Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Filed under, “decisions that limit your civil rights,” one by the Supreme Court and a second by the Secret Service.
Supreme Court OKs Strip Searches For Minor Offenses
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that guards may routinely strip search even minor traffic offenders when they are arrested and detained. The court’s 5-4 ruling came in the case of a New Jersey man who was arrested because of a computer error.
The decision was the familiar 5 / 4 split. In the NPR report, Nina Totenberg includes information about the opinions of the Justices. Dissenters were led by Stephen Breyer, who
… noted that people have been detained and strip-searched for offenses as minor as driving with an inoperable headlight, having outstanding parking tickets, violating a dog leash law, and riding a bike without an audible bell. None of these people could have anticipated being arrested, he said, and none would likely have hidden weapons inside their body cavities.
I have absolutely no idea how often people hide weapons in their body cavities, but next time you’re out walking your dog or riding your bike, or maybe protesting, remember this bare minimum SCOTUS ruling.
I think Steven Rosenfeld, at AlterNet has a good point when he connects the strip searching decision with protestors.
The 5-4 decision … is a further erosion of the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unlawful search and seizure. It overturns laws in 10 states that place limits on suspicionless strip-searches and upholds a technique used by some local police forces against Occupy protesters last fall … .
In fact, Rosenfeld writes, efforts were already underway to get the kind of authority this decision seems to provide.
Among the jurisdictions seeking expanded authority to strip-search anyone arrested were the City of Chicago, where the NATO summit will be held this May … , as well as the state of North Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention will be held in early September in Charlotte.
Another decision, this by the Secret Service, is also familiar in its attempt to curtail the civil rights of citizens. From Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources:
Cunningham Falls State Park To Close During G-8 Summit at Camp David
Cunningham Falls State Park … will be closed to all public access from Thursday, May 17 through Saturday, May 19. The State Park is being closed at the request of the United States Secret Service in order to provide security for the G-8 Summit … .
The G8 Summit was, of course, moved from Chicago (where it would coincide with the NATO Summit) to Camp David. I still find it interesting that it’s world leaders talking about the economy who apparently need, as the Obama administration phrased it, a “more intimate” setting, and not world leaders talking about military force.
Shortly after the move was announced, the following appeared on the Occupy Baltimore website:
Occupy the G8 Summit …
The G8 Summit has been moved from Chicago to Camp David outside of Thurmont, Maryland. Some of us have made arrangements to stay next door at Cunningham Falls State Park where CAMPING IS PERMITTED.
The closure of the park means the perimeter for legal protesting has been expanded. We don’t know where potential protestors would be “kettled,” or contained, but we do know more about where they won’t be. That doesn’t mean, of course, that protestors won’t find others ways and locations to express their views, but it is another example of efforts from above to curtail such expressions. As it turns out, this particular curtailment is not the norm, but given what measures we’ve seen already, I don’t think the decision is surprising.
From the The Baltimore Sun, about the closure of the park:
The move is highly unusual, and may be without precedent.
The closure of Cunningham Falls State Park in Frederick County … was requested by the U.S. Secret Service because of ‘security concerns,’ Lt. Col. Chris Bushman, a DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) spokesman, said Monday.
Members of Occupy Baltimore have called on protesters to reserve campsites at the park. But Bushman didn’t know whether group members had made camping reservations — or whether the security concerns were related to their plans. …
The Secret Service’s request that the park be closed during the event is the only one of its kind in recent memory, according to Bushman, who has worked at the department for 32 years. …
The WH announcement that the G8 had been moved from Chicago to Camp David came on March 5. The “Occupy the G8 Summit” post was made the next day.
Several hours later, Maryland Park Service Superintendent Nita Settina wrote on Twitter, ‘Occupy movement may camp at Cunningham Falls SP in May to protest G-8 Summit at nearby Camp David. Never a dull moment!’
I guess it will be a dull few days in May at Cunningham Falls after all, since now no campers will be allowed.
Thinking of both decisions, I have an idea: Occupiers and allies could organize a big bicycle ride to however close they can get to Camp David. They’ll need to make certain all bikes are properly equipped with “audible bells,” of course, and be prepared to be strip searched in case of arrest. I don’t know if that means wearing fewer clothes so it won’t take so long, or more, because you could use the extended time it takes to strip and re-clothe as a part of the protest. A personal decision, I guess.
But protesting, bike riding or whatever, just remember: you, too, can be strip searched. The Supreme Court says so.