John Whitehead

John W. Whitehead
Newsbud Contributing Author & Analyst

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of The Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Do You Even Know Your Rights?

Donald Trump wants to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again. “We the people” have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. Clearly, our national priorities need to be re-prioritized.

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Show Notes

Al-Jazeera interview, (21 October 2001), as reported in "Bin Laden's sole post-September 11 TV interview aired" CNN

Abraham Lincoln, “The Gettysburg Address,” (Nov. 19, 1863)

“Americans know surprisingly little about their government, survey finds,” Annenberg Public Policy Center

“Exercising the Right to Be Ignorant,” Los Angeles Times

“Can You Pass the Citizenship Test?” National Review

“Noted with Interest,” The Washington Post

“First Amendment Schools,” Center for Survey Research and Analysis

“Elected Officials Score Lower than the General Public,” American Civic Literacy Program

“[Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, et al.,] Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Fix the Site of the University of Virginia,” The Founders’ Constitution: Volume 1, Chapter 18, Document 33

“From Thomas Jefferson to Uriah Forrest, with Enclosure, 31 December 1787,” Founders Online, National Archives

“From Thomas Jefferson to William Charles Jarvis, 28 September 1820,” Founders Online, National Archives

Let’s Make America Free Again: 230 Years After the Constitution, We’re Walking a Dangerous Road

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

Zombies R Us: ‘We the People’ Are the Walking Dead of the American Police State

Despite the fact that we are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack; 11,000 times more likely to die from an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane; 1,048 times more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack, and 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist, we have handed over control of our lives to government officials who treat us as a means to an end—the source of money and power. We have allowed ourselves to become fearful, controlled, pacified zombies. Zombies also embody the government’s paranoia about the citizenry as potential threats that need to be monitored, tracked, surveilled, sequestered, deterred, vanquished and rendered impotent.

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Show Notes

“Director George Romero, creator of the modern zombie, is dead at 77” Vox

Movie 'Zombie Killers,' filmed in Pennsylvania, to premiere in Bethlehem, The Morning Call

The Real Villains of Fear the Walking Dead, The Atlantic

Why The Walking Dead Is So Brutal — and So Popular, Time

Fear Makes People Stupid, Zero Hedge

How TV Zombifies and Pacifies Us and Subverts Democracy

Lockdown Nation, Pacific Standard Magazine 

The Pentagon Has a Plan to Stop the Zombie Apocalypse. Seriously, Foreign Policy

The Department of Defense is prepared for a zombie attack, New York Post

Zombies R Us: ‘We the People’ Are the Walking Dead of the American Police State

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

This Is How Tyranny Rises and Freedom Falls: The Experiment in Freedom Is Failing

Every day I ask myself the same question: How can this be happening in America? How can people like these be in charge of our country? If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d think I was having a hallucination.—Philip Roth, novelist

It is easy to be distracted right now by the circus politics that have dominated the news headlines for the past year, but don’t be distracted.

Don’t be fooled, not even a little, no matter how tempting it seems to just take a peek.

We’re being subjected to the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.

We are being ruled by a government of scoundrels, spies, thugs, thieves, gangsters, ruffians, rapists, extortionists, bounty hunters, battle-ready warriors and cold-blooded killers who communicate using a language of force and oppression.

Our nation of sheep has, as was foretold, given rise to a government of wolves.

The U.S. government now poses the greatest threat to our freedoms.

More than terrorism, more than domestic extremism, more than gun violence and organized crime, even more than the perceived threat posed by any single politician, the U.S. government remains a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.

This has been true of virtually every occupant of the White House in recent years.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed for the better since Donald Trump ascended to the Oval Office.

Indeed, Trump may be the smartest move yet by the powers-that-be to keep the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats, because as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form.

As American satirist H.L. Mencken predicted almost a century ago:

“All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

In other words, nothing has changed, folks.

The facts speak for themselves.

We’re being robbed blind by a government of thieves. Americans no longer have any real protection against government agents empowered to seize private property at will. For instance, police agencies under the guise of asset forfeiture laws are taking Americans’ personal property based on little more than a suspicion of criminal activity and keeping it for their own profit and gain. In one case, police seized $53,000 from the manager of a Christian rock bandthat was touring and raising money for an orphanage in Thailand. Despite finding no evidence of wrongdoing, police kept the money. Homeowners are losing their homes over nonpayment of taxes (for as little as $400 owed) and municipal bills such as water or sewer fees that amount to a fraction of what they have invested in their homes. And then there’s the Drug Enforcement Agency, which has been searching train and airline passengers and pocketing their cash, without ever charging them with a crime.

We’re being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and cowards. Mencken calculated that “Congress consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons.” By and large, Americans seem to agree. When you’ve got government representatives who spend a large chunk of their work hours fundraising, being feted by lobbyists, shuffling through a lucrative revolving door between public service and lobbying, and making themselves available to anyone with enough money to secure access to a congressional office, you’re in the clutches of a corrupt oligarchy. Mind you, these same elected officials rarely read the legislation they’re enacting, nor do they seem capable of enacting much legislation that actually helps the plight of the American citizen. More often than not, the legislation lands the citizenry in worse straits.

We’re being locked up by a government of greedy jailers. We have become a carceral state, spending three times more on our prisons than on our schools and imprisoning close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, despite the fact that crime is at an all-time low and the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world’s population. The rise of overcriminalization and profit-driven private prisons provides even greater incentives for locking up American citizens for such non-violent “crimes” as having an overgrown lawn. As the Boston Review points out, “America’s contemporary system of policing, courts, imprisonment, and parole … makes money through asset forfeiture, lucrative public contracts from private service providers, and by directly extracting revenue and unpaid labor from populations of color and the poor. In states and municipalities throughout the country, the criminal justice system defrays costs by forcing prisoners and their families to pay for punishment. It also allows private service providers to charge outrageous fees for everyday needs such as telephone calls. As a result people facing even minor criminal charges can easily find themselves trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of debt, criminalization, and incarceration.”

We’re being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms. The government is watching everything you do, reading everything you write, listening to everything you say, and monitoring everything you spend. Omnipresent surveillance is paving the way for government programs that profile citizens, document their behavior and attempt to predict what they might do in the future, whether it’s what they might buy, what politician they might support, or what kinds of crimes they might commit. The impact of this far-reaching surveillance, according to Psychology Today, is “reduced trust, increased conformity, and even diminished civic participation.” As technology analyst Jillian C. York concludes, “Mass surveillance without due process—whether undertaken by the government of Bahrain, Russia, the US, or anywhere in between—threatens to stifle and smother that dissent, leaving in its wake a populace cowed by fear.”

We’re being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers. It’s not just the police shootings of unarmed citizens that are worrisome. It’s the SWAT team raids gone wrongmore than 80,000 annually—that are leaving innocent citizens wounded, children terrorized and family pets killed. It’s the roadside strip searches—in some cases, cavity searches of men and women alike carried out in full view of the public—in pursuit of drugs that are never found. It’s the potentially lethal—and unwarranted—use of so-called “nonlethal” weapons such as tasers on children for “mouthing off to a police officer. For trying to run from the principal’s office. For, at the age of 12, getting into a fight with another girl.”

We’re being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and professional pirates. The American people have repeatedly been sold a bill of goods about how the government needs more money, more expansive powers, and more secrecy (secret courts, secret budgets, secret military campaigns, secret surveillance) in order to keep us safe. Under the guise of fighting its wars on terror, drugs and now domestic extremism, the government has spent billions in taxpayer dollars on endless wars that have notended terrorism but merely sown the seeds of blowback, surveillance programs that have caught few terrorists while subjecting all Americans to a surveillance society, and militarized police that have done little to decrease crime while turning communities into warzones. Not surprisingly, the primary ones to benefit from these government exercises in legal money laundering have been the corporations, lobbyists and politicians who inflict them on a trusting public.

We’re being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers: a standing army. As if it weren’t enough that the American military empire stretches around the globe (and continues to leech much-needed resources from the American economy), the U.S. government is creating its own standing army of militarized police and teams of weaponized bureaucrats. These civilian employees are being armed to the hilt with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment; authorized to make arrests; and trained in military tactics. Among the agencies being supplied with night-vision equipment, body armor, hollow-point bullets, shotguns, drones, assault rifles and LP gas cannons are the Smithsonian, U.S. Mint, Health and Human Services, IRS, FDA, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an assortment of public universities. There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government civilians armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the government’s arsenal, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, and the speed with which the nation could be locked down under martial law depending on the circumstances.

Whatever else it may be—a danger, a menace, a threat—the U.S. government is certainly no friend to freedom.

To our detriment, the criminal class that Mark Twain mockingly referred to as Congress has since expanded to include every government agency that feeds off the carcass of our once-constitutional republic.

The government and its cohorts have conspired to ensure that the only real recourse the American people have to hold the government accountable or express their displeasure with the government is through voting, which is no real recourse at all.

Consider it: the penalties for civil disobedience, whistleblowing and rebellion are severe. If you refuse to pay taxes for government programs you believe to be immoral or illegal, you will go to jail. If you attempt to overthrow the government—or any agency thereof—because you believe it has overstepped its reach, you will go to jail. If you attempt to blow the whistle on government misconduct, you will go to jail. In some circumstances, if you even attempt to approach your elected representative to voice your discontent, you can be arrested and jailed.

You cannot have a republican form of government—nor a democratic one, for that matter—when the government views itself as superior to the citizenry, when it no longer operates for the benefit of the people, when the people are no longer able to peacefully reform their government, when government officials cease to act like public servants, when elected officials no longer represent the will of the people, when the government routinely violates the rights of the people and perpetrates more violence against the citizenry than the criminal class, when government spending is unaccountable and unaccounted for, when the judiciary act as courts of order rather than justice, and when the government is no longer bound by the laws of the Constitution.

For too long, the American people have obeyed the government’s dictates, no matter now unjust.

We have paid its taxes, penalties and fines, no matter how outrageous. We have tolerated its indignities, insults and abuses, no matter how egregious. We have turned a blind eye to its indiscretions and incompetence, no matter how imprudent. We have held our silence in the face of its lawlessness, licentiousness and corruption, no matter how illicit.

Oh how we have suffered.

How long we will continue to suffer depends on how much we’re willing to give up for the sake of freedom.

It may well be that Professor Morris Berman is correct: perhaps we are entering into the dark ages that signify the final phase of the American Empire. “It seems to me,” writes Berman, “that the people do get the government they deserve, and even beyond that, the government who they are, so to speak. In that regard, we might consider, as an extreme version of this… that Hitler was as much an expression of the German people at that point in time as he was a departure from them.”

For the moment, the American people seem content to sit back and watch the reality TV programming that passes for politics today. It’s the modern-day equivalent of bread and circuses, a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population.

As French philosopher Etienne de La Boétie observed half a millennium ago:

“Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books.”

The bait towards slavery. The price of liberty. The instruments of tyranny.

Yes, that sounds about right.

“We the people” have learned only too well how to be slaves. Worse, we have come to enjoy our voluntary servitude, which masquerades as citizenship.

Unfortunately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we won’t be able to sustain this fiction much longer.

“Things fall apart,” wrote W.B. Yeats in his dark, forbidding poem “The Second Coming.” “The centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world… Surely some revelation is at hand.”

Wake up, America, and break free of your chains.

Something wicked this way comes.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Mass Shootings: America’s Culture of Violence Turns Deadly

Why do these mass shootings keep happening? Mass shootings have taken place at churches, in nightclubs, on college campuses, on military bases, in elementary schools, in government offices, and at concerts. The Las Vegas shooting is the deadliest to date. Could it be, as some have speculated, that these shootings are all part of an elaborate plan to incite fear and chaos, heighten national tensions and shift us that much closer to a complete lockdown?

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 Show Notes

 “Gun Culture and the American Nightmare of Violence,” Moyers & Company

“Expert: Las Vegas shooter may have used trigger crank,” USA Today

“America’s Deadly Gun Addiction, by the Numbers,” Wired

“The Las Vegas attack is the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history,” CNN

“I Was a Teenage Gun Nut,” The Atlantic

“Gun Deaths Are Mostly Suicides,” The New York Times

“Militainment, Inc.: Militarism & Pop Culture,” Media Education Foundation

“The United States is No. 1 — But in What? Military Expenditure, Weapons Export and International Violence,” Centre for Global Research

“U.S. Military Spending Dwarfs Rest of World,” CNBC

“In the Wake of the Las Vegas Shooting, There Can Be No Truce with the Second Amendment,” The New Yorker

“Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts,” Vox

“Why are mass murders so uncommon in Japan?” Quartz

“Pentagon Video Warns of “unavoidable” Dystopian Future for World’s Biggest Cities,” The Intercept

“How US gun culture compares with the world,” CNN

“Dozens of Civilians Killed When U.s. Bombed a School and a Market in Syria,” The Intercept

“Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation” (January 17, 1961)

“The greatest sci-fi movies of the 1950s,” Den of Geek

“25 years later, how ‘Top Gun’ made America love war,” The Washington Post

“The Army gives you superpowers!” Salon

“You’re watching Pentagon propaganda: “American Idol,” “Ice Road Truckers” and the truth about your favorite shows,” Salon

“Documents expose how Hollywood promotes war on behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA,” Medium

“The Pentagon’s strengthening grip on Hollywood,” Salon

“DoD paid $53 million of taxpayers’ money to pro sports for military tributes, report says,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mass Shootings: The Military-Entertainment Complex’s Culture of Violence Turns Deadly

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

What Country Is This? Forced Blood Draws, Cavity Searches and Colonoscopies

Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases: these are just a few ways in which Americans are being forced to accept that we have no control over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with government agents.

Such is life in America today that individuals are being threatened with arrest and carted off to jail for the least hint of noncompliance, homes are being raided by police under the slightest pretext, property is being seized on the slightest hint of suspicious activity, and roadside police stops have devolved into government-sanctioned exercises in humiliation and degradation with a complete disregard for privacy and human dignity.

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Show Notes

“How the Supreme Court Came to Embrace Strip Searches for Trivial Offenses,” The Nation

“Utah hospital to police: Stay away from our nurses,” The Washington Post

“‘Disturbing Video’ Shows Cops Forcibly Drawing Blood of DUI Suspects — And It’s Legal,” The Blaze

“Spring woman claims constitutional violation in body cavity probe,” Houston Chronicle

“Video of roadside vaginal search revives calls for charges against cops,” Vice News

“Texas Cops Spent 11 Minutes Searching a Woman's Vagina, Found No Drugs,” Reason

“N.M. Man Sues Over Multiple Anal Cavity Searches,” FindLaw

“Cops Strip Search Mom, "Forcibly" Pull Tampon Out of Her for Maybe Rolling Through Stop Sign,” Broward Palm Beach NewTimes

“Female US cop caught on tape giving two women body cavity search during routine traffic stop... and 'using the SAME gloves on both'” Daily Mail

“Texas trooper being sued in Irving body cavity search case has been suspended,” The Dallas Morning News

“4 Milwaukee police officers charged in strip-search case,” Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

Cox v. Sampson County School Board

“Ga. Tech Fan Claims Strip Search Over Sandwich,” WSBTV

 Florence v. Burlington

“Flashlight that can smell your breath: Police use high-tech torch on drivers to detect alcohol,” Daily Mail

“'No Refusal' DUI checkpoints raise questions,” USA Today

“Supreme Court ruling on blood draws could have big impact on drunken driving cases,” Journal-Sentinel

“Federal Funds Fuel Nationwide Increase in “No Refusal” Blood-Draw DUI Checkpoints,” Ben Swann

“Off-duty cops collect DNA samples at Alabama roadblocks,” Daily Caller

“Forget Fingerprints: Law Enforcement DNA Databases Poised To Expand,” NOVA Next

“JFK Airport officials filter fecal matter in search for drugs,” The Washington Times

“To Track Militants, U.S. Has System That Never Forgets a Face,” The New York Times

Some Who Decline an Optional Iris Photo Are Kept Longer in Jail, Critics Say,” The New York Times

“Iris scans are the new school IDs,” CNN Money

“Eye Scan Technology Comes to Schools,” ABC News

“The Boring and Exciting World of Biometrics,” NovaNext

“State photo-ID databases become troves for police,” The Washington Post

What Country Is This? Forced Blood Draws, Cavity Searches and Colonoscopies

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

Trump: Now an Agent of the American Police State

If you thought the militarized police response to Ferguson and Baltimore was bad, brace yourselves. Many police, including beat cops, now routinely carry assault rifles. Combined with body armor and other apparel, many officers look more and more like combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to President Trump, this transformation of America into a battlefield is only going to get worse. To be fair, Trump did not create this totalitarian nightmare. However, he has legitimized it and, in so doing, has also accelerated the pace at which we fall deeper into the clutches of outright tyranny.

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Show Notes

“Battlefield Main Street: Pentagon Project Lets Police Forces – Even in Small Towns – Arm Themselves With Military Gear,” The Daily

“Congress Quietly Passed a Bill Allowing Warrantless Searches of Homes—Only 1% Opposed It,” The Free Thought Project

“Trump to Fully Restore Military Surplus Transfers to Police,” The New York Times

“Trump lifts ban on military gear to local police forces,” USA Today

“From Mayberry to Ferguson, the rise of the modern cop,” The Washington Post

“Local Cops Ready for War With Homeland Security-Funded Military Weapons,” The Daily Beast

“America’s police are looking more and more like the military,” The Guardian

“West Lafayette police acquire military vehicle,” Indy Star

“The cops at Ohio State have an armored fighting vehicle now,” The Daily Caller

“Police Are Getting the Military’s Leftover Armored Trucks,” The New York Times

“Drawing Down: How To Roll Back Police Militarization In America,” The Huffington Post

“Seattle police department has network that can track all Wi-Fi enabled devices,” Raw Story

“Little oversight seen in military surplus giveaways,” Associated Press

“The militarization of U.S. police forces,” Reuters

“Does military equipment lead police officers to be more violent? We did the research,” The Washington Post

“The Shocking Tales of 11 of the Most Over the Top US Police Paramilitary Raids and the Innocent People They Victimized,” Alternet

“Why Are Police Unions Blocking Reform?” The New Yorker

“The USA as a Failed State: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘Between the World and Me,’” Counterpunch

Battlefield America Is the New Normal: We’re Not in Mayberry Anymore

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

Freedom for the Speech We Hate: The Legal Ins and Outs of the Right to Protest

We are witnessing a politically correct philosophy at play, one shared by both the extreme left and the extreme right, which aims to stifle all expression that doesn’t fit within their parameters of what they consider to be “acceptable” speech. There are all kinds of labels put on such speech—it’s been called politically incorrect speech, hate speech, offensive speech, and so on—but really, the message being conveyed is that you don’t have a right to express yourself if certain people or groups don’t like or agree with what you are saying.  Hence, we have seen the caging of free speech in recent years, through the use of so-called “free speech zones” on college campuses and at political events, the requirement of speech permits in parks and community gatherings, and the policing of online forums. Clearly, this elitist, monolithic mindset is at odds with everything for which America is supposed to stand.

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Show Notes

James Madison, “FEDERALIST NO. 10 (1787)”

Benjamin Franklin, “Silence Dogood, No. 8,” The New-England Courant (Jul. 9, 1722)

 “Constitutional Q&A: The Right to Protest,” The Rutherford Institute

Second Amendment

 First Amendment

United States v. Schwimmer, U.S. Supreme Court (1929)

Texas v. Johnson, 491 US 397 - Supreme Court 1989

 DeJonge v. Oregon

 Lloyd Corp., Ltd. v. Tanner

 City of LaDue v. Gileo

 United States v. Grace

 Ward v. Rock Against Racism

 Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western N.Y.

Snyder v. Phelps

Lewis v. Wilson

 Helms v. Zubaty

 Acosta v. City of Costa Mesa

 Gilles v. Blanchard

 Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Comm. Sch. Dist.

 Boardley v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior

 Forsyth County, Ga. v. Nationalist Movement

 Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham

 Thomas v. Chi. Park Dist.

 Hague v. Comm. for Indus. Org.

 Jones v. Parmley

 Cole v. Arkansas

 Chesney v. City of Jackson

United States v. Masciandaro

Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Concealed Carry”

Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Open Carry”

“Supreme Court Turns Down Case on Carrying Guns in Public,” The New York Times

“The Competing Messages:  The Protests; Demonstrators Steer Clear Of Their Designated Space,” The New York Times

“Chilling First Amendment Activity,” Medium

“Protesters Flood Streets, and Trump Offers a Measure of Praise,” The New York Times

“To fight bigotry and hate, don’t muzzle it. There’s a better way,” The Washington Post

Freedom for the Speech We Hate: The Legal Ins and Outs of the Right to Protest

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

Freedom for the Speech We Hate: The Legal Ins & Outs of the Right to Protest

“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” — Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

There was a time in this country, back when the British were running things, that if you spoke your mind and it ticked off the wrong people, you’d soon find yourself in jail for offending the king.

Reacting to this injustice, when it was time to write the Constitution, America’s founders argued for a Bill of Rights, of which the First Amendment protects the right to free speech. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, was very clear about the fact that he wrote the First Amendment to protect the minority against the majority.

What Madison meant by minority is “offensive speech.”

Unfortunately, we don’t honor that principle as much as we should today. In fact, we seem to be witnessing a politically correct philosophy at play, one shared by both the extreme left and the extreme right, which aims to stifle all expression that doesn’t fit within their parameters of what they consider to be “acceptable” speech.

There are all kinds of labels put on such speech—it’s been called politically incorrect speech, hate speech, offensive speech, and so on—but really, the message being conveyed is that you don’t have a right to express yourself if certain people or groups don’t like or agree with what you are saying.

Hence, we have seen the caging of free speech in recent years, through the use of so-called “free speech zones” on college campuses and at political events, the requirement of speech permits in parks and community gatherings, and the policing of online forums.

Clearly, this elitist, monolithic mindset is at odds with everything America is supposed to stand for.

Indeed, we should be encouraging people to debate issues and air their views. Instead, by muzzling free speech, we are contributing to a growing underclass of Americans—many of whom have been labeled racists, rednecks and religious bigots—who are being told that they can’t take part in American public life unless they “fit in.”

Remember, the First Amendment acts as a steam valve. It allows people to speak their minds, air their grievances and contribute to a larger dialogue that hopefully results in a more just world. When there is no steam valve to release the pressure, frustration builds, anger grows and people become more volatile and desperate to force a conversation.

The attempt to stifle certain forms of speech is where we go wrong.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is “a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment...that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.” For example, it is not a question of whether the Confederate flag represents racism but whether banning it leads to even greater problems, namely, the loss of freedom in general.

Along with the constitutional right to peacefully (and that means non-violently) assemble, the right to free speech allows us to challenge the government through protests and demonstrations and to attempt to change the world around us—for the better or the worse—through protests and counterprotests.

As always, knowledge is key.

The following Constitutional Q&A, available in more detail at The Rutherford Institute (www.rutherford.org), is a good starting point.

Q:        WHAT LAWS GIVE ME THE RIGHT TO PROTEST?

A:         The First Amendment prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Protesting is anexercise of these constitutional rights because it involves speaking out, by individual people or those assembled in groups, about matters of public interest and concern.

Q:        WHERE CAN I ENGAGE IN PROTEST ACTIVITY?

A:         The right to protest generally extends to places that are owned and controlled by the government, although not all government-owned property is available for exercising speech and assembly rights. However, beyond public or government property, a person cannot claim a First Amendment right to protest and demonstrate on property that is privately owned by someone else. This also applies to private property that is generally open to the public, such as a shopping mall or shopping center, although these areas sometimes allow demonstrations and other free speech activity with permission from the owner. You are also entitled to engage in protest activities on land you own.  The Supreme Court has ruled that the government may not forbid homeowners from posting signs on their property speaking out on a political or social issue.

Q:        WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS TO PROTEST IN A TRADITIONAL PUBLIC FORUM?

A:         Places historically associated with the free exercise of expressive activities, such as streets, sidewalks and parks, are traditional public forums and the government’s power to limit speech and assembly in those places is very limited. The government may not impose an absolute ban on expression and assembly in traditional public forums except in circumstances where it is essential to serve a compelling government interest.  However, expression and assembly in traditional public forums may be limited by reasonable time, place and manner regulations. Examples of reasonable regulations include restrictions on the volume of sound produced by the activity or a prohibition on impeding vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  To be a valid time, place and manner regulation, the restriction must not have the effect of restricting speech based on its content and it must not be broader than needed to serve the interest of the government.

Q:        CAN I PICKET AND/OR DISTRIBUTE LEAFLETS AND OTHER TYPES OF LITERATURE ON PUBLIC SIDEWALKS?

A:         Yes, a sidewalk is considered a traditional public forum where you can engage in expressive activities, such a passing out literature or speaking out on a matter of public concern. In exercising that right, you must not block pedestrians or the entrances to buildings. You may not physically or maliciously detain someone in order to give them a leaflet, but you may approach them and offer it to them.

Q:        CAN MY FREE SPEECH BE RESTRICTED BECAUSE OF WHAT I SAY, EVEN IF IT IS CONTROVERSIAL?

A:         No, the First Amendment protects speech even if most people would find it offensive, hurtful or hateful. Speech generally cannot be banned based upon its content or viewpoint because it is not up to the government to determine what can and cannot be said. A bedrock principle of the First Amendment is that the government may not prohibit expression of an idea because society finds it offensive or disagreeable. Also, protest speech also cannot be banned because of a fear that others may react violently to the speech.  Demonstrators cannot be punished or forbidden from speaking because they might offend a hostile mob. The Supreme Court has held that a “heckler’s veto” has no place in First Amendment law.

Q:        HOW DO THESE RIGHTS APPLY TO PUBLIC PLACES I TYPICALLY VISIT?

A:         Your rights to speak out and protest in particular public places will depend on the use and purpose of the place involved.  For example, the lobbies and offices of public buildings that are used by the government are generally not open for expressive activities because the purpose of these buildings is to carry out public business. Protesting would interfere with that purpose.  Ironically, the meetings of a governmental body, such as a city council or town board, are not considered public forums open for protest activities because the purpose of the meeting is generally to address public business that is on the agenda.  However, some government councils and boards set aside a time at the meeting when the public can voice their complaints.

The grounds of public colleges and universities are generally considered available for assembly and protest by students and other members of the institution’s community.  However, those who are not students, faculty or staff of the institution may be denied access to the campus for speech and protest activities under rules issued by the school.

Public elementary and secondary school grounds also are not considered places where persons can engage in assembly and protest.  However, students at these schools do not lose their right to free speech when they enter the school. The First Amendment protects the right of students to engage in expressive acts of protest, such as wearing armbands to demonstrate opposition to a war, that are not disruptive to the school environment.

Q:        DO I NEED A PERMIT IN ORDER TO CONDUCT A PROTEST?

A:         As a general rule, no. A person is not required to obtain the consent or permission of the government before engaging in activities that are protected by the First Amendment.  One of the main reasons for that constitutional provision was to forbid any requirement that citizens obtain a license in order to speak out.  The government cannot require that individuals or small groups obtain a permit in order to speak or protest in a public forum.

However, if persons or organizations want to hold larger rallies and demonstrations, they may be required by local laws to obtain a permit.  The Supreme Court has recognized that the government, in order to regulate competing uses of public forums, may impose a permit requirement on those wishing to hold a parade or rally.  Government officials cannot simply prohibit a public assembly according to their discretion, but the government can impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of peaceful assembly, provided that constitutional safeguards are met. Such time, place and manner restrictions can take the form of requirements to obtain a permit for an assembly.

Whether an assembly or demonstration requires a permit depends on the laws of the locality.  A permit certainly is required for any parade because it would involve the use of the streets and interfere with vehicle traffic. A permit to hold an event in other public places typically is required if the gathering involves more than 50 persons or the use of amplification.

Q:        DO COUNTER-DEMONSTRATORS HAVE FREE SPEECH RIGHTS?

A:         Yes, they do. Just because counter-demonstrators oppose you and the viewpoint of your demonstration does not mean they have any less right to speak out and demonstrate. However, the same rules apply to counter-demonstrators as apply to the original assembly. The group cannot be violent and must assemble and protest in an appropriate place and manner.

Q:        WHAT CAN'T I DO IN EXERCISING MY RIGHTS TO PROTEST?

A:         The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the First Amendment protects the right to conduct a peaceful public assembly. The First Amendment does not provide the right to conduct a gathering at which there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, interference with traffic on public streets or other immediate threat to public safety. Laws that prohibit people from assembling and using force or violence to accomplish unlawful purposes are permissible under the First Amendment.

Q:       AM I ALLOWED TO CARRY A WEAPON OR FIREARM AT A DEMONSTRATION OR PROTEST?

A:         Your right to have a weapon with you when you protest largely depends on what is allowed by state law and is unlikely to be protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee to freedom of speech. Not all conduct can be considered “speech” protected by the First Amendment even if the person engaging in the conduct intends to express an idea. Most courts have held that the act of openly carrying a weapon or firearm is not expression protected by the First Amendment.

The right to possess a firearm is protected by the Second Amendment, and all states allow carrying a concealed weapon in public, although most require a permit to do so. Some states allow persons to openly carry firearms in public. However, it is not yet settled whether the Second Amendment guarantees the right to possess a firearm in public. Thus, the right to carry a firearm at a demonstration or protest is a matter that depends on what is allowed under state law. Carrying other weapons, such as stun guns, which are not firearms also is subject to restrictions imposed by  state law. Possession of weapons also may be prohibited in certain places where demonstrations might take place, such as a national park.

Even if possession of weapons is allowed, their presence at demonstrations and rallies can be intimidating and provocative and does not help in achieving a civil and peaceful discourse on issues of public interest and concern. Demonstrations often relate to issues raising strong feelings among competing groups, and the presence of counter-demonstrators makes conflict likely.  In these situations, where the purpose of the gathering is to engage in speech activities, firearms and other weapons are threatening, result in the suppression of speech and are contrary to the purpose of the First Amendment to allow all voices to be heard on matters of public importance.

Q:        WHAT CAN’T THE POLICE DO IN RESPONDING TO PROTESTERS?

A:         In recent history, challenges to the right to protest have come in many forms. In some cases, police have cracked down on demonstrations by declaring them “unlawful assemblies” or through mass arrests, illegal use of force or curfews. Elsewhere, expression is limited by corralling protesters into so-called “free-speech zones.” New surveillance technologies are increasingly turned on innocent people, collecting information on their activities by virtue of their association with or proximity to a given protest. Even without active obstruction of the right to protest, police-inspired intimidation and fear can chill expressive activity and result in self-censorship. All of these things violate the First Amendment and are things the police cannot do to censor free speech. Unless the assembly is violent or violence is clearly imminent, the police have limited authority under the law to shut down protesters.

Clearly, as evidenced by the recent tensions in Charlottesville, Va., we’re at a crossroads concerning the constitutional right to free speech.

As Benjamin Franklin warned, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

It must be emphasized that it was for the sake of preserving individuality and independence that James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, fought for a First Amendment that protected the “minority” against the majority, ensuring that even in the face of overwhelming pressure, a minority of one—even one who espouses distasteful viewpoints—would still have the right to speak freely, pray freely, assemble freely, challenge the government freely, and broadcast his views in the press freely.

This freedom for those in the unpopular minority constitutes the ultimate tolerance in a free society. Conversely, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplewhen we fail to abide by Madison’s dictates about greater tolerance for all viewpoints, no matter how distasteful, the end result is always the same: an indoctrinated, infantilized citizenry that marches in lockstep with the governmental regime.

Some of this past century’s greatest dystopian literature shows what happens when the populace is transformed into mindless automatons. For instance, in George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother does away with all undesirable and unnecessary words and meanings, even going so far as to routinely rewrite history and punish “thoughtcrimes.”

Where we stand now is at the juncture of OldSpeak (where words have meanings, and ideas can be dangerous) and Newspeak (where only that which is “safe” and “accepted” by the majority is permitted). The power elite has made their intentions clear: they will pursue and prosecute any and all words, thoughts and expressions that challenge their authority.

This is the final link in the police state chain.

If ever there were a time for us to stand up for the right to speak freely, even if it’s freedom for speech we hate, the time is now.

# # # #

 

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Tear Gas, Guns and Riot Squads: The Police State’s Answer to Free Speech Is Brute Force

Forget everything you’ve ever been taught about free speech in America. It’s all a lie. There can be no free speech for the citizenry when the government speaks in a language of force. What is this language of force? Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality. This is not the language of freedom. This is not even the language of law and order. Unfortunately, this is how the government at all levels—federal, state and local—now responds to those who choose to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble in public and challenge the status quo.

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Show Notes

The Militarization of American Police, The Leonard Lopate Show

 “Police Are Using Military Weapons to Occupy Ferguson, Missouri,” Slate

Kettling

 “The lessons of Baltimore, and Ferguson, and too many places,” Los Angeles Times

“Victory in Unlawful Mass Arrest During 2004 RNC the Largest Protest Settlement in History,” NYCLU

“Militarized Police Are Cracking Down on Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters,” The Nation

 “KKK rally peaceful, police tear gas protesters afterward,” C-Ville Weekly

“Protesters Surround KKK Gathering In Charlottesville,” NPR

“Right to protest also means freedom from militarized police,” USA Today

“Does military equipment lead police officers to be more violent? We did the research,” The Washington Post

“Will the Growing Militarization of Our Police Doom Community Policing?” COPS

“Police fire tear gas at crowd protesting Charlottesville KKK rally,” Roanoke Times

“‘Comply or Die’ policing must stop,” Daily KOS

“I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me,” The Washington Post

“Contempt of cop, America’s defiance revolution,” CBC News

“How To Break Up a Peaceful Protest Peacefully,” Forbes

Tear Gas, Guns and Riot Squads: The Police State’s Answer to Free Speech Is Brute Force

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

Saint or Sinner, Government Eyes Are Watching Every Move You Make

Government eyes are watching you. They see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet. Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to see who you are or what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line. Indeed, simply by liking or sharing this article on Facebook or retweeting it on Twitter, you’re most likely flagging yourself as a potential renegade, revolutionary or anti-government extremist—a.k.a. terrorist. Yet whether or not you like or share this particular article, simply by reading it or any other articles related to government wrongdoing, surveillance, police misconduct or civil liberties is enough to get you categorized as a particular kind of person that needs to be spied on just in case you decide to challenge the government in any way. Chances are you have already been assigned a color-coded threat score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about your potential inclination to be a troublemaker.

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Show Notes

“On whistleblowers and government threats of investigation,” The Guardian

 “The CIA is investing in firms that mine your Tweets and Instagram photos,” The Intercept

 “The new way police are surveilling you: Calculating your threat ‘score,’” The Washington Post

 “Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power,” Salon

 “Social Media Usage: 2005-2015,” Pew Research Center

 “Philip K. Dick Warned Us About the Internet of Things in 1969,” Slate

 “BCA agreed to FBI terms on secret cellphone tracking,” Star Tribune

 “Judge Gorsuch on arrrest warrants and Doppler radar devices,” The Washington Post

 “How many times have the cops photographed your license plate?” Washington Examiner

 “DEA using license-plate readers to take photos of US drivers, documents reveal,” The Guardian

 “9 Ways You’re Being Spied On Every Day,” The Huffington Post

 “New surveillance cameras will use computer eyes to find ‘pre crimes’ by detecting suspicious behaviour and calling for guards,” Daily Mail

 “A FINGERPRINT SCANNER THAT CAN CAPTURE PRINTS FROM 20 FEET AWAY,” Popular Science

 “Police radar gun that shows if you’re texting?” C-Net

 “First came the Breathalyzer, now meet the roadside police “textalyzer,”” Ars technica

 “DOJ budget seeks funds for police body cameras, immigration judges,” The Hill

 “A fight over access to video from LAPD body cameras is shaping up,” LA Times

 “Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically,” The Daily Beast

 “FBI Taps Hacker Tactics to Spy on Suspects,” The Wall Street Journal

Saint or Sinner, Government Eyes Are Watching Every Move You Make

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

Chaos in Charlottesville: No One Gave Peace a Chance, Including the Police

“What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? …No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders ... an uncontrolled or uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people ... Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily—whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence—whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.” — Robert Kennedy

Let’s be clear about one thing: no one—not the armed, violent, militant protesters nor the police—gave peace a chance during the August 12 demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va.

What should have been an exercise in free speech quickly became a brawl.

It’s not about who threw the first punch or the first smoke bomb.

It’s not about which faction outshouted the other, or which side perpetrated more violence, or even which group can claim to be the greater victim.

One young woman is dead because of the hate, violence, intolerance, racism and partisanship that is tearing this country apart, and it has to stop.

Lawful, peaceful, nonviolent First Amendment activity did not kill Heather Heyer.

She was killed by a 20-year-old Neo-Nazi who drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians in Charlottesville, Va.

Words, no matter how distasteful or disagreeable, did not turn what should have been an exercise in free speech into a brawl.

That was accomplished by militant protesters on both sides of the debate who arrived at what should have been a nonviolent protest armed with sticks and guns, bleach bottles, balloons filled with feces and urine and improvised flamethrowers, and by the law enforcement agencies who stood by and allowed it.

As the New York Times reported, “Protesters began to mace one another, throwing water bottles and urine-filled balloons— some of which hit reporters — and beating each other with flagpoles, clubs and makeshift weapons. Before long, the downtown area was a melee. People were ducking and covering with a constant stream of projectiles whizzing by our faces, and the air was filled with the sounds of fists and sticks against flesh.”

The madness is spreading.

People I know—good, decent people who value equality, reject racism, and believe strongly in tolerance—in their grief and dismay and disgust, threatened violence, acted like a mob, and adopted similarly violent, intolerant, disorderly tactics as those they claim to oppose.

Those who defend free speech were castigated by those who believe that only certain views should be allowed to be heard.

Those who cling to nonviolence were outnumbered by angry mobs intent on inciting violence.

Those who normally advocate a message of tolerance gave into the temptation to spew hate and intolerance.

The Rutherford Institute and the ACLU, two organizations who repeatedly stand up for the Constitution and the rights ofall people—no matter how disagreeable their views may be—have been cursed at, denounced and threatened with violence for daring to remind government officials (and members of the community) that the First Amendment applies to all people equally.

The threats of violence have come from people who, while rightfully disgusted by the racist rhetoric and actions of the Neo-Nazis, wrongly decided that the answer to bigotry, intolerance and violence is mob justice, intolerance and more violence.

Glenn Greenwald gets it.

In a resounding rebuke of those who would opt to employ the tactics of fascists in order to silence fascists, Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Demonizing lawyers and civil liberties advocates by depicting them as “complicit” in the heinous acts of their clients is a long-standing scam that is not confined to the U.S… Needless to say, none of these legal organizations or individual lawyers condone violence. They all vehemently oppose the ideology and worldview in the name of which this violence is committed. Yet they are all blamed for the violence and accused of complicity in it because they defend the free speech rights and civil liberties of people who express views in the name of which violence is committed.

The flaws and dangers in this anti-free-speech mindset are manifest, but nonetheless always worth highlighting, especially when horrific violence causes people to want to abridge civil liberties in the name of stopping it. In sum, purporting to oppose fascism by allowing the state to ban views it opposes is like purporting to oppose human rights abuses by mandating the torture of all prisoners. One of the defining attributes of fascism is forcible suppression of views... You can’t fight that ideology by employing and championing one of its defining traits: viewpoint-based state censorship…

The need to fight neo-Nazism and white supremacy wherever it appears is compelling. The least effective tactic is to try to empower the state to suppress the expression of their views. That will backfire in all sorts of ways: strengthening that movement and ensuring that those who advocate state censorship today are its defenseless targets tomorrow. And whatever else is true, the impulse to react to terrorist attacks by demanding the curtailment of core civil liberties is always irrational, dangerous, and self-destructive, no matter how tempting that impulse might be.

In other words, silencing unpopular viewpoints with which the majority might disagree—whether it’s by shouting them down, censoring them, muzzling them, or criminalizing them—only empowers those in the minority.

We are walking a dangerous road.

And then there’s the role police are supposed to play in upholding the law and preventing violence.

It’s a thankless job most of the time, and police must walk a fine line between respecting peaceful First Amendment activity and maintaining the peace, while not overstepping the limits of the Fourth Amendment.

For whatever reason—which only the police and government officials are privy to—the police failed to do their job at the Charlottesville demonstration, a charge levied by both the Alt Right and the counterdemonstrators.

The same police who in the past have responded to any acts of disorder or disobedience with the full power of their uniform and weapons were curiously lax in the face of outright violence.

As a Rolling Stone reporter recounted, “Unlike other events I've covered where anti-fascist protesters face off with white supremacists, the police make no effort to cordon the two groups off from each other to prevent violent clashes before they happen.”

Despite the fact that 1,000 first responders (including 300 state police troopers and members of the National Guard)—many of whom had been preparing for the downtown rally for months—had been called on to work the event, despite the fact that police in riot gear surrounded Emancipation Park on three sides, and despite the fact that Charlottesville had had what reporter David Graham referred to as “a dress rehearsal of sorts” a month earlier when 30 members of the Ku Klux Klan were confronted by 1000 counterprotesters, police failed to do their jobs.

In fact, as the Washington Post reports, police “seemed to watch as groups beat each other with sticks and bludgeoned one another with shields… At one point, police appeared to retreat and then watch the beatings before eventually moving in to end the free-for-all, make arrests and tend to the injured.”

Police Stood By As Mayhem Mounted in Charlottesville,” reported ProPublica.

Could Police Have Prevented Bloodshed in Charlottesville?” asked The Atlantic.

Police Response Inadequate at Charlottesville Rally,” concluded U.S. News.

There was no police presence,” a peaceful activist explained. “We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.”

Cornel West echoed this sentiment. “The police didn’t do anything in terms of protecting the people of the community, the clergy,” he told The Washington Post.

So what should the police have done differently?

For starters, the police should have established clear boundaries—buffer zones—between the warring groups of protesters and safeguarded the permit zones.

Instead, as eyewitness accounts indicate, police established two entrances into the permit areas of the park and created barriers “guiding rallygoers single-file into the park” past lines of white nationalists and antifa counterprotesters.

This is where the worst of the violence between protesters took place.

By 8:40 am protesters had already started gathering in the downtown area. Police failed to separate them.

By 10 am, a “mob of white supremacists formed a battle line across from a group of counter-protesters.” Police looked on and did nothing.

By 11 am, the general unrest had dissolved into all-out disorder. Police did not step in.

All the while protesters were throwing urine-filled water bottles, pepper spray and smoke bombs, and clobbering one another with flag poles and shields, Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, watchedfrom a command post overlooking the downtown area and did nothing.

Moran watched while fights broke out and police stood by and failed to intervene.

Only at 11:22 am, after hours of brawling and confrontations between the protesters, did Moran take action by calling on Governor Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency. Only then did police mobilize to declare the gathering an unlawful assembly, “cutting off the rally before it officially began,” and begin clearing demonstrators out of the park.

There were other models that could have been followed.

As investigative reporter Sarah Posner notes, “At a neo-Nazi rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just days before the November election, police employed this tactic with success – while the rally attendees and anti-fascist protesters taunted each other over a barrier of police, they were blocked from coming into physical contact. But in Charlottesville, the police inaction creates a sense of pandemonium.”

A good strategy, advises former federal prosecutor Miriam Krinsky, is to make clashes less likely by separating the two sides physically, with officers forming a barrier between them. “Create a human barrier so the flash points are reduced as quickly as possible,” she said.

In Cleveland, the site of the GOP presidential convention, “Trump diehards, Revolutionary Communists, Wobblies, and Alex Jones disciples” faced off in a downtown plaza. Yet as The Atlantic reports, “Just as confrontations between the groups seemed near to getting out of hand, police swooped into the square in huge numbers, using bicycles to create cordons between rival factions. The threat of violence soon passed, and no pepper spray or tear gas was needed.”

For that matter, consider that Charlottesville police established clear boundaries just a month earlier in which they maintained clear lines of demarcation at all times between KKK protesters and counterprotesters. Indeed, the primary violence at the July 8 Klan rally came when police used tear gas and pepper spray to force protesters to disperse.

The question, as always, is where do we go from here?

It’s a question that Martin Luther King Jr. wrestled with and addressed in the last book he wrote before his assassination,Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

As King pointed out repeatedly, hate begets hate. Violence begets violence.

And as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, tyranny begets tyranny.

The day after King was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy delivered these remarks:

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives. It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on…

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them. Some looks for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered. We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.

The lesson for all of us is this: remember, when you strip away the politics and the class warfare and the skin color and the religious ideology and the gender differences and the sexual orientation and anything else that can be used as a source of division, remember that underneath it all, we are all the same.

As Nelson Mandela recognized, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

# # # #

John W Whitehead, Newsbud Producer, Author & Analyst, is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971. Mr. Whitehead’s video show Battlefield America with John Whitehead is featured exclusively at Newsbud.

You Want a Picture of the Future? Imagine a Boot Stamping on Your Face

We have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by such science fiction writers as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick. Much like Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984, the government and its corporate spies now watch our every move. Much like Huxley’s A Brave New World, we are churning out a society of watchers who “have their liberties taken away from them, but … rather enjoy it, because they [are] distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing.” Much like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the populace is now taught to “know their place and their duties, to understand that they have no real rights but will be protected up to a point if they conform, and to think so poorly of themselves that they will accept their assigned fate and not rebel or run away.” And in keeping with Philip K. Dick’s darkly prophetic vision of a dystopian police state—which became the basis for Steven Spielberg’s futuristic thriller Minority Report which was released 15 years ago—we are now trapped into a world in which the government is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful, and if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams and pre-crime units will crack a few skulls to bring the populace under control. All of these works of fiction—and the writers who inspired them—understood what many Americans, caught up in their partisan, flag-waving, zombified states, are still struggling to come to terms with: that there is no such thing as a government organized for the good of the people. Even the best intentions among those in government inevitably give way to the desire to maintain power and control at all costs.

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Show Notes

“Spielberg & Cruise & the Movies,” Roger Ebert

“Margaret Atwood on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump,” New York Times

“Minority Report holds up because it's about surveillance, not gadgets,” The Verge

“Minority Report’ Is 40 Years Ahead of Schedule: The Fictional World Has Become Reality,” The Rutherford Institute

You Want a Picture of the Future? Imagine a Boot Stamping on Your Face

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind

“Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism. It is the aim of the Bill of Rights, if it has any remaining aim at all, to curb such prehensile gentry. Its function is to set a limitation upon their power to harry and oppress us to their own private profit.”— H.L. Mencken

Let’s not mince words.

Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top law enforcement official, would not recognize the Constitution if he ran right smack into it.

Whether the head of the Trump Administration’s Justice Department enjoys being the architect of a police state or is just painfully, criminally clueless, Sessions has done a great job thus far of sidestepping the Constitution at every turn.

Most recently, under the guise of “fighting crime,” Sessions gave police the green light to rob, pilfer, steal, thieve, swipe, purloin, filch and liberate American taxpayers of even more of their hard-earned valuables (especially if it happens to be significant amounts of cash) using any means, fair or foul.

In this case, the foul method favored by Sessions & Co. is civil asset forfeiture, which allows police and prosecutors to “seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets—all without so much as charging you with a crime.”

Under a federal equitable sharing program, police turn asset forfeiture cases over to federal agents who process seizures and then return 80% of the proceeds to the police. (In Michigan, police actually get to keep up to 100% of forfeited property.)

This incentive-driven excuse for stealing from the citizenry is more accurately referred to as “policing for profit” or “theft by cop.”

Despite the fact that 80 percent of these asset forfeiture cases result in no charge against the property owner, challenging these “takings” in court can cost the owner more than the value of the confiscated property itself. As a result, most property owners either give up the fight or chalk the confiscation up to government corruption, leaving the police and other government officials to reap the benefits.

And boy, do they reap the benefits.

Police agencies have used their ill-gotten gains “to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear,” reports The Washington Post. “They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles.”

Incredibly, these asset forfeiture scams have become so profitable for the government that, according to The Washington Post, “in 2014, law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did.” As the Post notes, “the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.”

In 2015, the federal government seized nearly $2.6 billion worth of airplanes, houses, cash, jewelry, cars and other itemsunder the guise of civil asset forfeiture.

According to USA Today, “Anecdotal evidence suggests that allowing departments to keep forfeiture proceeds may tempt them to use the funds unwisely. For example, consider a 2015 scandal in Romulus, Michigan, where police officers used funds forfeited from illicit drug and prostitution stings to pay for ...  illicit drugs and prostitutes.”

Memo to the rest of my fellow indentured servants who are living through this dark era of government corruption, incompetence and general ineptitude: this is not how justice in America is supposed to work.

We are now ruled by a government so consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population that they are completely unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

Our freedoms aren’t just being trampled, however. They’re being eviscerated.

At every turn, “We the People” are getting swindled, cheated, conned, robbed, raided, pickpocketed, mugged, deceived, defrauded, double-crossed and fleeced by governmental and corporate shareholders of the American police state out to make a profit at taxpayer expense.

Americans no longer have to be guilty to be stripped of their property, rights and liberties. All you have to be is in possession of something the government wants. And if you happen to have something the government wants badly enough, trust me, their agents will go to any lengths to get it.

If the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights.

Here’s how the whole ugly business works in a nutshell.

First, government agents (usually the police) use a broad array of tactics to profile, identify, target and arrange to encounter (in a traffic stop, on a train, in an airport, in public, or on private property) those  individuals who might be traveling with a significant amount of cash or possess property of value. Second, these government agents—empowered by the courts and the legislatures—seize private property (cash, jewelry, cars, homes and other valuables) they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity.

Then—and here’s the kicker—whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, without any charges being levied against the property owner, or any real due process afforded the unlucky victim, the property is seized by the government, which often divvies it up with the local police who helped with the initial seizure.

In a Kafkaesque turn of the screw, the burden of proof falls on the unfortunate citizenry who must mount a long, complicated, expensive legal campaign to prove their innocence in order to persuade the government that it should return the funds they stole. Not surprisingly, very few funds ever get returned.

It’s a new, twisted form of guilt by association, only it’s not the citizenry being accused of wrongdoing, just their money.

Motorists have been particularly vulnerable to this modern-day form of highway robbery.

For instance, police stole $201,000 in cash from Lisa Leonard because the money—which Leonard planned to use to buy a house for her son—was being transported on a public highway also used by drug traffickers. Despite the fact that Leonard was innocent of wrongdoing, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the theft on a technicality.

Police stole $50,000 in cash from Amanee Busbee—which she planned to use to complete the purchase of a restaurant—and threatened to hand her child over to CPS if she resisted. She’s one of the few to win most of her money back in court.

Police stole $22,000 in cash from Jerome Chennault—which he planned to use as the down payment on a home—simply because a drug dog had alerted police to its presence in his car. After challenging the seizure in court, Chennault eventually succeeded in having most of his money returned, although the state refused to compensate him for his legal and travel expenses.

Police stole $8,500 in cash and jewelry from Roderick Daniels—which he planned to use to purchase a new car—and threatened him with jail and money-laundering charges if he didn’t sign a waiver forfeiting his property.

Police stole $6,000 in cash from Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson and threatened to turn their young children over to Child Protective Services if they resisted.

Tenaha, Texas, is a particular hotbed of highway forfeiture activity, so much so that police officers keep pre-signed, pre-notarized documents on hand so they can fill in what property they are seizing.

As the Huffington Post explains, these police forfeiture operations have become little more than criminal shakedowns:

Police in some jurisdictions have run forfeiture operations that would be difficult to distinguish from criminal shakedowns. Police can pull motorists over, find some amount of cash or other property of value, claim some vague connection to illegal drug activity and then present the motorists with a choice: If they hand over the property, they can be on their way. Otherwise, they face arrest, seizure of property, a drug charge, a probable night in jail, the hassle of multiple return trips to the state or city where they were pulled over, and the cost of hiring a lawyer to fight both the seizure and the criminal charge. It isn’t hard to see why even an innocent motorist would opt to simply hand over the cash and move on.

Unsurprisingly, these asset forfeiture scams have become so profitable for the government that they have expanded their reach beyond the nation’s highways.

According to USA Today, the U.S. Department of Justice received $2.01 billion in forfeited items in 2013, and since 2008 local and state law enforcement nationwide has raked in some $3 billion in forfeitures through the federal “equitable sharing” program.

So now it’s not just drivers who have to worry about getting the shakedown.

Any American unwise enough to travel with cash is fair game for the government pickpockets.

In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been colluding with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and local police departments to seize a small fortune in cash from American travelers using the very tools—scanners, spies and surveillance devices—they claimed were necessary to catch terrorists.

Mind you, TSA agents already have a reputation for stealing from travelers, but clearly the government is not concerned about protecting the citizenry from its own wolfish tendencies.

No, the government bureaucrats aren’t looking to catch criminals. (If so, they should be arresting themselves.)

They’re just out to rob you of your cold, hard cash.

Think about it for a moment. You pay a hefty fee just to be able to walk free. It’s called income tax. As former presidential candidate Ron Paul recognizes, “The Founding Fathers never intended a nation where citizens would pay nearly half of everything they earn to the government.” And if you refuse to pay any of that so-called income tax, you’ll be severely fined and/or arrested and put in jail.

One more thing: you don’t really own your property. That is, your house or your land. Even when you pay off the mortgage, if you fail to pay your property taxes, government agents will evict you and take your home.

This is not freedom.

There was a time in our history when our forebears said “enough is enough” and stopped paying taxes (a pittance compared to what we are forced to shell out in taxes today) to what they considered an illegitimate government. They stood their ground and refused to support a system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Their resistance sowed the seeds for the revolution that would follow.

Unfortunately, in the 200-plus years since we established our own government, we’ve let the corporate elite and number-crunching bureaucrats pilfer our bank accounts to such an extent that we’re back where we started.

Once again, we’ve got a despotic regime with an imperial ruler doing as it pleases.

But what if we didn’t just pull out our pocketbooks and pony up to the federal government’s outrageous demands for more money? What if we didn’t just line up to drop our hard-earned dollars into the corporate collection bucket, no questions asked about how it will be spent? What if, instead of meekly tolerating the government’s ongoing efforts to rob us blind, we did something about it?

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if the government can just take from you what they want, when they want, and then use it however they want, you can’t claim to be anything more than a serf in a land they think of as theirs.

It’s up to “We the People” to demand reform.

These injustices will continue as long as we remain silent.

As American journalist H.L. Mencken observed:

The American of today, in fact, probably enjoys less personal liberty than any other man of Christendom, and even his political liberty is fast succumbing to the new dogma that certain theories of government are virtuous and lawful, and others abhorrent and felonious. Laws limiting the radius of his free activity multiply year by year: It is now practically impossible for him to exhibit anything describable as genuine individuality, either in action or in thought, without running afoul of some harsh and unintelligible penalty. It would surprise no impartial observer if … the goddess of liberty were taken off the silver dollars to make room for a bas-relief of a policeman in a spiked helmet. Moreover, this gradual (and, of late, rapidly progressive) decay of freedom goes almost without challenge; the American has grown so accustomed to the denial of his constitutional rights and to the minute regulation of his conduct by swarms of spies, letter-openers, informers and agents provocateurs that he no longer makes any serious protest.

In other words, make them hear you.

And if they won’t listen, then I suggest it’s time for what Martin Luther King Jr. called for when government doesn’t listen: “militant nonviolent resistance.”

# # # #

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

The Age of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear

The government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep what it considers “inconvenient laws” aimed at ensuring accountability and thereby bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy. Indeed, it has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution. It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn’t suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark. Case in point: the National Security Agency has been diverting “internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans.” It’s extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it’s surveillance being outsourced instead of torture.

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Show Notes

“NSA's use of 'traffic shaping' allows unrestrained spying on Americans,” ZDNet

“More Than 50 Countries Helped the CIA Outsource Torture,” Wired

“File Says N.S.A. Found Way to Replace Email Program,” The New York Times

“Legal loopholes could allow wider NSA surveillance, researchers say,” CBS News

“NSA broke into Yahoo and Google data centers around world, report says,” CBS News

“NSA Ends Sept. 11-Era Surveillance Program,” NPR

“10 ways America has come to resemble a banana republic,” Salon

“Microsoft to follow Amazon into UK with cloud hosting service,” PC World

“Our Partners,” Domestic Surveillance Directorate

“The NSA is watching. So are Google and Facebook,” Los Angeles Times

“Dystopia, Digital Detoxes, And How 'Black Mirror' Helps Us Make Sense Of The Apple Watch,” Forbes

“Forget Credit Cards, Now You Can Pay With Your Eyes,” Smithsonian

“Rise of 'voiceprint' ID technology has privacy campaigners concerned,” The Guardian

“Google’s secret NSA alliance: The terrifying deals between Silicon Valley and the security state,” Salon

“The Details About the CIA's Deal With Amazon,” The Atlantic

“ATT, Verizon, Sprint Are Paid Cash By NSA For Your Private Communications,” Forbes

“What You Need To Know About The NSA Reform Bill Passing Through Congress,” ThinkProgress

The Age of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

American Horror Story: The Shameful Truth About the Government’s Secret Experiments

It’s easy to denounce the full-frontal horrors carried out by the scientific and medical community within a totalitarian regime such as Nazi Germany. However, what do you do with a government that claims to be a champion of human rights while allowing its agents to engage in the foulest and most despicable acts of torture, abuse and human experimentation? Mind you, the U.S. government has seldom had its citizens’ best interests at heart. The government didn’t have our best interests at heart when it passed laws subjecting us to all kinds of invasive searches and surveillance, and censoring our speech and stifling our expression. It didn’t have our best interests at heart when it turned America into a battlefield and transformed law enforcement agencies into extensions of the military. Certainly the government did not have our best interests at heart when it conducted secret experiments on an unsuspecting populace—citizens and noncitizens alike—making healthy people sick by spraying them with chemicals, injecting them with infectious diseases and exposing them to airborne toxins. Bottom line: a government that repeatedly lies, breaks the laws, overreaches its authority and abuses its power can’t be trusted.

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Show Notes

“Ugly past of U.S. human experiments uncovered,” Associated Press

“NAZI MEDICAL EXPERIMENTS,” U.S. Holocaust Museum

“Secret World War II Chemical Experiments Tested Troops By Race,” NPR

“The Legacy of the CIA’s Secret LSD Experiments on America,” Time

“The Department of Homeland Security Will Test Bioterror Airflow in New York Subway System,” New York Magazine

“Spray-On DNA "Barcode" Tracks Harmful Chemicals,” Inside Science

“DNAtrax tracks tainted food with molecular bar code,” Gizmag

“DHS: A wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast,” The Washington Post

“Secret Testing in the United States,” PBS

“When Prince Took on Reagan—And Chemtrails,” Daily Beast

“'One of the largest human experiments in history' was conducted on unsuspecting residents of San Francisco,” Business Insider

“President Obama Orders Behavioral Experiments On American Public,” Daily Caller

 American Horror Story: The Shameful Truth About the Government’s Secret Experiments

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute