Thanks to a bill recently passed by the New York Senate, attracting a cop’s attention could soon earn you way more than some unwanted questioning.
The bill, S.2402, was sponsored by Senator Joe Griffo (R – 47th District) and seeks to make it a felony to annoy a police officer. No joke. Here’s the official language:
A PERSON IS GUILTY OF AGGRAVATED HARASSMENT OF A POLICE OFFICER OR PEACE OFFICER WHEN, WITH THE INTENT TO HARASS, ANNOY, THREATEN OR ALARM A PERSON WHOM HE OR SHE KNOWS OR REASONABLY SHOULD KNOW TO BE A POLICE OFFICER OR PEACE OFFICER ENGAGED IN THE COURSE OF PERFORMING HIS OR HER OFFICIAL DUTIES, HE OR SHE STRIKES, SHOVES, KICKS OR OTHERWISE SUBJECTS SUCH PERSON TO PHYSICAL CONTACT.
In a world where there was never reason to bring grievances against an out-of-line government, the above rule might make sense, but that’s not the world in which we live.
During the height of the Occupy protests in New York City nearly two years ago, an international audience got a firsthand look at what the New York Police Department thinks about people who speak out against the status quo. “New York’s Finest” were responsible for beatings, theft and destruction of property, the wrongful arrest of hundreds and multiple violations of human and civil rights.
Rather than acknowledging the culture of violence and intolerance that permeates its law enforcement, the state of New York wants to make it even easier for an office to infringe upon our Constitutional right to peaceful protest.
When talking and petition signing fail to get the attention of our “representatives,” it is within the rights of every American to take direct action. There being no value in violent action, Occupy protesters and others have utilized creative protest ideas like sit-ins, reading books in front of police barricades, photographing/video taping police raids, hugging and giving flowers to officers–all of which could be considered “annoying” but are certainly not crimes. Yet.
What has been proposed by Sen. Griffo is yet another legislative attack on our right to voice criticism against the powers that be. In early 2012, Congress quietly passed what many called “the Anti-Occupy Law“. This Act makes it a federal crime to “willfully and knowingly” enter a restricted space. It also makes it illegal to protest anywhere the Secret Service “is or will be temporarily visiting,” or anywhere they might be guarding someone. Even if you didn’t know, because, well, it was a secret. President Obama signed the legislation into law without batting an eye.
Even the right to photograph or video tape the actions of a uniformed police officer on duty in the middle of the street was recently challenge. Though the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that action as legal, who’s to say that New York law enforcement won’t find it “annoying” and haul you off to jail anyway?
Then there’s the long-suffering issue of racial profiling. NYC’s controverisal “stop and frisk” policy already gives officers a green light to harass those who seem “suspicious.” As RT reports, “Recent testimony by several New York police officers in connection to a lawsuit allege that the department regularly targets young black men and other minorities, which are judged by an arbitrary notion of ‘reasonable suspicion.’”
The article goes on to state that, statistically, stop and frisk procedures reveal that white people are more likely to be carrying a weapon, but that doesn’t stop the NYPD. Stop and frisk used to mean an unwarranted shake down, but now, just the wrong look could “annoy” or “threaten” and officer, and thanks to this new law, the suspect could go to jail even if no drugs or weapons are found.
Griffo and his supporters in law enforcement claim that consequences “are way too low” for those would would impede a police officer’s duty, even if there’s no physical harm, and that current laws send “the wrong message to the public.”
What message does harassment, beating, arresting and trampling on the rights of otherwise peaceful Americans send?
Image via Thinkstock
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