Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Adventures With Fascism - 1973 to 2014; or How I Learned to Loath The CMPD In One Easy Lesson.

The recent events in Ferguson Missouri, Statan Island New York and elsewhere have brought a bright light and sharp focus on both the growing predilection of local police forces to use violence as the first last and only option when dealing with a "non cooperative" public and the growing frustration of the public with government in general.  No one is immune, including your humble correspondent.

So let's get this straight right up front, for any of those readers who haven't figured it out already.  I'm a baby boomer.  In fact I'm one of those quintessential baby boomers, my father and his older brother were both decorated naval officers in the Pacific and my mother was a pharmacist's mate in the Coast Guard attached to the Atlantic fleet.  My brother and I we're both brought up on a steady diet of reruns of "Victory at Sea" and Walter Cronkite's "The Twentieth Century," along with the seemingly endless stream of World War Two movies produced both during and after the war.

We have all seen the pictures of the horrors that that war produced, from the Rape of Nanking, to the Blitzkrieg of London, to the stacks of corpses at Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz.

But there is an aspect of that period that could not be captured on film. An aspect that our societies have failure to recognize and remember, that threatens the existence of our fair republic and what has made it so great.

I have to admit that I didn't recognize it myself until I was in my early 20's. It was at this time that I had the opportunity to travel to Europe with friends. We traveled around much of western and northern Europe and most everyone we encountered were open, friendly and socially engaging. In short they were very much like us.  Yes everyone knew the Soviets and their reluctant allies had a hundred plus divisions, millions of troops and thousands of  tanks just the other side of the Iron Curtain. but it didn't rule their daily lives and they went about them just like we did, in an open and free society.

That understanding and perspective changed however once we crossed the Pyrenees mountains into Spain. Yes there were the same type of border controls as we had encountered traveling between other European nations, the difference was in what we encountered inside Spain and in the people we met. Quite literally just outside virtually every town we came to there was a wide white stripe painted across the road and on each side of the road was a guard shack. You had to stop. A member of the La Guardia Civil would step out, look at you and decide whether to waive you through, ask for your papers, or search your person and vehicle.  There was no question as to whether or not you had to comply. This was 1973 and Generalissimo Franco, his Falangist party and the La Guardia were still very much in charge.

Once we entered a town or city the people we met were not so much as unfriendly, if anything they were extremely polite.  Polite and wary to a point of being suspicious, and very much distant. This was not because we were foreigners or even because we were Americans.  We were quite simply strangers and over 35 years of military dictatorship and police state occupation had conditioned them, had corroded their spirits and so poisoned their hearts as to better consider any stranger to possibly be an agent of the police, sent among then to seek out any who might speak ill of Franco, the Falangists or the government.

During our 5 day trip between the French border and Rota we encountered nearly a hundred such road blocks and as many or more wary and weary Spaniards.  It didn't matter if you were stopping at a hotel for the night or at a roadside cantina for lunch. The atmosphere was almost universal whether you were in Barcelona, Madrid or Seville or any of a dozen places in between.

It wasn't until we settled into a little seaside village called Chipiona a few kilometers outside Rota and we became known to the locals as both Americans and people who had friends stationed at the US Navy base in Rota that they became more relaxed, open and genuinely warm with us. Whenever we would ask them about what is was like living under Franco and almost constant surveillance they would tell us horrifying stories of the brutality of the La Guardia, but not before carefully looking around the room to make sure there were no strangers about or anyone paying undo attention to our conversation.  "You can never be to careful." was an off repeated sentence.  They would point to the change on the bar with Franco's picture on it and then point to their eye and say "He watches everything."

I can only imagine the great relief the Spanish people felt whem Franco finally died.

So what then does all this have to do with any threat to our republic and my newly acquired loathing for the CMPD?  Quite simply I was driving through my own neighborhood, a mere 2 blocks from my home of 28 years in a quiet, peaceful, long established, upper middle class neighborhood when I found myself inextricably trapped in a police roadblock.

It was six o'clock on a Thursday afternoon.  They were not doing a DUI check or even asking if people if they had any information about a crime that had occurred in the area (there hadn't been any). They were conducting what they euphemistically call a "public safety" driver's license check.  What I call a exercise in public intimidation and conditioning.  This little bit of intimidation centered around trying to discourage the public from using this particular street as a cut through or short cut to a large regional mall in South East Charlotte.  This had been the second such road block set up on this street in a month.

All who find themselves reading this beware.  If there is anything a local donut digester does not like it is a citizen who knows the law better than they do.

The local donut digester at this stop (one of twelve!) asked me to show him my license.  I responded by politely asking him if I had committed a crime.  He answered me "No."  I then followed up by asking if he had a reasonable suspicion that I had committed a crime.  Again he answered "No" and was clearly becoming irritated by my temerity in asking reasonable and lawful questions.  I then asked if I was being detained or was I free to go.  He replied that I was being detained until I showed him my license. 

Now this is where things got interesting and ugly.  You see, the North Carolina state Constitution is very specific about personal and individual rights.  Article I is in fact titled "Declaration of Rights", Section 21 of Article I is titled "Inquiry into restraints on liberty."  It reads as follows; "Every person restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy to inquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the restraint if unlawful, and that remedy shall not be denied or delayed.  The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended."

It was at this point I asked this cop "Under the authority of what statute are you detaining me?"  This simple inquiry, the right to which is clearly delineated as shown above, was more than this ignorant buffoon was going to take.  How dare some mundane citizen challenge his authority, (read make him look ignorant of the law).  He stepped back, placed his hand on his weapon and told me to step out of my vehicle.  I repeated my question as to what statute he was claiming authority to detain me.  His partner then assaulted me with his right hand pushing me away from the door as he reached in to open it with the inside handle.  Confronted with this sudden violence I quite naturally pulled back.  This second cop, I won't call then officers, that would confer a dignity they don't deserve, then told me I could step out of my vehicle or he would "rip you out."

I was then placed in hand cuffs, told I was going to jail and frog marched to a near by cruiser, a donut digester on each arm.  During this little march I asked if this was a police state now where I didn't have a right of inquiry.  He simply said, and I quote; " You know what? It just might be!"

Do we really need any further demonstration that the police have lost all regard for the citizen, the Constitution and the job they're supposed to do?  The concept of "To Protect and Serve" has officially morphed into one of "Patrol and Control".

The sargent on scene then tried to compound his junior officer's failings by telling me that they were "under no obligation to cite any statute when making an arrest." I replied that that was a lie and he damn well knew it. He asked me if I was an attorney. I told him I was not but that did not mean I did not know the law and cited the above section of the State Constitution.

This seemed to set him aback and he decided to release me with a summons rather than an arrest. This apparently angered the officer who initially confronted me and I watched with a certain amusement as he argued briefly with the Sargent.

I was further amused when he then had to ask another of the officers present what statute I should be charged under; proving my point that this twirp didn't even know the law he was ostensibly operating under.

Still angry at being denied his arrest statistic, he wrote the summons and then slapped me in the chest with it while I was still in restrsints saying "Here you go mister smart ass! I certainly hope that you don't make the court date so I vsn have the pleasure of coming to arrest you again!"

Long story short I have a very good attorney and this nevy came to court.  My point being is that this and so many other incidents, are what happens when you bring soldiers back from long tours in Iraq and Afghanistan where they genuinely have to worry if the next person they meet is going to try and kill them.

Thinking that such experiences in a hostile warzone qualify an individual to perform the duties of a police officer in a largely pacific environment is, has and will continue to prove to be a tragic mistake. If such placement in our local police forces continue, just how long does anyone think it will take before the population in general adopts the attitude of the long abused Spaniards I met in 1973? Does anyone really want for this to be what America becomes?

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