Constitutional Violations Persist in Philadelphia Prisons.
August 4, 2000 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Constitutional Violations Persist in Philadelphia Prisons. Allegedly bad stuff going down at the convention. Did Tom Brokaw mention anything like this before last night's rerun of "Ally McBeal"?

"You just enjoy your television shows, son, and let us run the country!"
posted by dcehr (26 comments total)
You have to understand the vast threat posed to our democracy by puppeteers and rampant street-blockers.
posted by dhartung at 2:23 PM on August 4, 2000


I was in Philly. Once again, the protestors were out of control and became moving mobs, destroying cars, hurling objects into the street, and even beating police officers. Some of this I saw in person and some of this I saw on the news, but it is clear that many of these folks were not simply expressing their opinion, they were rioting. The Union 200 marchers peacefully got their point across; the mobs, however, undermined their point by threating the safety and welfare of Philadelphians and their visitors. Any Chicago native should understand that as a threat to democracy.
posted by mikewas at 4:32 PM on August 4, 2000

I do not understand why these protestors cant do something simple like apply for permits to protest. Instead they choose to violate the law and claim "brutality" when they are deservedly arrested.
posted by owillis at 5:53 PM on August 4, 2000

Permits? What about the right to peaceably assemble?
posted by wiremommy at 6:33 PM on August 4, 2000

I was involved in an attempt to blockade RNC delegates as they travelled from hotel
to convention center. The activist space, legally rented from a Philly resident, in
which many activists were legally planning their activities was surrounded by police
for over one hour, preventing anyone from leaving the residence to proceed about
their business. In addition, in many key areas of Central Philadelphia, starting early
this morning, anyone who appeared un-Republican, or activist, was stopped,
aggressively frisked, searched, and had their photos taken. What this harassment
amounted to, of course, was countless American citizens prevented from pursuing
their freedom to perambulate around Philadelphia at will.

from Monkeyfist.This is my favorite thing that I have read about the convention. While on my way to blockade others, I was BLOCKADED! I don't mind people protesting, I do mind them blocking traffic, and delaying people. Human chain may ass, nothing is gonna keep me from entering the building of my choice. These kids have actually made abortion protesters look civil and peaceful, how proud they must be.
posted by thirteen at 8:27 PM on August 4, 2000

The key word in the orginal post is allegedly. And alleged by professional agitators, at that, who were there for the express purpose of causing trouble.

wiremommy: peaceable assembly does not include: infringing on the rights of others to move about in public places, physically attacking police, hurling missiles, destroying property, endangering welfare of others.
posted by aaron at 10:26 PM on August 4, 2000

Ok, here are a few questions:

Should protestors who peacefully say something which continues to be ignored by the media be lumped together with the vast minority that damage property?

If you're planning on disrupting a political demonstration that is sanctionned by the city, do your constitutional rights disapear.

I you commit a misdemeanor (a very minor crime) at a political convention, should you be given a $1 million bail?

Furthermore, should you be denied access to medical care, running water, or food for more than ten hours (as many protestors were)?

The same protestors were not charged with any crime, and were not allowed phone calls or access to their attorneys.

The main question then, is when you say "deservedly arrested", do you mean that people at a political protest who have not been convicted of any crime in a court of law cease to possess constitutional rights?

That's a pretty hard line view.

What bugs me the most in all this is that people will talk for hours about the protests, but will ignore what the protestors were saying. Who knows, for example, that 50,000 Iraqi children have died as a result of US sanctions?

There is a message, but it's being ignored quite effectively.
posted by queequeg at 9:35 AM on August 5, 2000

1. Being ignored by the media is not an excuse to riot.
2. Those who PEACEFULLY protested were ignored mainly because other protestors chose violence and anarchy as their medium. (and drowned out EVERYONE's message in the process)
3. Those levied with high bail amounts were, in the words of Ruckus, charged with "numerous" misdemeanors, some of which seemed fairly serious.

Wiremommy: Even peaceable assembly (which this was not) is subject to time, place, and manner restrictions - hence permit requrements. No one is allowed to "assemble" in the middle of the road without getting, say, a parade permit. Time, place, and manner restrictions which are content-neutral, have long been acknowledged as permissible under the First Amendment.
posted by mikewas at 1:04 PM on August 5, 2000

queequeeg: Are you saying that peaceful protestors, picketing, but not blocking anything are among the people arrested? The right to peaceful protest, while less effective everyday, should not be harrassed. Damaging property is a crime, not a form of protest. Your right to protest does not trump my right to move about freely.The following is a caption from one of your pictures.Some protestors preparing "lock boxes" the night before. Hands are inserted into tubes, and locked to hands on the other side, forming a human chain, used to block traffic and building entrances.

Is this what you consider peaceful?

From what I have read this far it really sounds like you want freedom from disruption, to go cause
disruption. If that is the case it is unrealistic to expect people to sympathize, and an ineffective way
to get your message accross.
Excessive bail for a misdemeanor is unconstitutional. What are the people being charged with? Is
the charge a misdemeanor, or are you saying they did something that you only think is a
misdemeanor. If they were arrested along with a group, and were singled out with these large bail
amounts, I agreee that you have a point.

It sounds like a lot of people were arrested, they are probably lucky that the police had enough
people to process them so quickly. What do people think is going to happen when thay get in these
situations. This is an unusual situation, if a single group of protesters are arrested a month from
now they will receive better treatment because it will not be so crazy. If the arrest was legit, it is
better the protester be inconvienced than ordinary citizens trying to get by.
Again from your pictures, it looks like there were a lot of messages trying to be heard. Maybe the
best way to get something accross is not to throw it into a malestrom of conflicting messages. I
looked through all your pictures and did not see anything that gave me any information about Iraqi
children, why didn't you cover it?

Protest as a tool is dead, the trouble you bring is more interesting than you goal. I hope we never
have another convention in Chicago again.
posted by thirteen at 1:35 PM on August 5, 2000

You may pick on my spelling and grammer, as they are both sub-par.
posted by thirteen at 1:38 PM on August 5, 2000

Is this what you consider peaceful?

Well, it's certainly not hurting anyone physically. I'd call it passive resistance. It's a technique used to attract attention to things that are being ignored by the people in power. It has been used to gain sympathy when doing battle with oppressors in the past. Ghandi anyone?

It's illegal, but is the fact that it's inconveniently so a reason to violate constitutional rights?

Is there ever a reason to violate constitutional rights?

Excessive bail for a misdemeanor is unconstitutional. What are the people being charged with? Is the charge a misdemeanor, or are you saying they did something that you only think is a misdemeanor.

I know for a fact of one kid who was arrested (not charged) with misdemeanors who's bail was set at $50,000. A guy who murdered his wife with a hammer had bail set at $100,000.

Most of them were being held without being charged at all. They were not allowed access to lawyers, etc. (See above).

If that is the case it is unrealistic to expect people to sympathize, and an ineffective way to get your message accross.

Can you think of a better way. Vote for the other guy? Oh, wait, the other guy's just as corrupt. What to do?

Police are supposed to be there to 'serve and protect'. I think that means everyone, not just the people with the money and power.

Let me say it again. Inconvenience is not any reason to violate constitutional rights.

did not see anything that gave me any information about Iraqi children, why didn't you cover it?

It was not the purpose of my photographs to document the issues. I certainly have looked at the issues elsewhere, though. There is plenty of information on iraq out there. Unicef is a good start. Try a Google search.

Does your right to go into any building you want trump the right of 500,000 Iraqi children to live?

My rhetoric aside, everyone is allowed due process by law. That simply isn't happening. Police are not supposed to be able to frisk you, take your picture, and ask for ID, just because you "look like trouble". It happened to me, and a whole lot of people who were not participating in Civil Disobedience got arrested just because they looked suspicious. Some are still in Jail.

On the other hand, there is a very easy, democratic way to put a stop to the civil disobedience. Address the issues they are bringing up. Why isn't this happening? Good question.

Mike Moore might be on the right track when he notes:

$95 million of the $100 million George W. Bush has raised has come from just 739 people in a nation of 275 million citizens

Is *that* democracy?? One of the issues demanding attention is public financing of campaigns. That would cost each American about $8 per year. No one in either party is talking about it.

Protest as a tool is dead, the trouble you bring is more interesting than you goal. I hope we never have another convention in Chicago again.

You're out of luck. There's an anarchist convention in Chicago this fall. :>

Protest as a tool is dead. And what, exactly, is going to replace it?
posted by queequeg at 3:04 PM on August 5, 2000

Public financing of candidates means I have to give money to people whose positions I detest. I don't want to give $8 to Pat Buchanan, okay? I don't want to give eight cents to Al Gore. Forcing people to fund ideas with which they disagree seems a peculiar definition of freedom.
posted by lileks at 7:22 PM on August 5, 2000

Having an effectively corrupt, undemocratic government doesn't seem like much of an alternative to me.

You're not buying Pat Buchanan's campaign ads, you're buying an honest political system. One that listens to the people it governs, rather than the few hundred who have money.

Don't think your government is corrupt from the top down? Check out this page.
posted by queequeg at 8:11 PM on August 5, 2000

I would call it passive aggression. I am not there, so I do not know for sure what is going on, but it looks like so many people are protesting, for so many reasons, that there is no cohesive message for the media to broadcast. What are the powers that be supposed to make of civil disobediance coming from pro-life and pro-choice protesters. I also admit I know only the barest facts about Ghandi, did his actions foul things up for the average indian, or the British. Pissing me off is not gonna pull me over to your side Stockholm syndrom like. There is no good or legal reson for violating our constitutional rights, but watch me totally not care if they throw you into a blender if you make me late for work.
The bail amounts you mention make it all seem ridiculous. It is obvious those amounts are out of whack. I do not know what the police are supposed to do, the city seems like it is under siege.
I think you are lucky martial law lite is not in effect. The cops are almost certainly sending a message to protesters, and trying to satisfy residents that things are being done. What good is it to set low bail so that agitators can get back to blocking streets.
I consider my right to walk where I please to be independent of the suffering of Iraqi children. I can accept the idea that I am responsible for the actions of my government to some extent. Your disobedience does not absolve you from that guilt, and violating my rights compounds your tresspasses. Again, a human chain will not get me thinking about those children, it will get me thinking about the weakest link in your chain. I will get through, as I am a total badass. The downside is that I look like a trouble making bad ass and am likely to be arrested myself. That would make me unhappy.
I do not like George Bush very much. I hate Al Gore, and while I think Nader is a good man, what he wants for the country is not what I want so I will not vote for him. I'm gonna vote for Brown and throw my vote away. Both major party canidates have raised aot of money, why isn't that democracy? I'll admit it is gross, but how is it not democracy? I have no idea how much gore or Nader have raised,but I doubt it did not trickle in $10 at a time. The lion share is probably only from a few hundred people as well.
As for this falls convention, do me a favor and see if you can get them to hold it in Evanston. There are a lot of rich people up there with better stuff to smash. And a convention? What's next, membership cards? Uniforms? Rich kids have too much time on their hands.
I am guessing entertainment is a better tool for change. You mentioned Michael Moore, I imagine he gets more information accross with out distortion with a single film or show than all the protesters combined will all week. Entertainment has taken over everything else, why not protest as well.

posted by thirteen at 8:19 PM on August 5, 2000

I think you are lucky martial law lite is not in effect.

[shrug] Seems like it is to me.

Both major party canidates have raised aot of money, why isn't that democracy? I'll admit it is gross, but how is it not democracy?

Because a very small minority are funding both parties. A great many corporations give equally to both parties. Thus, any difference between Democrats and Republicans has very little to do with the agendas of big corporations. Both parties agree (without giving the best speeches money can buy about it) that corporate welfare will continue.

Re: the protestors informing the media, the Media (at some level) know exactly what's going on, but they choose not to report on them. The media *could* ask the protestors why they are there, but they don't. This may very well have something to do with the fact that the same interests that control the 'democracy', control the media.

It might not be a flat out conspiracy, but *someone* is making a conscious decision that universal healthcare isn't a campaign issue, despite that polls show that the majority of Americans want it.

As for passive resistance, it seems we disagree fundamentally.

As for rich kids, where do you get your information? Have you met many people in the anarchist movement? How many do you know who are rich?
posted by queequeg at 10:49 PM on August 5, 2000

As a Chicago native, Mike, I point out that we here in Chicago fully remember the "police riot" that took place here.
posted by dhartung at 3:01 PM on August 6, 2000

Mike Moore might be on the right track when he notes [snip]

Except he's not: he completely misquoted the story because he's about inflammtory rhetoric, not truth or accuracy - sort of a Pat Buchanan of the left.

Public financing, on the other hand, doesn't buy an "honest government" - it dramactially favors incubments (as does ALL campaing finance reform, in one way or another) and allows the government to control political discourse instead of motivated individuals, assembled in groups, like NOW and Emily's List and the Human Rights Campaign and the Sierra Club.


You talkin' to me? I don't recall mentioning Chicago at all. But since you brought it up, the Democratic mayor of Philly had no interest in squelching dissent against the Republican party, unlike Daley in 1968. Philly's mayor simply wanted to keep the peace, and for the most part, did a pretty damn fine job of it. This was no Daley machine in action, just a bunch of looters trying to cloak themselves in the protection of the First Amendment when they had no right to do so.

posted by mikewas at 4:44 PM on August 6, 2000

Queequeeg: I base my statement about rich kids on the fact that every one I know who self identifies as an Anarchist either has a trust fund, or grew up in a suburb. The line for rich is always "richer than me". It seems that you need money to fly around the country to go to demonstrations, and rent and build spiffy floats. I used to live next door to the Autonomous Zone on Chicago's west side, Anarchy now stickers on saab's stop being ironic after you see 10 of them. Slumming in my neigbhorhood is not a compliment, and Upski owes me something for the time it took me to scrape "Bomb the Suburbs" posters of the doors and windows of my god-damn home. He is so damn lucky I did not catch him doing it. Seriously, I hold a grudge.
To be fair, I know some kids with trust funds who are not Anarchists. They are a minority, but thats because punk rock went hippie. Tragic really.
posted by thirteen at 6:40 PM on August 6, 2000

I really can spell better than this, I do not know what is wrong with me.
posted by thirteen at 8:20 PM on August 6, 2000

This is all so pluralist! Democracy != an apathetic public choosing between the better of two evils.... Democracy = the fundamental political nature of people. Democracy = everyone having a say as an individual. Democracy = consensus, not majority. Who cares if the protestors are doing something illegal? Human rights rise above legal and constitutional rights. I know it sounds kind of lame, but we have to try and learn to think outside the paradigm which has, after all, been imposed upon us. By the way, I don't know too many "rich anarchists"...
posted by Jimbob at 10:24 PM on August 6, 2000

Mike: If you believe that the amount of money you have on hand to donate to politicians should dictate how much influence you have politically, then there's no real use in discussing this.

As far as I'm concerned, the rule of the rich is not a democracy, it's an oligarchy. If finance reform favours incumbents, do you not think there is some way to make it more fair (or more representative of what the people being represented actually think)?

Why should money have anything to do with political decisions? Didn't that used to be called corruption?

Thirteen: your experience differs greatly from mine. The anarchists I met in Philly had come there by bus, or with a cheap plane ticket from the internet, paid for by summer jobs.
posted by queequeg at 10:32 PM on August 6, 2000

I wish I had been rich enough to be a poor college student. My summer job was also my winter job, until I saved up enough to pay for school, pardon me if I fail to cry a river. Or have things changed, are white kids dying in the street for lack of food and shelter, or perhaps you don't think they are rich because they do not have more than you. Most of the poor people I know, the people I grew up with, want to work and want to be rich, these are the people most adversly affected by protests that lock down a city. Shut up, i'm doing this to help you, would be funny if it were not so insulting.

Human rights rise above legal and constitutional rights
I am not sure if Jimbob was still in illustration mode when he wrote that, or if he had begun stating his own belief, but it reminded me of this line.
to save the village, we had to destroy the village
I live in the village.
posted by thirteen at 11:47 PM on August 6, 2000


You fail to address your assumption that having the government fund public campaigns will somehow make them honest. What is the real differnece between a government comittee deciding how much funding your campaign gets vs. members of the public at large? The only difference between what I belive in (open funding of campaigns by supporters) and what you belive in (government funding of campaigns determined... how?) is who makes the decisions. I think that EVERY individual should be able to make that decision for themselves. Your system will only perpetuate the ability of incumbents to protect themselves from challengers.

Let's face it... if a wealthy individual decides to spend a whole lot of money on an issue (let's say it's NAFTA) to convince the American public that NAFTA is a bad idea, they will have influence over the political process. Guess what? That's protected by the First Amendment. But if that same person decides to contribute to a political party who supports his position, well, suddenly that;s not protected by the First Amendment. Huh? The artificial distinction reformers make between contributions and other forms of political support serves no purpose but to further their own class warfare, pro Big Government agenda.

Finally, you and other reformers always fall back on the same old tired assumption that you can never prove - that financial contributions change votes. Study after study has shown that personal ideology, party discipline, and constituent interests are FAR more influential than any financial contribution. However, there can be an effect-cause relationship - naturally, folks will support politicians who vote the way they want them to. That doesn't mean that, ABSCAM notwithstanding, money = votes.

posted by mikewas at 9:30 AM on August 7, 2000

Money does not equal vote, with a few notable exceptions.

If it's an effect-cause relationship, that doesn't make it any less corrupt. In my view, rule by the rich does not equal democracy, no matter how they gain their power.

As you point out, it's not just who gets the money for the increasingly expensive act of running for office that matters. It's who controls the media.

Is having influence as a result of how much you have to spend any replacement for having influence because of the relevance of your ideas? Democracy and money simply don't align.

Once again, that would be people with lots of money. So now, not only do we have a fundamentally corupt system of politics, but the system that decides what issues are even addressed is ruled by money.

And while personal ideology and party platform may dictate the people in congress vote on things they disagree on, it's the things that they agree on that scare me:

-corporate welfare over human welfare
-killing iraqis by the thousands
-training central american fascists
-corporate control over intellectual property
-threats to national security that don't exist
-crypto laws

the list goes on.
posted by queequeg at 6:11 PM on August 7, 2000

The thread is dead, or too far down to matter. Here is a link anyway. I hope we can all get back together and argue about the violence and destruction at the Democrats convention real soon.
posted by thirteen at 10:57 AM on August 8, 2000

I know this thread is LONG but I wasn't able to get into it early enough so anyway..

1. Brokaw is on NBC, Ally McBeal is on Fox.
2. Bail has no relation to the crime commited. The higher the bail, the higher the risk of flight is. Bail is used to get you to return to court for your hearing. If they believe you'll run after paying bail, they set it higher so you'll come back for your hearing and get your money back. I wouldn't pay $1M for bail then run, not getting the cash back when I return for my hearing.

And also, unfortunately just like in Seattle, a line (figuratively) has to be put inbetween those people who want to protest peacefully and those who want to cause trouble. There were a lot of people who went to the WTO protests just to break windows and set fires. The police have a tough job on their hands when they have to deal with stuff like this, the fix is more training for one. And weed out those who would cross the line into brutality.
posted by thirdball at 11:56 AM on August 8, 2000

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