Friday, July 24, 2009

Welcome Home from China Professor Gates

Debates about healthcare be damned! A prominent black man has accused a police officer of racism - we must get to the bottom of this!

Like the rest of the mainstream media, I think the debate about the healthcare system in this country is too complex to think and write about, so I am going to move onto something quite a bit simpler - a black man getting arrested by a white cop.

I'm not a constitutional scholar, but I have watched a lot of Law and Order. I have also read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads as follows:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The racial element of this situation is what is getting most people excited, and I think it is unfortunate that that particular angle is framing the debate about Gates' arrest. As details are released, and each side tells and retells their story, what is becoming clear is that neither Professor Gates nor the arresting officer distinguished themselves during this incident. Did the Cambridge Police act "stupidly" as President Obama described? I don't know, but the facts seem to indicate that the Cambridge Police acted unconstitutionally, which is a far more serious matter.

Did the police have probable cause to ask Gates for his drivers license? Yes. However, the moment that the police confirmed that Gates was in his own home, their probable cause to ask Gates more questions evaporated. The police, under the constitution, should have said, "Good bye, sir." And that is all. It's not up to the police to decide if they can search our houses. Without a properly executed search warrant, it is ILLEGAL for them to search our "persons, houses, papers and effects". Whatever complaints and belligerence Gates demonstrated during the incident is completely irrelevant. ESPECIALLY after the police determined Gates was, in fact, in his own home.

Reports indicate that the officer asked Gates if he (the officer) could look around Gates' house. Gates said no. The right to not be searched or detained without cause is fundamental in our country, and is one of the cornerstones of the freedom we have here. The reaction of many right wingers out there is laughable. You may be familiar with this quote:

Extremism in defence of liberty is no vice.

None other than famous bleeding heart lefty BARRY GOLDWATER said that at the 1964 Republican National Convention. But now, some 45 years later, anyone expressing that kind of sentiment is laughed off as a wingnut liberal. Well I have grown tired of that attitude.

Reports have also indicated that Gates was agitated at the time, and was yelling at the cops who were there. Ask yourself this question: If you are ever arrested and handcuffed on the porch of your own home for "disorderly conduct" and the only people you were disturbing were the officers who were arresting you - arresting you illegally in your mind - don't you think you would be upset too? Don't you think that your friends would later say that the police had acted "stupidly" in such a case?

Liberty is being challenged in this country. The arrest of Professor Gates in his own home for "disorderly conduct" should be all the evidence you need to see that.

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