“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Peace Officer's Guide to Civic Dissent

- or -

"How to act like a gorram grown up while holding your demonstration"

references: Jesus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, and others

This post had been percolating for a few days, and following a talk with the wife this morning felt like writing it now. Having watched some of the news from the latest group of "We're against everything" in New York I figured I would share my thoughts. Yes, I know my normal reading demographic isn't in this group, but maybe it will somehow reach them through the magic of Google...

So - in no particular order:

- Yes, you absolutely have a right to protest - hell, I encourage it. Many grand things have been accomplished due to public demonstration from the early days of this country. However, please remember that your right to protest does not give you the right to infringe upon others. If you remember that then you've solved 90% of your issues.

- The officers on scene are doing their job, it's nothing personal. They may agree with your position, oppose it, or simply not care. But they have a job to do, rules to work within, and a desire to go home at the end of their shift. Additionally, please remember that these jobs and rules are dictated by the community and taxpayers as a whole - the police are keeping the peace as the society requests.

- Localities will generally be very willing to let you know what rules you are expected to follow in terms of roadways, sidewalks, public access areas etc. - you may be asked to get a parade permit in order to hold a street march, or be allowed to be in some areas with no paperwork or planning required. But respecting these boundaries will limit the need for anything else.

- Private property is just that - private, with their own rules. Some businesses don't care if you protest, some may want you gone. Some places may let you camp on their property, or use it for stands etc. - others want nothing to do with you. Either way it's THEIR property. Should you be asked to leave and refuse you are then subject to arrest for trespass and possible other offenses. If this happens it has NOTHING to do with the police stifling your freedom of speech - they are enforcing existing laws which have to do with where you are and what you are doing, and nothing at all to do with what you are saying.

- As a second note from the above - the First Amendment says the GOVERNMENT can't restrict your speech within normal boundaries - it has no influence on private groups or companies. That means TV, print, online or whatever resource has zero obligation to spread your message or publish your manifesto or otherwise cater to you.

- In the vast majority of situations police are not going to just start arresting people, using OC spray, TASERs or any other force, or otherwise start stepping up their response without warning. Departments are very aware of their legal responsibilities and obligations, and will make clear what will happen and what the consequences are. Should this occur - heed the warnings. If you stick around past that point don't be surprised.

- You may have decided that "passive resistance" is appropriate for your cause - that being arrested and charged is part of the whole plan. If this is the plan you might consider letting the officers know such - that you are not planning to physically resist or be violent, but that you will have to be arrested as opposed to ceasing whichever act. I won't promise you won't still be subject to some force, but this may well minimize the concerns and risk for all involved.

- Officers aren't using force in general because they think you are a bad person. They're faced with a large crowd, a potential for violence, and a need to do things as safely as possible for everyone involved. If you've chosen to put yourself in that position then you must accept those consequences. Whining about it afterwards doesn't do anything but make your cause look immature.

- One of the biggest things you can do is keep the asshats out of your event. Come out, hold your demonstration and all that. But when the element shows up that wants to destroy buildings and vehicles, hurt people and generally riot through the streets all it does is bring the whole image down for you. While you may not always be able to control the participants, making the beasts know they aren't welcome in your action will go a long way towards credibility with the public.

- For heaven's sake, pick up after yourself. Again - leaving a site trashed after your event doesn't make the public opinion think highly of you.

I'm sure my readers, law enforcement and others, can add plenty more. We need adult discourse in this country, but let's do it as actual adults.


DaddyBear said...

Well said.

Unknown said...

It's sad that this is not obvious.

Rev. Paul said...

So very well said. I'm going to link to it, sir.

Phelps said...

The problem is too many places have Law Enforcement Officers instead of Peace Officers.

I'm not seeing much peace keeping from the cops in the NYPD, just lots of law enforcement, heavy on the enforcement. I've got no love for the idiots outside Wall Street, but at this point I say a pox on all their houses.

Carteach said...

The very fact this even needs to be said at all.... says more than the words themselves.

Well written, my friend. I hope it's well read.

Mulligan said...

an astonishing number of folks can't understand the difference between
peaceful assembly and violent trespass

Wandering Soul said...

Excellent post and well said! Definitely agree with you in that everyone has a right to their own opinion but that they must express it so respectfully & lawfully.

CIF said...

"- One of the biggest things you can do is keep the asshats out of your event....But when the element shows up that wants to ... hurt people and generally riot through the streets all it does is bring the whole image down for you. While you may not always be able to control the participants, making the beasts know they aren't welcome in your action will go a long way towards credibility with the public."

I agree with a lot of your points. But ironically when I read that point I couldn't help but think that it more aptly applies to the police themselves.