Zip It or Loose It

Last month I noted the protestors here in our country are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, state constitutions, in addition to copious case law. It’s nice to be a private citizen.

“The mind is a wonderful thing.  It starts working the minute you’re born and never stops working until the moment you get up to speak in public.”   - Unknown

TIME Magazine revealed last week that their “Person of the Year” was “The Protestors”.  In America they’re known as the “1%’ers”, “Occupy Wall Street Movement”,  “Vanishing Middle Class” or however you want to identify this leaderless grassroots organization with a common agenda.  As we’ve witnessed since this past September, standing across from the protestors is the “thin blue line”.  Many of you reading this may have stood there last night.  I’ve stood their several times.  Not fun.  However, let’s face it do these people have a point?  Maybe the messages they send are confusing and unorganized, but generally the one commonality for every occupy group everywhere is that people are angry, very angry. 

NBC Nightly News, Thursday, 12/15/11, devoted special airtime to interviewing “the pollsters” who can take the pulse of America and their assessment was dire.  They were forecasting that this summer (Republican and Democratic National Conventions + Massive Public Discontent followed by high unemployment) could be a repeat performance of the summer of 1968.  I wasn’t around then, but those cops I spoke to about that era recall vividly massive civil unrest, cities on fire across the Nation, and “a feeling of hopelessness”, Nation Guard deployed, etc.  Did I mention that the NBC professional pollsters found that the average American (70% actually) thinks that our current Congress “is the worst in U.S. history”?  This Congress had to work hard to get that distinction and that is quite an accomplishment.  History tells us the fallout of only two and a half months of rioting during the summer of 1968 changed the direction of our country for the next 40 years.  We’ll see what happens.

Last month I noted the protestors here in our country are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, state constitutions, in addition to copious case law.  It’s nice to be a private citizen.  Still, there is work to do because invoking that “right” doesn’t fit everywhere and the police share the burden to assist the protestors in finding the right place to protest.  Since cops are a product of their community and have been screwed by their elected officials, Wall Street, and political corruption just like “The Person of the Year” by TIME Magazine I think the average officer has more in common with the protestors than most think.  Whether you wear a badge or not, we are all affected by high unemployment, gas, food and other social pressures.  Basically, the main differences between a protestor and the police are that the cops will “report for duty” although they’re getting disgruntled is growing (think of the national strategy to bust police unions).  Apart from shared similarities, there are stark differences between the two.  The protestors can pretty much say what they want.  The cops can’t.  As a matter of fact, depending on what the police say, when and how, they can be fired. 

The First Amendment does not protect everyone, especially public employees, and this isn’t new.  It’s not that the privilege does not exist, but its application can be tricky.  To clarify read the following:

  • 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the exercise thereof; or abridging of speech…  (December 15, 1791).  Seemingly simple and to the point.
  • When answering the question of can the government use what was said by a public employee as grounds for termination, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated, “there maybe a constitutional right to talk politics, but there is no constitutional right to be a policeman.”  (1892).  Still rather straightforward, albeit old and archaic.  Notice it took 101 years for a member of the Court to publically make that distinction.  Why?  City infrastructure was in its infancy; not many public employees existed.  In the larger metro areas positions were appointed and policing was ripe with political patronage.  As long as you paid your dues to the local councilman you kept your job.  Loyalty wasn’t to the citizenry it was to the political machine.
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