Let me lay out a hypothetical situation, and I ask that everybody follow me all the way through.
Let’s say that a significant amount of people became so disenchanted with the government of an American state — let’s call it “State X” for now — that they decided to stage a sit-in protest in the park across from the state capitol building. The protest is completely peaceful and obeys all laws other than the protesters refuse to leave until their grievances are fully addressed by the sitting government. After several weeks of protest while politicians worry about embarrassment and nearby businesses complain about loss of revenue, things finally come to a head. At two o’clock in the morning, the governor asks the city police to clear the park once and for all. In addition, to avoid bad press, he instructs the police to block the area provided to reporters so they cannot see the police action much less leave. The police are also told to tell all nearby residents they must stay in their homes and that all apartment buildings and hotels are to be locked so residents cannot leave.
Now, let’s say in this case that “State X” is California where, at the moment, the governor’s office and control of both houses of the legislature are held by Democrats. In addition, the protesters are self-proclaimed members of the so-called “Tea Party” and the main media organizations being blocked from reporting on the police action are the local Fox television affiliate and reporters from Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio.
The ensuing shit-storm would be almost unfathomable.
Yet, take that scenario, turn most of it in the other direction, and that is what happened in the early hours this morning in New York City…but it will be OK because it was just a bunch of “dirty hippies.”
For anybody that has any remaining shred of independent thought in them, this is such a blatant slap against the Constitution that it should be intolerable no matter what side of the political aisle one sits on. No, it’s not that the park in New York City was cleared that upsets me so much. It is that legitimate media was blocked from observing and reporting on the actions of the police in a public area.
No matter what one thinks about today’s media whether it be the major outlets or an independent blogger, there should never be any question that they have the right under the First Amendment to report how police act when clearing a public area…and one cannot report without being given access.
Sadly, too many people have forgotten that, in a way, the Constitution is supposed to be inconvenient. We are supposed to tolerate views that we find distasteful and even abhorrent. This runs the gamut from Communists to the Ku Klux Klan. Even more important, people have forgotten about our system of checks and balances and that one of the main checks is the media to make sure that the government never fully gives into the inevitable temptation to do more and more things in secret.
Considering the positions many in the Tea Party hold worrying about too much government power, they should jump all over this incident as proof that the current system suppresses true freedom.
Don’t get me wrong. I know full well that no city could continue to allow a large public space to be continually occupied by a protest unless and until it gained enough public support to truly affect change such as what we saw earlier this year in Tunisia and Egypt. The point is that nothing of this sort should be allowed to occur with no independent observer and reporters especially in New York City were there have been serious and legitimate questions about police behavior…another problem we have these days where too many Americans are becoming too comfortable in letting law enforcement agencies take too many shortcuts and believing that the end justifies the means.
So…with no full accounting of what happened tonight in New York City as even news helicopters were kept away from the airspace over Zuccotti Park, it only allows people on both sides more room to embellish what really happened. That is an extreme disservice to everybody concerned especially the New York Police Department. For all we know, they will have done everything by the book and acted exactly as trained in how to remove protesters even when having to use force…but, we won’t know because Mayor Michael Bloomberg was more concerned with image than the Constitution…a problem that sadly afflicts almost every major politician these days regardless of party.
People of all political stripes need to sit down and read the Constitution to see what it really says and not have some politician pandering for votes tell them what he or she thinks it says. I believe folks would find out that there’s a lot of stuff in there that they don’t like but, after some thought, would realize it’s for the best because, without it, we would all end up getting steamrolled by the power that would inevitably gather at the top. Then, maybe more people would vote accordingly and more moderately.
On the other hand, we get the government that we deserve. When 111 million people in the U.S.A. watch the Super Bowl but only 14 million watch the highest-rated Presidential debate, is it any wonder that the core, legitimate grievances of either the Occupy movement or the true Libertarian side of the Tea Party are ignored while the politicians continue to play the “us versus them” style of politics?