Tag Archives | Civil Liberties

Federal Court Affirms Constitutional Right To Give Cops The Middle Finger

Via the Huffington Post, the most cherished of liberties has been defended. Use it freely and often:

A police officer can’t pull you over and arrest you just because you gave him the finger, a federal appeals court declared Thursday. In a 14-page opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that the “gesture…is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”

John Swartz and his wife Judy Mayton-Swartz had sued two police officers who arrested Swartz in May 2006 after he flipped off an officer who was using a radar device at an intersection in St. Johnsville, N.Y. Swartz was later charged with a violation of New York’s disorderly conduct statute.

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Letter from North County Jail

Picture: Dylan Oliphant (CC)

From Divided Core:

A writer friend of mine is serving some time in a Northern California jail and wrote an insightful letter which sheds some light on his experience behind bars.   With his permission, I’ve transcribed his letter to share with others.  For those who are interested, here’s what he wrote:

Dear Aaron,

Thank you for the reading material – the books made it in, but the pornographic magazines, I am told, did not get past screening and were confiscated by the guards (I suspect they’ll be making paper mache of those pages forthwith).  Good show though; The Thought Gang will suffice for now.

Here at the North County Detention Facility there is an extensive library for the inmates in our compound: Building 101, which houses around 200 people.  We share a large “day-room” with tables, games, and televisions.  There are ten dorms that sleep roughly twelve people each, and we are generally free to move from our bunks to and from the day-room, or into the sunny courtyard as we please.  “The Farm,” as some here call it, is summer camp compared to where I was confined three days ago.

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What is Freedom?

Picture: Pascale Riby (CC)

There’s a great line from the film Easy Rider, where Dennis Hopper’s character, Billy, asks, “What the hell is wrong with freedom?  That’s what it’s all about,” and Jack Nicholson’s character, George, replies, “Oh, yeah, that’s right.  That’s what’s it’s all about, all right.  But talkin’ about it and bein’ it, that’s two different things… they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom.  But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ‘em.”

Living in a post 9-11 world, where it’s normal for elderly grandmothers to be submitted to invasive pat-downs before boarding a flight, where peaceful protests are met by legions of armor-clad riot police, where tweets and Facebook postings are routinely tracked by Homeland Security, and where anyone looking vaguely Hispanic must carry government-issued ID with them at all times if they happen to be living in certain states, it seems pertinent to ask the simple question, “What is freedom?”

If you look up its meaning in a dictionary, you’ll generally find something along the lines of, “exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.; the power to determine action without restraint.”  That doesn’t seem like something that should require a PhD in philosophy or political science to make sense of, yet what does it really mean for everyday people living everyday lives in a country that proudly brands itself as the “land of the free”?  How does this concept guide and shape our thoughts, our actions, our beliefs and our society?… Read the rest

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Portland Protesters Pepper Sprayed

Via Komo News: Protesters associated with Occupy Portland and a group calling itself Portland Action Lab were pepper sprayed by riot gear-clad police during a Saturday march. Apparently the police felt that large wooden shields carried by the protesters posed a threat. Take a look in the video below and see what you think:
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End The NATO5 Witch Hunt

Natalie Solidarity writes at Diatribe Media:

Boots on the ground is one aspect of protest, arguably the most fun, most invigorating, and proffers the sentiment that our voices and bodies are transforming the system.

With our manic dancing to the song of our unified voices singing, “Ah! Anteee! Anteee-capeeetalista!” in the streets under the ruling class’s nose, how could the public remain unmoved? How can they not join in and support us, even for a moment?

With our energy, spirit, dedication, and words, we are altering reality.

We are unstoppable.

We are building a better world with every step forward towards the heart of downtown Chicago. When we stand in the streets, screaming for social change, educating and empowering our sisters, brothers and the masses, the power structures do their best to remove us. All those bastard cops step in and attempt to silence our voices by making arrests. When de-arresting fails and our family is ripped from us by the state’s savage hands and those boots on the ground are transformed into prison slippers on a cold cement floor, how does our movement stand?

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ACLU Lawsuit Uncovers Records of Boston Police Department’s Intel Efforts Against Peace Orgs

Via CopBlock: Says the Massachusetts ACLU:
We now have proof of what peace groups and activists have long suspected: Boston Police officers have worked within the local fusion spying center, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), to monitor the lawful political activity of local peace groups and track their movements and beliefs. This information has been retained in searchable electronic "intelligence" reports bearing labels such as "Groups - Civil Disturbance," "Groups--Extremists," "HomeSec-Domestic" under the heading "Criminal Act."
Looks like those "fusion centers" are indeed the hotbeds of misinformation and civil rights suppression that most of us - including the Senate - assumed that they were. Read a complete rundown of what the ACLU discovered here.
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House Science Member: Evolution a “Lie Straight from the Pit of Hell”

In a speech delivered to the congregation of Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, GA, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA,) a member of the Tea Party Caucus who sits on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, described evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory as "lies straight from the pit of hell." In an article in the Athens Banner-Herald, Broun spokeswoman Meredith Griffanti attempted to downplay Broun's comments, stating that Broun speaking off the record about his personal religious beliefs. However, video of Broun's speech tells a different story. Broun tells the congregation that the Bible offers direction on how to run public policy and directs him in how he votes as a congressman:
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Rapid Increase in US Electronic Surveillance

Picture: Rama (CC)

The United States government has revealed information about the Justice Department’s use of warrantless internet and telephone surveillance of American citizens (known as “pen register” and “trap and trace” records). And even though they are legally required to do so, the documents were not released until the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit with a Freedom of Information Act claim:

Via Ars TechnicaRTWIRED’s Threat Level:

Pen registers obtain, in real time, non-content information of outbound telephone and internet communications, such as phone numbers dialed, and the sender and recipient (and sometimes subject line) of an e-mail message. A trap-and-trace acquires the same information, but for inbound communications to a target. These terms originally referred to hardware devices law enforcement could attach to the phone network to capture information about (but not the contents of) phone calls.

Today’s telephone networks have the ability to capture this information without any special equipment.

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Free Speech Scores A Hat Trick

Picture: NARA (PD)

Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

Freedom of speech had a hat trick of victories last week, proving that despite the interest of law enforcement and other machinations of the state to put down protesters, ultimately, the law still sides with activists. On Wednesday, the University of California settled with 21 students who sued after campus police hosed them with pepper spray during a demonstration. Images from UC Davis became iconic, particularly the photo showing an officer casually spraying peacefully sitting demonstrators as if he were watering a lawn. Each student will receive $30,000 and a written apology from the chancellor, according to the agreement. Additionally, the San Francisco Chronicle reports the settlement calls for UC Davis officials to work with civil liberties advocates on police policies.

The incident had a chilling effect on some students, but galvanized others to holding police accountable for their actions. One sophomore told the Chronicle that he avoided demonstrations after the event, saying “they had silenced me.” Another student of the University who recently graduated said that she hoped the suit would keep police clad in riot gear away from demonstrations.

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Cleansing the Internet of Terrorism

Yet another vague and overreaching project to censor the internet is underway; European Commission-funded CleanIT, which aims to “countering illegal use of the Internet” and fight what they see as terrorism. It’s another attempt to use a private police network to determine what ‘illegal’ and ‘terrorist’ uses of the internet mean. Groups like European Digital Rights and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are stepping in to protect our legal safeguards:

EFF has always expressed concerns about relying upon intermediaries to police the Internet.  As an organization, we believe in strong legal protections for intermediaries and as such, have often upheld the United States’ Communications Decency Act, Section 230 (CDA 230) as a positive example of intermediary protection. While even CDA 230’s protections do not extend to truly criminal activities, the definition of “terrorist” is, in this context, vague enough to raise alarm.

The recommendations call for the easy removal of content from the Internet without following “more labour intensive and formal” procedures.

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