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Constitutional rights trampled by police state in Ferguson

Constitutional rights are trampled beneath the boot of Martial Law
Constitutional rights are trampled beneath the boot of Martial Law
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Allow me to preface this by saying that I am well aware that not everyone in Ferguson is an innocent protestor. Likewise, not everyone is a criminal looter causing destruction. There are outside influences at work within the city, and both good people and bad people working towards opposite goals.

I am all in favor of law enforcement catching and punishing the opportunistic and criminal element that is wreaking havoc. But I maintain that such a goal can be accomplished without a violent crackdown on the majority of good people who are simply exercising their rights.

All human beings are born with natural and inherent rights, most basically the rights to enjoy and defend one’s life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. All of one’s rights, whether enumerated or not, fall under these categories.

The Founders of our nation recognized these pre-existing rights as they crafted our government, and determined that the government shall never be able to infringe upon them. They set down and codified many of these rights as the first ten amendments to our Constitution, known collectively as the Bill of Rights.

Unfortunately, due to the events that are taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, namely protests, riots, and looting, followed by a heavy-handed response by militarized law enforcement, those Constitutionally protected rights have been trampled under the boots and tires of armed and armored policemen and their vehicles.

The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees that the government cannot abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, or to seek a redress of grievances from their government. The right to travel freely has also been construed as protected by this amendment as well.

The militarized police force of Ferguson, and all of the many various other jurisdictions and municipalities that have sent forces to assist the Ferguson PD, have indeed abridged all of those rights. In forcing crowds of protestors to disperse, using violent means like rubber bullets and tear gas, as well as brute force, their freedom of speech is being curtailed, as is their right of assembly. The new tactic of forcing protestors to continuously march, without allowing them to rest or congregate also violates their assembly right.

The press has been particularly put upon as well, and almost treated as the enemy, forced into “First Amendment Zones” or “Designated Media Areas”. They have been compelled by threats of force to stop recording police actions or arrests, which is illegal, and they have been deliberately fired upon with rubber bullets and tear gas. Some have been harassed and even arrested.

People are no longer allowed to travel freely about the town of Ferguson, as the police continue to set up roadblocks in various locations, preventing entry or exit of certain areas, and requiring “credentials” for some people to enter some areas that should normally be open to all.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees people the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. But reports from Ferguson show that some people have been snatched out of the crowd by the police, although they did nothing wrong. Others have been detained and searched for little or no reason. Of course, all of this is done without a warrant, or even probable cause in some cases.

There have also been multiple reports, although difficult to verify, that Monday night’s shooting incident led to several SWAT teams moving through the immediate neighborhoods, looking for the shooter, searching through the people’s yards and homes, ala the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath, again, obviously without a warrant.

The Fifth Amendment has been violated as some people have been deprived of their life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. The aforementioned detainment of individual protestors or journalists would fall under this category.

The Eight Amendment prohibits the government from using cruel or unusual punishments on the people. I would submit that rubber bullets, which are exceptionally painful and can cause serious injury, internal damage, and even death at close range, are cruel, as is tear gas, which is a chemical weapon. The Long Range Acoustical Device, LRAD, is a sound cannon that produces sounds near 150 decibels, designed to deter and disperse the crowds of people, that should also be classified as cruel and unusual, given that permanent hearing loss can occur at decibels higher than 130.

Any other natural rights not specifically listed in the Bill of Rights are covered by the Ninth Amendment, and although some such rights are often debatable, the oppressive nature of the police actions have no doubt contributed to some unspecified rights being denied or disparaged by the government forces.

The Department of Justice is sending “advisors” to Ferguson, and Attorney General Eric Holder is inserting himself into the situation. Should the DOJ, or DHS, assert control over the situation, that will be a blatant violation of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves rights to the states that aren’t specifically delegated to the government, such as dealing with local matters. Thus far, the events in Ferguson are a decidedly local matter, best handled by the local authorities, with help from the state. Of course, should the state request it, federal assistance should be granted, but by no means should the feds be allowed to take control.

Many people are fearful that the Martial Law that has descended upon Ferguson will ultimately present a threat to their Second Amendment protected right to keep and bear arms. We have already heard reports of some people taking shots at the police, which is likely to incite them into opening fire on an almost entirely unarmed crowd. The big worry is, following such an escalation of the event, efforts will be undertaken to begin disarming people and confiscating firearms in certain areas, and eventually the entire town, in order to guarantee the “safety” of the people and officers, of course. We saw this exact same thing happen in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Furthermore, recent comments on the situation by President Obama, where he equated carrying guns with looting and attacking police, and who is known for having a decidedly anti-gun agenda, contributes to this worry.

As of yet, the Third Amendment hasn’t been violated, that we know of. But would anyone really be all that surprised if militarized police officers began forcing their way into homes and using them as temporary “quarters”, seeking respite from the protestors and riots, or to achieve some sort of a tactical advantage? We have seen SWAT teams do such things in other cities around the country in a handful of instances.

With a heavily armed and armored police force, now backed up by National Guard personnel, there is little use denying that Martial Law has effectively been implemented in Ferguson. We now have the domestic “standing army” that the Founders worried so much about.

The Governor has declared an official State of Emergency for the town and surrounding area. The government works under the false assumption that a declaration of a state of emergency trumps Constitutional rights, but that just isn’t so, regardless of what any court may have said. Our rights are natural and inherent, and pre-existed the government.

As such, our rights are not privileges that can be granted or taken away at a whim. They are retained completely by the people at all times, in all situations, no matter what. Don’t allow anyone to trick you into believing that your rights have been suspended, just because some government official or their enforcers deem it so.

If you have anything to add to this, or disagree completely, please let me know in the comments.

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