These kinds of stories are becoming so common as to hardly merit specific mention anymore, at least as “news.” At this point the more crucial matter is taking account of the erosion of freedoms in this country. In a kind of sequel to the Professor Gates outrage, in which Boston police harassed him long after it was obvious that he was indeed the owner of the house, local Virginia police tased a cooperative grandfather and a pregnant woman at, of all things, a baptismal party. Read about it here and here. (Recall that tasing can be life threatening, and that it was originally conceived as a possible substitute for deadly force, but only in those situations which would call for the use of deadly force. In other words, not a baptismal party.)
In both cases, the outdated “disorderly conduct” law was cited as cause to arrest these citizens who were minding their own business. This is a law that was created to give cops the authority to tamp down race riots over labor conflicts that occurred in the early 20th century between various immigrant groups. In both states concerned, the law specifically says that the alleged disorderly conduct must have occurred in public in order to be considered a violation of the code; in both these cases, the arrests were made on private property. Let this be another lesson that the government never follows its own rules. Keep this in mind when they try to allay your fears about this or that proposal.
Many people have commented unfavorably on my principled dislike of the police, but how else am I to feel about an organization which uses its monopoly on violence to harass peaceful citizens? These men are considered “heroes” by many, but heroes don’t shoot black labs and claim that they felt threatened; they don’t invoke war zone-like rules of engagement, treating fleeing potential suspects as definite aggressors, as a proposal in Chicago would have it; and heroes don’t tase dudes that just want to ask Sen. John Kerry a question, man. These acts are not heroic; they are cowardly. The cops want you to think that they risk their lives for you, but this is not true to the extent that they lead us to believe. The fact is that they are far more willing to engage in pre-emptive self-defense than they will ever admit.
Worse than the cops, however, might well be the citizens who defend this tyrannical behavior. These reflexive traditionalists don’t seem to realize that some day they could be the victim of police brutality; that it might be their relative in the ambulance that gets pulled over and medical care delayed (a misdemeanor, btw) because of some power-hungry cop; that it might be they who are harassed by the TSA when they inquire as to whether or not they’re legally compelled to answer questions. Et cetera. We call these kinds of incidents “harassment” precisely because the people on the wrong side of luck in these cases did nothing wrong. So what is going to prevent something like this from happening to you?
The reflexive traditionalists, and some of the thoughtful ones, too, will answer that the police guard the tranquil order. I suppose that in a State in which the police take appropriate action against violators of the rights to life, self, and property, this argument can be made. But today the police are, if anything, disturbers of the ordo tranquilitatis, and our sick willingness to look the other way until it affects ourselves enables them to perpetuate this errand of hostility.