Why Do We Let Police Take Our Freedom of Speech?

| by Jerome McCollom

While many police officers respect our rights, quite a few don't. So, why do we allow police to get away with violating our Constitutional rights just because they are the police?

Unfortunately, this happens time and time again. In the case of the accidental police shooting of Oscar Grant on a BART train (a commuter train in the San Francisco bay area), police banned the handing out of leaflets on public property. The rationale or excuse given, was a law that had nothing to do with what the protesters were engaged in.

The law prohibited trying to influence police, juries or a judge in their discharge of their duties by an action outside of a public building. I guess its intent deals with stopping someone from making death threats against a witness, judge or jury during a case. Of course, it had as much to do with stopping someone from handing out literature on an issue, as does a prohibition against copyright infringement. It must have been the closest rationale to stop activity that is fully protected by the Constitution.

In another case a journalist was arrested for jaywalking while covering a protest. Was it a busy street? No, actually it was a street blocked off for traffic during a protest! The jaywalking charge is what is commonly called a covering charge, or a charge to justify an illegal arrest.

Other such cover charges are the vague and ambiguous "disorderly conduct" charge, which can also cover the alleged crime of filming police during their official duties. Yes, you can be imprisoned for filming police (who can film you) if they don't like you filming alleged police brutality.

To me, that's covering up evidence. Police are our servants, not our masters and we should ensure that while they are given due respect, that their job is only to stop us from harming one another, not covering up alleged crimes that they themselves committed.