Another Question Or Three

Robert at My Tumultuous Adventure continues the discussion with a series of follow-questions.

Finally, I ask both you and ASM826, what should have been done? Should the public area have been given to them? For how long? Should they have then been responsibility for it’s care and upkeep at that point? Should they be held liable for anything that happens in their zone as if it were their exclusive property (crimes, accidents, etc)?

I’ll answer the last one first. No, of course not. No one, even a property owner on their own property, is held to be exclusively liable for the actions of others. If I trespass and then kill an endangered bird, the property owner is not at fault, I committed two crimes.

The other questions are where we work out the last clause of the 1st Amendment, isn’t it? Should every protest require a permit from the very organization that is being protested? In a public area, what limits are appropriate? Who decides? There is some room for interpretation. There is some case law on the subject. My answers are not absolute, and they have fluidity at the edges.

The other questions are questions for the authorities and the police. How do you decide what level of protest you will allow? Where are protests permitted? When the protesters are non-compliant, or openly defiant, what responses are appropriate? How do the police handle a provocative group without inciting the protest to ratchet up?

Like the old saw about pornography, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” What I saw in that video was wrong. It was wrong if for no other reason than it was ineffective and provocative. The policeman and his superior have been suspended. The University head is under pressure. The protesters have renewed support from the student body, alumni, and some elements of the public. They have worldwide media coverage. It was the casual arrogance in the body language of the officer as he walked up and down the line spraying the contents of that canister at close range in the protesters faces that gives it away. It may not be illegal, but it was abusive.

If there was good and legal reasons to clear these protesters, I don’t see what they were. This was not a city sidewalk, it was a sidewalk in a park-like setting. Other students were not being prevented from free movement. No imminent threat of violence was evident. In this case, letting them sit there until they got tired or hungry would have been a better decision.

Again, I want to thank all of the people who have taken the time to comment, as well as everyone who is reading and considering these ideas. This is how freedom works. It’s messy and ambiguous. My answers aren’t “right”. They are just my answers today.

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3 thoughts on “Another Question Or Three

  1. Chad,

    Yes I have. The only people dressed or prepared for any sort of fight are the police. I'm okay with them coming prepared, I'm an old Boy Scout myself and “Be Prepared” is the watchword. But there is no fear, no concern, nothing in the body language of Officer Pike or any of the other police that suggests any perceived threat from the people standing around. He walks up from behind, steps over the sitting protesters, and casually walks up and down the line spraying them closely in the face. Casual arrogance.

    If the officer had been in a volatile situation, hemmed in by protesters, and had sprayed the crowd in self defense, then I'm good with it. That's not what I see here.

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