By Dave Lindorff
At a time when we have over a millions young high school and college students march in the streets demanding a ban on assault-style semi-automatic rifles, and an end to mass shootings, as well as continued protests over police shootings of unarmed and all too often black or latino young people, it might seem trivial to see a wave of national outrage over an incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks shop involving two black men who were arrested by police for refusing a manager's order to leave because they weren't buying anything.
But when you look at the story closer it becomes clear that, as horrible as the Starbucks manager at this one store, and Starbuck corporate management, have been shown to be, this ugly incident really is also about the more serious issue of the increasingly militarized and authoritarian behavior of our nation's police -- a problem which we as a society have come to accept as normal.
After the manager called 911 and reported that two men were refusing to leave her store, Philly's Finest raced to the scene, apparently in force with between six and eight officers converging on the location by car and bike. Most of those who showed up were white, including a supervisor whose presence indicated the cops were expecting trouble.
News reports say the police "politely" asked the two men to leave three times. According to police accounts the officers said the two men responded "defiantly" by refusing to leave. For their part, the two men say the police just came in and told them they had to leave, not making any effort to determine what the issue was. When the men questioned that order, they were then arrested, cuffed, and, without being even read their Miranda rights, were taken to the station where they were held for 8 hours, until 1:30 am when they were released because the city's progressive new District Attorney, Larry Krasner, learning of the case, said there was no evidence they'd committed a crime. According to Lauren Wimmer, a pro-bono attorney for the as yet unidentified two men arrested, police had been considering a charge of "defiant trespass" against them.
The "defiant" part means that the accused were challenging the police officer's right to remove them, instead of passively responding to an order to leave the premises. The addition of the term "defiant" to their "trespass" charge could have made their "crime" carry a penalty of anywhere from 90 days in jail and a $300 fine to up to five years in jail. These were not, in other words, minor arrests by the time the police decided to take the two men in"
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