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Is the United States a Police State

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Honorable people like to debate whether the United States of America is a "police state," but when it comes to shutting down the expression of ideas on the political left, there's little room for argument.

 

We are inundated in this country with propaganda boilerplate about being the greatest democracy in the world. No, we're not a police state like our friends in Saudi Arabia or our former friends, and current enemies, in Iran. Our police agencies have figured out how to accomplish police state repression in a "softer," more sophisticated manner.

 

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Look at the video in the September 26 report by Lawrence O'Donnell [1] of MSNBC on what he describes as a "violent burst of chaos" caused by armed "troublemakers" from the New York Police Department.

 

It was a peaceful demonstration against Wall Street greed. At least it started out that way. All evidence suggests it was, then, sent careening into chaos by the police strong-arming of young protesters who had done nothing but express their views in public.

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Dep. Inspector Anthony Bologna, left, his female victims and a brave activist
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In one incident, young women on the sidewalk observing the arrest of a young man in the street are corralled by cops using orange plastic nets. White-shirted Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, then, walks up, un-holsters his pepper spray gun and sprays the women full in the face [2]. He re-holsters his weapon and walks away. Another video shows him doing the same thing indiscriminately to others in an apparent violation of NYPD rules that say the spray is only authorized to disable someone resisting arrest. Over 80 people were arrested in the melee.

 

The MSNBC video also shows a young man with a camera being violently slammed into a parked Volvo for videotaping the actions of the police. As O'Donnell emphasizes, videotaping cops is a completely legal activity. In fact, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month on exactly this situation in a case involving a man who videotaped cops beating a man in Boston Commons. (For a PDF of the ruling, go to: http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/pdf.opinions/10-1764P-01A.pdf [3] )

 

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The case is instructive. It began with a federal lawsuit brought by Simon Glik, a Russian immigrant who had become a lawyer in the US. He saw cops beating a man and took out his cell phone to videotape them. He was told to stop and he refused. Police arrested him, confiscated his phone and deleted the video. They charged him with illegal wiretapping since his recording included audio.

 

The district court scoffed at the wiretapping charge and concluded just because "officers were unhappy they were being recorded during an arrest ... does not make a lawful exercise of First Amendment rights a crime. ... [The] First Amendment right publicly to record the activities of police officers on public business is established."

 

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I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and (more...)
 

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