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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guilty Until Proven Innocent--Our Police State

Innocent until proven guilty is the way the system was set up. It was a direct reaction against the British who assumed the colonials were all guilty of something; sedition, treason, bad judgement in being a colonial, bad taste, not being of the upper class. So we created a judicial system that was designed to protect the citizen against an unfair ruling power that could just clap people in jail with the assumption of guilt. The courts know this very well, the problem in this country is someone forgot to tell the police.

So now we have Professor Gates. I couldn't even imagine what being black is like in this country, but it is no surprise the cop arrested him with the suspicion he was up to no good. He was investigating a breaking and entering and knocked on the Professors door and demanded to see identification. "Why, because I'm a black man," Gates responded. Now I can tell you now he was doomed. He had talked back to the almighty police. Once you do that you are done. We have all been there. They will find something to pin on you.

The cop arrested Gates for disorderly conduct and now the Cambridge Police Department and the Mayor are running for cover. But not the cop. No. He was right. He's sure. The ridiculous amount of power police wield when making something like a routine traffic stop is absurd. I can only imagine what African Americans go through when they are pulled over. The assumption of guilt is implicit.

Gates was dead on when he said the cop was asking him for identification because he was black. That's what pissed the cop off and that's what ultimately got Gates arrested. He had dared to voice the truth about the cop's assumption of guilty until proven innocent. The officer has said he will not apologize. Surprise surprise. One thing about cops is they always assume they are right and the perpetrator is wrong. Even if they are innocent. It is a standard response.
Now if Gates had flipped out his identification and said yes sir and no sir and yes I live here sir then he would not have been arrested. Uncle Tomming is a safe bet. We all know this when the flashing red lights come on. RESPECT. You better gush with respect or that ticket will be a certainty. And that respect is nothing more than fear. Fear that regardless of weather you are right or wrong, the cop will nail you if you do not show the proper amount of groveling and be contrite and beg for forgiveness.
So Gates has a right to be mad as hell. We all do really. Next time you get pulled over for doing nothing, ask yourself if we live in a democracy or a police state? Then try being honest with the cop and tell him you really don't' believe he should have pulled you over. Then get out your wallet and get ready, because you will pay.

Books by William Hazelgrove