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Monday, October 24, 2016

Last week, a federal judge told us what we already knew.

Namely, that police in Ferguson, Missouri, violated the rights of protesters demonstrating against the shooting death of Michael Brown. U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry struck down an ad hoc rule under which cops had said people could not stand still while peacefully protesting. Some were told they couldn’t stop walking for more than five seconds; others that they had to walk faster.

Again: These were not rioters. These were citizens seeking “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” as the First Amendment gives them the right to do. So Perry’s ruling is welcome, but not particularly surprising. The no-stop dictate was so flagrantly wrong as to make any other decision unthinkable.

Still, one’s sense of righteous vindication is tempered by the fact that police felt free to try this absurd stratagem in the first place — and by the fact that this was hardly the only recent example of police using the Constitution for Kleenex.

Ferguson, let us not forget, is also the town where reporters were tear gassed and jailed and photographers ordered to stop taking pictures, which seems a pretty straightforward abridgment of the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of the press. Meanwhile, a new ACLU report makes Boston Police the latest — but hardly the only — department empirically shown to engage in racially biased policing, which would violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.” And a recent Washington Post series illustrated how civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to search your vehicle, seize any cash they find and keep it, without even charging you with a crime, until or unless you prove to their satisfaction that you came by the money legally. Goodbye, Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Farewell, Fourteenth Amendment stricture against seizure of property “without due process of law.”

It seems our constitutional rights are being nibbled out from under us, compromise by compromise, expediency by expediency, while we watch with dull complacence. In our unthinking mania for laws to “get tough on crime,” we actually made it tougher on ourselves, altering the balance of power between people and police to the point where a cop can now take your legally earned money off your sovereign person and there’s little you can do about it.

“I know my rights,” an aggrieved citizen would yell once upon a time. Turns out that doesn’t mean a whole lot anymore.

Indeed, at the height of the Ferguson protests, an L.A. cop named Sunil Dutta published in the Washington Post an op-ed advising that, “if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.” Don’t argue, he said, even if you “believe (or know)” your rights are being violated. Deal with it later.

Certainly, he’s correct that there’s nothing to be gained by making an a– of yourself or making an angry cop angrier. Nothing will be settled on a street corner.

Yet, there is something unsettling about the idea that you are only allowed to assert your rights at a later date in a different forum. The bullying behavior and contempt for the Constitution that characterized police in Ferguson ought to leave us less than sanguine with that notion, ought to encourage us to resist — at the ballot box, in the council meeting and, yes, by lawful protest — this drift toward unlimited police authority.

It’s all well and good that now, several weeks after the fact, a court affirms the rights Ferguson police denied. But that’s a poor consolation prize. An argument can be made that rights which aren’t respected in the moment they are asserted are not really rights at all.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected]

AFP Photo/Joshua Lott

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  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Red states are now attempting to overturn the Constitutional right to “peaceful assembly, calling it “unlawful” assembly. When protesters take to the street to oppose those who would ignore Constitutional rights of taxpaying citizens, they are coming very close to sedition.

    The biggest problem staring the GOP is the number of Americans who fled the US to become members of ISIS…It will be a comedy routine watching the GOP try to nail ISIS members for treason when it’s been the GOP who provided the best examples of how to overturn a government and create such division as to be a subtle Civil War.

    • Just how brain dead are you people? This is the government that you are supporting. Are you going to blame this on Bush? The republicans? This is your liberal government at work. Dividing people on all levels is what this regime excels at. A civil war is coming soon, especially if the liberals continue to stay in power. Communists all.

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        YOU YOU YOU are the common denominator in your problems. Sucking up to a party that has men like the Senator from UT and Nevada both saying women don’t need equal pay is why asshats like you don’t get votes. 52% of the US population ARE women..according to the 2014 US Census Bureau..My liberal government is being sabotaged by greedy little feces like you. You call the president names like a little kindergarten kid. You can’t win any argument because your basic premise that only YOU YOU YOU can be right proves only YOU YOU YOU are that? The word turdbrains like you hate most…WRONG

        As to protest…I realize you live in DogPatch and wouldn’t know that shortly before the 2004 election, the RNC refused to allow protesters within 2 miles of their campaign headquarters. Why? What do you and they have to hide that you can’t handle truthful protests?

        You are a coward of the lowest, most disgusting form. Crawl back in your rat hole. Rats like you don’t deserve to be called Americans.

        • Says the liberal, communst feminist.

          • LotusJoan

            Is everyone who disagrees with you a communist? Why post at all if all you have is allegations of communist leanings? What are you the reincarnation of Joe McCarthy?

          • BillP

            Lotus, that is all that this uniformed troll can write on this site. President Obama is an Emperor, Liberals are Communists and liars. I think ken is more the reincarnation of Charlie McCarthy but then I’m insulting the dummy!

          • idamag

            They have the same hates as hitler did.

          • Eleanore Whitaker

            Says the hateful little twit who calls itself a CONservative…is “fiscal” your new CON word for greedy little turd?

            You are a fascist. I’ll prove it. You post hateful things about anyone who disagrees with you. Like the fascist Mussolini did. You believe ONLY YOU know what’s best…like Hitler.

   tell us all…how are you not a bossy, dictatorial little turd who pulls tantrums like Hitler and Mussolini when you don’t get your way? Hey Fascist! Ate your bowl of hate for breakfast?

          • I have to admit, I do get a chuckle every now and then from your comments. Mostly I just feel sorry for you. So bitter, so full of hate that you usually make little sense. Actually, it is the liberals that want to control every aspect of your life. It is the liberals that think they are more equipped to decide what is best for all the people. You should watch the movie “the Giver”. It is a great example of what a liberal utopia would look like. No thought, no freedoms. Everything is decided for you. Not the way most people would want to live. I guess if you can’t take care of yourself, then something like this would be a good thing, but most Americans would rather have the freedom to choose their own fate, and not have the government do so. Remember the government works for the people. Under this regime, it is the people that serve the government.

          • Eleanore Whitaker

            You get a chuckle from bowel movements..not my comments. Truth to you is in your own harm’s way. Don’t feel sorry for me. Some day, you’ll have a wonderful life as I’ve had…and hopefully have a job. You know? One of those things that requires you to actually EARN a living and not feed off my taxes?

            Sorry, but find yourself a dictionary…one you haven’t reinvented to suit…Look up the word “liberal”…It doesn’t mean dictatorial BS like you spout day after day after day. I can prove every post…Yours are so full of manure, you’d be a millionaire just from the landfill of stink you’ve managed to amass.

            Try again…The alien life form known as KennyBoy/Debby Girl has already lost ALL credibility among intelligent human beings.

            Seek mental help..Your mind is gone.

          • But I do feel sorry for you, Eleanore. You seem like a very lonely person that was mistreated by some man somewhere, to the point that you hate all men. Really sad.
            As far as proving anything, I see a major flaw in that, in that nothing that comes from the left is tryue. It is the liberals that want to do away with our constitution, saying it is out of date, and is no longer a valid document. If you really want trut, try reading something that does not come from the government or a liberal site. You will find a myriad of knowledge. I know you are too narrow minded to ever do that, but the truth is our there if only you would look. You can be a nasty and vile as you want, but it does not change the fact that you are biased, and will only see what you want to see. Really sad. so pitiful.

          • Eleanore Whitaker

            Really? YOU feel sorry for ME? Let’s see..I’m lonely? Really with an army of readers who read my books, a household with a nest that’s never emptied and friends who call or spend time with me? You’re mind is badly damaged. The word “left” to you is evil. The word “right” is pure and holy than thou?

            The liberal Founding Fathers, in case your biased history books omitted to teach you this CREATED the US Constitution. Really? How do you miss the words “equal,” “Free” and “liberty” as in “liberal” in the Preamble to the US Constitution…

            But, since you’re a certified member of Dipshits Inc., here are the precise words in that Preamble…We, the people, of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic TRANQUILITY, PROVIDE for the common defence, PROMOTE the General WELFARE and secure the Blessings of LIBERTY to ourselves and our Posterity, do ORDAIN and Establish this Constitution for the United States of America..

            Now Dipshit, choke on the words that are liberally interspersed as I capitalized them. Tranquility? You doing exactly the opposite with your bitching about the President and Your fellow Americans who hate your ideology because it does precisely the opposite of PROMOTE the general welfare…nor does your bitching secure the blessings of LIBERTY…another word you can’t mentally process. Get help sicko.

          • You are in denial. Seek help, if you can get it under your obamacare policy. I think your being liberal and a man hating feminist should qualify you for some mental health help.

          • Eleanore Whitaker

            First of all, people with any sense of class who have NEVER met face to face don’t get to judge me. Therefore, the only one in denial is you.

            You insist the President is an “Emperor.” I think your CON artist ideological BS is based on some mental disease.

            Poor little KennyBoyDebbyGirl, the alien from the Planet BS.

            By the way, you are WRONG again..My best friend of 30+ years is a guy. My next best friend? A woman…so much for your sitting there on your double wide ass with a fat brain concocting judgments of perfect strangers. I’ve grew up with 5 brothers, had 2 sons and unfortunately for Dipshits Inc. members like you, I worked in the all male field of engineering for nearly a quarter century..paying taxes out of every paycheck…something Dipshit Inc. Members like you hate to take responsibility for.

            What’s the matter? Had a problem with my posting of the Preamble to the Constitution word for word that includes the word, “liberty?”

            So little KennyboyDebbyGirl is now hot to change the subject…typical of dipshits.

            This president is smarter than you’ll EVER be. He has more diplomacy in his pinky finger than you have in your entire body. He can make things happen, as opposed to your feasts at the table of Grand Denial that you pig out on so regularly.

            The only thing pigs like you know how to do is live large on everyone else’s tax dollars, while you thieving, CONniving covetous morons overindulge your piggy selves. Get a life, get a job and get professional help.

            Nice denial job you have going there..try again. You’re down 100 points on your BS competition.

          • idamag

            Guess who hitler hated: He started out with communists, went to trade unionists, then on to: Marxists, Slavs, Russians, Social Democrats, Blacks, Gays, Gypsies, liberals, and Jews. Source; “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” and “Saved by the Enemy” by Graig Ledbetter. How many, of the list, can you find that certain dips hate on this board?

        • whodatbob

          Eleanore, Great Post! But don’t let babbling idiots get under your skin.

          • idamag

            Baqbbling idiots is right. Don’t even respond to them or read their posts. They are like the little bully kids who, instead of dialogue, stand and call names.

      • neeceoooo

        If it had been our liberal government that is working, we would have income equality, a jobs bill passed, an immigration bill passed and others items that the GOP will not work on because of who is behind these bills.

  • game50

    All this B. S. it happen because, of the ILLEGAL in OUR W.H.. Wake up and smell the coffee. He’ll stop at NOTHING TO SCREW OR KILL AMERICAN.

    • JPHALL

      Only illegal to those who are mad they lost two elections to him. Or is it the fact that he doesn’t look like you?

      • game50

        JPHALL: Why don’t u get you head out of Barry Soetoro butt. He out to do us in, no matter what it takes . Why don’t u ck out the following: fema camps,mass grave, martail law training on 300 acres in VA.. Now ask yourself why and what he will do with all of the above items. It’s TIME TO WAKE UP WHILE U STILL CAN.
        Now go bk to your make belief world…bye,bye.

  • whodatbob

    Leonard Pitts, the black racist, is correct about the SC ruling!
    But when “peaceful protesters” are throwing Molotov cocktails and shooting at the police as well as destroying private property and looting stores they have become a mob of outlaws. At this point police do what is needed to disburse the mob.

    • JPHALL

      Once again, the race baiters strike. If the police had done their jobs as police instead of the military most of the past violence would not have happened. While they concentrated on the peaceful protesters, the violence went on behind them.

      • idamag

        If the “brown shirts” hadn’t shot six shots into an unarmed kid, there wouldn’t have been any violence. If the protestors turned away and let it go, we would slide back to Jim Crow.

  • Al Amo

    Without black violence, how would Americans stay entertained?

    • JPHALL

      By reading your nonsense!

    • Paul Bass

      Wow, could you be more of a racist?

  • Sterling Harris

    WHITE VIOLENCE (al amo)