ll need to keep our wits about us and present a unified front. Most of all, we need to restore “we the people” to our rightful place at the center of government. How we do that depends largely on each community’s willingness to get past their partisan politics and blind allegiance to uniformed government officials and find common ground.

To put it a little more bluntly, stop thinking like mindless government robots and start acting like a powerhouse of citizens vested with the power to say “enough is enough.” We have the numbers to stand our ground. Now we just need the will.