Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Right to Resist -- and the Duty to Interpose

“Get on the floor! Get on the floor!” ordered the assailant, dragging the college-age victim into a campus building and shoving him to the ground in front of an astonished student. As the vessel of his wrath curled up in a fetal position, the bully continued his harangue.
“Do you want me to hurt you again? Do you want me to sock you in the mouth? Where’s my paper? Huh? Where’s my paper?” 

Unsatisfied with the answers he received, the bully reached down and shoved the prone target, then threw a lazy punch that failed to connect. After a few seconds, the victim managed to scramble away, and the assailant – whose rage suddenly and inexplicably evaporated –took a seat next to the befuddled witness.

“Sir – how come you didn’t help out?” the “bully” asked the student, who had silently ignored the fracas, which was staged as part of an informal sociological experiment.
“I think the big issue for our generation is bullying,” explains the lead actor in this melodrama, YouTube personality and activist Yousef Erakat. “Why does bullying continue, and why doesn’t anybody put a stop to it?” Erakat and a friend, Ali Amjad, devised what they called The Bullying Experiment, in which they staged incidents at several locations on the UCLA campus and video-recorded the reactions of witnesses

In one skit, Erakat grabbed Amjad and rebuked him for running away, pointing out that “I know where you live.” In another, he seized his co-star by the throat and then threatened a nearby student, who briefly turned his head to watch and then left without a word.  One student – a near-ringer for Community’s Troy Barnes – can be seen using his cellphone to record the confrontation, standing his ground when Erakat threatens him. 

The choreographed pseudo-violence reaches a point at which Erakat jumped on top of Amjad and appeared to pummel him, and this provoked some students to intervene physically. The Good Samaritan in one incident was a burly male, who grabbed Erakat from behind and dragged him away. On another occasion, a small and physically over-matched – yet commendably defiant -- young woman named Caitlin Estudillo actually shielded the “victim” with her body. 

The point of this charade, Erakat insists, is summarized in this question: “What if no one stopped to help you while you were getting bullied?” This updated and expanded take on the Parable of the Good Samaritan posits an affirmative moral duty to intervene to protect an innocent person who is being bullied by an aggressor. 

Fiction: The "Bully Experiment."
Assuming that principle is valid, shouldn’t it apply to aggressive violence by people acting on behalf of the State – police officers, in particular? Don’t bystanders have a moral responsibility to intervene, in any way possible, to protect someone being beaten or otherwise abused by a cop?

The behaviors displayed by Erakat in this role-playing exercise, and some of the specific language he used (“Get on the floor! Get on the floor!”), made his character practically indistinguishable from any of thousands of police officers whose violent exploits have been captured on video and broadcast to the world. 

There are, of course, some significant differences: The bully played by Erakat didn’t continue to escalate his attack until he had achieved “compliance,” nor did he summon the help of several colleagues – a few who would join in the beating, and a few others who would form a protective ring around the assailants in order to prevent onlookers from intervening on behalf of the victim.

This is to say that although the scripted violence of Erakat’s bully was sufficient to shock the conscience, that of the typical police officer in a similar encounter is immeasurably worse – and bystanders are not only encouraged not to intervene, but prohibited by “law” from doing so.

Erakat’s video, which made its debut several weeks ago, offers a timely counter-point to the murder and manslaughter trial of Fullerton Police Officers Manuel Ramos and Ken Cincinelli. Ramos and Cincincelli are two of the eight cops who beat homeless man Kelly Thomas to death on the street near a bus station on July 11, 2011.

Thomas had done nothing to justify an arrest. (Ramos, eager to confect a pretext, pretended that Kelly had removed discarded mail from the trash, which isn't illegal.) The mentally troubled, 160-lb. man posed no threat to anybody. Thomas died – that is, he lapsed into an irreversible coma – while crying out for his father to help him.
The reality: Ramos about to "f**k up" Thomas.
Nobody tried to help Thomas – because Americans have been indoctrinated to believe that it is morally wrong and legally impermissible to do so. This is obviously not the case under the moral law. As Orange County DA Tony Rackauckas acknowledged during closing arguments in the trial of Ramos and Cincinelli, this isn’t the case under the written law, as well.

“There is no legal authority for a police officer to use force to punish someone,” Rackauckas informed the jury. “There’s no authority to use force for `street justice.’ A police officer cannot get mad at somebody and start punching him around, or use any kind of force on him at all.”

When a police officer uses “unreasonable or excessive force, he is not lawfully performing his duties,” the prosecutor continued. Section 2670 in California’s Criminal Jury Instructions explains that defendants accused of resisting arrest cannot be convicted if the arrest was unlawful, and that “a person may lawfully use reasonable force to defend himself or herself.” 

The threshold question is whether the victim “reasonably believes he is in imminent danger of unreasonable or excessive force by a police officer.” Of course, the mere presence of a police officer is enough to satisfy that condition.

Ramos, who taunted and mocked Thomas for several minutes before beginning his assault, slapped on a pair of rubber gloves and told the victim that he was preparing to “f**k you up.”
It wasn’t necessary at that point for Thomas to wait until Ramos assaulted him, according to Rackauckas; the officer’s threat “created in Kelly Thomas a right to self-defense.”
 “A lot of people don’t understand this idea – but the police know,” Rackauckas continued. “They know if they are not lawfully performing their duty … [and] are using excessive force, that a person has the right to self-defense – that a person has the right to resist. You have a right to resist an unlawful arrest.” (Emphasis added.) 

This point had been made earlier from the witness stand by retired FBI Special Agent John Wilson. A former tactical police training expert, Wilson spent 60 hours studying the surveillance video of the Kelly Thomas killing. He testified that the actions of Officer Ramos were improper and unlawful. Under cross-examination by the defense, Wilson emphasized that once the police attack began, Thomas had the right to use lethal force, if necessary, to protect himself. The OC Weekly reports that the off-duty cops who crowded the courtroom reacted to Wilson’s testimony “by shaking their heads and hissing.” 

Irrespective of statutory and case law, Police are trained to deal with resistance of any kind by escalating force until the targeted individual submits, or dies. They have been encouraged in such behavior by several decades of judicial rulings that often recognize the innate right to self-defense against police violence while perversely insisting that citizens have a duty to submit to whatever indignity or trauma a cop sees fit to inflict on him. 
A cop's-eye view: They command, we submit. Like hell, we do.
That was essentially the case made by police union attorney John Barnett in his closing arguments on behalf of Ramos. Appealing to what he hopes is the latent authoritarianism of the Orange County jury, Barnett insisted that by provoking a confrontation with Thomas and then beating him into a coma, Ramos “did everything he could to keep the community safe…. Officer Ramos had a right to do exactly what he was doing.” 

From the perspective of Barnett and the police union that fills his doggie dish, when a policeman decides to kill someone, that person has a duty to die. As Rackauckas pointed out to the jury, this morally abhorrent view is a legal fiction – and police are aware of that fact.

All bullying is based largely on bluff. Yousef Erakat, echoing the themes of the government-sponsored “anti-bullying” campaign, insists that witnesses have a moral obligation to call the bully’s bluff and, if necessary, interpose on behalf of a victim. Kelly Thomas was battered into a lifeless pulp in view of dozens of people who have been trained to think that this principle doesn’t apply to privileged bullies in government-issued attire. 

Dum spiro, pugno!


Ron said...

It was quite disturbing to come to learn that there were plenty of witnesses to the beating of Thomas, that chose to just watch.

We have all watched similar actions on TV cop shows and elsewhere. We are used to seeing abuse, sitting still and being programmed to watch quietly.

Some very powerful, natural, moral defensive urges have been neutralized in our society. Maybe it is time to push away from our screens and engage the evil behavior. A familiar tune comes to mind… "Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do… "

What will witnesses do when THEY come for YOU?

joyce said...

"The mentally troubled, 160-year-old man posed no threat to anybody."

Might want to make a quick edit to the above sentence.

Mr. Grigg,
I believe it was your post regarding the first death ever in one European country by the hands of the Police vs. a US police officer choosing not to use force and de-escalated a situation in this country... you linked to to show the comments of fellow cops. Their hypocrisy, among other sick things, is truly appalling and embarrassingly obvious to everyone, but them I guess.

Anonymous said...

That is when you shoot the cop and kill him. One more scum removed from the planet.

Anonymous said...

Grigg, just a typo alert. Paragraph twelve, "160-year-old-man...", should have read "160 lb. man..."

Regards Eric H.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:33
Let it begin then. These thugs must die. If we kill a few, will it wake the rest up?

Anonymous said...

And again, we come to the question of, "When is it morale to kill a cop?"

This is an open question, one that I believe each must decide for themselves, but one that should be openly asked in public.

When a law enforcement officer is not sure that they will survive the next encounter with a non-compliant serf, perhaps they will reconsider the manner in which they address their employers.

Francisco said...

A sad state of affairs these cases are getting more frequent by the year.

And it seemed in the article that pig was enjoying beating on a defenseless mentally ill man.

I have noticed in these articles that it seems institutions of the state seem to disdain men and women of principle and honor and prefer violent depraved maniacs.

I often wonder mister Grigg why is this. why do does government whom is made to protect and guide the people turns into this ugly monster?

I have no answer for this insanity

Henry Bowman said...

"the police know... if they are not lawfully performing their duty … [and] are using excessive force, that a person has the right to self-defense – that a person has the right to resist. You have a right to resist an unlawful arrest.”

Hold that right in one hand. S** in the other. Now see which one is of more use to you when they come to collect you.

Ask Corey Mayes how this works.

Anonymous said...

This shit goes on, on a regular and daily basis, all across the country, in every police department large and small. It is astonishing that there are still people who believe the thing to do when they have a problem is to call the police. More often than not, the police beat up, taser or shoot the victim who has called on them for assistance.

Clearly they are mindless animals, psychopaths who get their kicks from abusing, bashing, and murdering anyone, victim, perpetrator, or just an innocent bystander.

When a dog bites someone without provocation, that animal is captured and killed. The same needs to be done with police who attack innocent members of the public without provocation.

It is a mental illness like pedophilia - it cannot be erased from the mind of the predator, and will surface again and again in the future. We keep databases of child molesters - precisely because they cannot be reformed or cured. Society can only be protected from cops by euthanasing these compulsive predators. They cannot be reformed by kindness, reason, or any other means but execution, preferably by the same means they employ. How about tasering them 500 times, or until they expire from nervous-system failure? They have killed hundreds of older and frail people this way, even teenage boys (such as the kid in Missouri, semi-conscious with a broken back on the Interstate, who was tasered 19 times for not responding adequately to them,) and little girls as young as 10.

Anyone who kills a cop is a hero, a savior of civilized society. God bless anyone who eliminates one of these scum.

MamaLiberty said...

Probably safer for everyone to strip the police (and assorted other "officials") of their presumed "legitimate authority" to control the lives of others somehow. Direct action against such should be the exception and only done with great caution. The actual situation is not always apparent to an observer.

I carry a gun, all the time. I came out of a store one day and found a man beating a woman in the face, leaning against the car next to mine. I yelled at him to stop and he turned with a snarl. I popped off the thumb break and got a grip... and he ran around the other way to the driver's door and got in, starting the engine. I then asked the woman if she needed help... she snarled at me to mind my own business, got into the car and they drove away.

I suspect I would have been in very bad shape if he'd come at me and forced me to draw or shoot... she would not likely have been a friendly witness, and nobody else was nearby.

Keith said...

Mama Liberty,
Thanks for the reminders

1) This is institutional

2) Life is seldom black and white.

Addressing ANON from the 9th
There are all sorts of people in the world who have the potential to be nasty, but unless they think they can get away with it, most of them will never act it out.

Giving some individuals the legal (legal does not imply legitimate) right to use aggressive violence is going to attract the nastiest sort of individuals, and it is going to corrupt them.

Using medicalised (is that a real word?)words does not really help us. There are few if any "mental illnesses" in which remove free will from a person, the Wikipedia entry about the late Thomas Szasz will give a little insight into the extent of false science being used to excuse abusive treatment of individuals under the name of "Psychiatry"

Remove the institutional cover and mystique from the politicians and their costumed functionaries, and they'll have to conduct themselves in a manner more respectful of other individuals.

Many thanks Will, your pieces are an inspiration.

Lemuel Gulliver said...

A large part of the problem is that these animals get away with their crimes. On the very rare occasions when the courts find them at fault, the taxpayers end up compensating the victims, while the cops walk away scot free. The worst that happens to them is they are put on paid leave for a week, so they can take a vacation and go fishing, or molesting children, or drowning kittens, or whatever gives them a rush, while still drawing their salary, paid for by their victims, the public.

Being a cop is a psychopath's wet dream - they can abuse people and make them grovel abjectly, steal, lie, cheat, and commit murder, all with total immunity. How long will so-called Americans put up with this? Whine and complain is all we do.

The reason is our pervasive American culture of utter selfishness, promoted by TV, movies, magazines, and all types of media. Nobody is prepared to sacrifice himself for the common good. Why should he? All he will get is scorn and contempt for his stupidity from his fellow victims. So the predators will continue to abuse us, beat us, and enslave us, one by one, until we all of us get wise and decide to value the welfare of our fellow man above our own.

Don't hold your breath waiting for it.

- LG.

Anonymous said...

Francisco, many minarchists will advocate for a minimal government, which, as far as it goes, sounds reasonable enough.

However, it doesn't in fact go far enough. How can a government limit itself if there is a state?¹

¹ Unilateral (sovereign) power over people, territory and jurisdiction.

p said...

Anyone that threatens your life or freedom should be dealt with, with as much force as necessary. It should not matter if they have a uniform, a piece of metal pinned to their chest or wear a suit and tie. Neither should it stop one to defend themselves, or others, because of what a piece of paper that you never signed says.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a jury let these two maggots off.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, the jury did let them off.

A jury of "our countrymen."