FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Cops’ War on Videos of Cops

by JEANINE MOLLOFF

A high ranking official in government was quoted some time ago on the political marriage of public relations and governmental control regarding the ‘rule of law.’  Simply put, this official flatly stated that…

“It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion.”  (author name withheld until the end of this article)

In direct opposition to this politically incestuous arrangement, a rather infamous political activist gave a different viewpoint on the role of government, police and constitutional freedoms.  In the language of a true revolutionary he claimed that…

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.” (author name temporarily withheld)

Both quotes have a direct relation to a case coming to trial in St. Louis, which began last summer during the media circus otherwise known as the ‘healthcare town hall meetings.’  Mainstream coverage of these events featured angry people in school auditoriums screaming about the healthcare crisis in America.  In St. Louis, US Congressman Russ Carnahan held such a meeting in the heart of St. Louis County, 3rd district.

Activists from the Tea Party Movement were present in droves alongside more progressive groups such as Healthcare NOW, Democracy For America and union groups representing healthcare workers, primarily the SEIU, local #1.

Put bluntly the demographics favored the Tea Party, with the crowd being majority white and a small group of African-American individuals.  This description is relevant in terms of the history of St. Louis, a history rich in institutional racism and police abuse.  This is the city of Dred Scott.  The underground railroad goes through the heart of downtown, and slaves were openly sold on the steps of the ‘old courthouse.’  Housing patterns still follow racially segregated lines.  True to form, this crowd included vendors selling political memorabilia, including ‘don’t tread on me,’ flags and buttons with President Obama’s image in minstrel white- face, or with the president smoking dope.  Ironically, these trinkets were being offered by an African-American man named Kenneth Gladney, who is a self-avowed ‘black conservative.’

Another African-American man, Reverend Elston McGowan, was offended by these materials.  So were his SEIU colleagues (McGowan is an SEIU official for Local #1), and several friends including Mr. Brian Matthews and Ms. Javonne Spitz.

By the end of the day, Reverend McGowan, Perry Molens (another SEIU member), Brian Matthews and Javonne Spitz were arrested on charges ranging from 3rd degree assault, resisting arrest and ‘interfering with police officer.’  In addition, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jake Wagman was also arrested for ‘resisting arrest,’ and ‘INTERFERING WITH POLICE OFFICER.’  Wagman’s sole crime was attempting to cover the altercations and confusion of the day.

In short, McGowan and Gladney got into a verbal sparring match over Gladney’s inflammatory materials.  Multiple people began to yell and both men separated.  Later in the evening, McGowan and Gladney argued again, and in a YouTube video, a scuffle ensued.  Frankly, I’ve seen two 8 year old boys fight better.  From the video, McGowan is on the ground being kicked and Gladney is up and about. Gladney is the African-American man in the beige shirt looking quite able bodied.  The videos being circulated on the web are so visually confusing that the evidence of wrongdoing is inconclusive.

Ms. Spitz attempted to photograph police behavior and was ordered to stop.  She continued and was threatened with arrest, and after another verbal threat by county police was thrown on the ground, maced and cuffed.  Police obviously felt threatened by Spitz, all 4 feet, 9 inches of her.  Here is the video. Matthews came to her assistance, attempting to clarify the situation and was forced face first on the ground and cuffed.  Wagman was arrested for covering the events, even though he was cooperating with police.  When asked to back away, Wagman complied, but was eventually arrested for the crime of journalism.  It should be noted that many Tea Party members were also photographing events and none of the tea party members were arrested.  They were listed as ‘witnesses.’ In fact, ironically,  most of the You Tube videos documenting police abuse were taken by Tea Party activists, again, none of whom were arrested. When the police report was obtained, some of the witnesses’ last names were blacked out.

Just on the facts, St. Louis County Prosecutor Patricia Redington must know she has no case.  In the event she is unsure, I’ll outline the problems:

The YouTube videos, the only concrete and impartial evidence—are inconclusive. The videos are so difficult to view that no evidence of guilt is clearly visible, other than the guilt of county police arresting people for constitutionally protected actions such as taking photos.

Police bias enters the picture.  Differential treatment for the same actions has not been addressed.  None of the Tea Party activists were arrested, though they photographed police in action, and they participated in a verbal mob attack…only those who were clearly identified as SEIU union members or progressive healthcare activists were targeted.

Between the videos which are inconclusive in terms of assessing any logical timeline of events (much less guilt), and the use of ‘hearsay’ accusations in a racially tainted crowd—the police had no legitimate grounds to single out either side for arrest.  Either both parties should have been arrested or no one.

Gladney, though African-American himself, was dispensing racially inflammatory materials.  This is similar to yelling fire in a crowded theater.  These materials were designed to incite a riot.  Ironically, Gladney wanted to pursue ‘hate crimes’ charges against Reverend McGowan, also African-American.

Most importantly, Redington is also pursuing charges against a journalist for ‘interfering with police officer.’  This particular charge has been cited as a slick maneuver to use the anti-wiretapping statutes thinly disguised as this overly vague term.  Politically motivated prosecutors love this vague ‘interference’ term, as it appears to give legal cover, should the civil rights advocates win the next set of elections.  Its politically something like ‘being a little bit pregnant.’

As described in multiple articles by the  legal scholar Jonathan Turley, police and prosecutors around the nation are using a politically convenient misinterpretation of wiretapping statutes.  In some states it is now illegal to film a police officer in public without permission.  Turley has condemned such misinterpretation as …”utter nonsense,” and further stipulates that …”these laws were never intended to stop photographing public officials in public doing public functions.” Can you imagine more Rodney King type beatings and no video proof?  Turley has soundly condemned this practice as an unconstitutional and unethical breach of our rights.

Brian Matthews, one of those arrested (charges were dropped due to video evidence), reported that the entire police swarm of arrests began when St. Louis County Police noticed some individuals taking photos of Reverend McGowan lying on the ground hurt.  To quote Matthews;

“The police on the scene were allowing people to mill around observing, but became hostile when we took pictures of them surrounding an obviously injured black man.  That is when the situation escalated and the threats of arrest for ‘interfering’ began.”

Again, none of the Tea Party activists were arrested for filming the very same thing.

Reverend McGowan is going to pre-trial conference July 13.  Redington has pursued the charges as the officers wrote them.  In viewing this strangely insane case, a pattern emerges which coincides with a growing national problem.  All over the country, people are being brutalized and arrested by police for using their right to dissent.  Specifically, videographers capturing police in the process of abusing minorities, women, children, multiple ‘Rodney King’ Kodak moments—are arresting them for recording these public abuses and posting them for all to see.  These are the unofficial ‘journalists’ witnessing police and prosecutorial abuse.  They are increasingly facing political prosecutions designed to silence any dissent in an ever expanding police state.  Wagman and Spitz’s arrests and eventual prosecution are the tip of the iceberg.

Just this past March, a 25 year old staff sergeant for the Maryland Air National Guard, Anthony Graber, was pulled aside for speeding on his motorcycle.  He had a habit of securing a camera on top of his helmet to gain action photos of his ride.  A week later, Graber posted the ticket encounter on You Tube.  April 8, Graber was arrested in his parent’s home during a raid in Abingdon, Md., in front of his wife and 2 young children.  It turns out that prosecutors obtained a grand jury indictment charging him with violating state wiretapping laws, by taping the officer without his consent.  He faces 16 years in prison if found guilty.

This trend of police and prosecutorial abuse must stop.  Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum—all of us have the right of dissent.  In a era of mainstream corporate media  self-censoring, with ‘embedded’ journalists acting as stenographers for war hawks, a vibrant though undisciplined alternative media has risen.  Without a vigorous press witnessing and questioning those in power; our Bill of Rights is  nothing more than toilet paper.  Video evidence is critical to maintaining our rights in an ever growing police state silencing dissent in the name of ‘security.’  It would be wrong to solely blame the police in this pattern of abusive behavior.  We have to seriously investigate prosecutorial abuse of power and what appear to be ‘political prosecutions,’ across the nation.  Whether it’s Boston, St. Louis or ‘Mayberry;’ behind the manicured lawns is an ugly, undemocratic underbelly.  The politically vague term, ‘INTERFERING WITH AN OFFICER,’ is the smoking gun.  It has no place in a true democracy.

For those of you still curious about the earlier quotes; here are the sources:

“It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion.”  ( Nazi Propagandist,  Joseph Goebbels).

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.” (Patrick Henry).

I agree with Patrick Henry.  I wonder which side Redington and the other prosecutors will favor.  Only time, public pressure, and a conscience—will tell.

NOTE: Since this writing, Reverend McGowan’s pre-trial conference has been postponed and rescheduled to July 13.

JEANINE MOLLOFF can be reached at jeaninemolloff@yahoo.com

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
Eoin Higgins
Did OJ Simpson Suffer Brain Trauma from Football?
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
Russell Mokhiber
Save the Patients, Cut Off the Dick!
Steven M. Druker
The Deceptions of the GE Food Venture
Elliot Sperber
Clean, Green, Class War: Bill McKibben’s Shortsighted ‘War on Climate Change’
Binoy Kampmark
Claims of Exoneration: The Case of Slobodan Milošević
Walter Brasch
The Contradictions of Donald Trump
Michael Donnelly
Body Shaming Trump: Statue of Limitations
Weekend Edition
August 19, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Hillary and the War Party
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Prime Time Green
Andrew Levine
Hillary Goes With the Flow
Dave Lindorff
New York Times Shames Itself by Attacking Wikileaks’ Assange
Gary Leupp
Could a Russian-Led Coalition Defeat Hillary’s War Plans?
Conn Hallinan
Dangerous Seas: China and the USA
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail