Since his conviction on August 13, I have been meaning to publicize the case of Adam Meuller, aka Ademo Freeman. He is the founder of CopBlock.org, a site dedicated to the peaceful yet persistent pursuit of police perfidy. The folks at CopBlock do things like post videos of cops beating the heck out of people, and act as a clearinghouse for reports of police abuse. Apparently the police don’t like people recording them with their cell phones, and Freeman and others have previously spent time in jail for such acts.
(Let me offer a quick aside: In the competitive private sector, trucks have signs on the back that say, “How’s my driving? Call 888-555-1234 to report problems.” Funny that “New York’s finest” and other public servants don’t have a similar policy.)
The latest incident with Ademo Freeman, however, concerns a high school student who was manhandled by a police officer in the cafeteria. I don’t want to get bogged down in the details in this post, so I’ll outsource them. Here is a Reason blog post on it, and for the most information (though obviously coming from a pro-Freeman perspective) here is the dedicated link at CopBlock.
The quick version is that a high school student apparently took his sister’s purse and had it at lunch. A school official asked for it back, and he repeatedly refused, saying they were just screwing around and he’d eventually give it back to her. Finally they took it from him and told him he was suspended. He said, “What the f*ck am I suspended for?” and that’s when a police officer (who I guess works at the school, which is weird to me) slammed the kid onto a table. The kid’s buddy recorded the whole thing on his phone, and lied to school officials when they told him to delete the recording. CopBlock got the footage and publicized it. Freeman then called the police and school the next day, asking why the officer was still reporting to work etc., and recorded those calls. He posted a YouTube of the calls, and that is why he’s now serving jail time. He was charged with 3 felony counts of wiretapping, and could’ve gotten 21 years if they had thrown the book at him. (!!) Perhaps because he realized the case was absurd, the judge actually sentenced Freeman to “only” 3 months. (Technically he was sentenced to 12 months with 9 months suspended.)
Here are my reactions to these events:
==> First and foremost, Ademo Freeman is a hero. I don’t know much about him personally, but insofar as he founded a website to use nonviolent means of curbing police brutality, and is willing to go to jail for this cause, he is a hero. When someone on “our team” gets pinched like this, there’s not much the rest of us can do except to say, “Hey, that’s awesome that you are willing to do that.” So, Ademo, that’s awesome that you are willing to do that.
==> Second, notice that this is really all the government can do to you. Sure, they can have guys from the CIA kill you, but in terms of garden variety activism, of just alerting your neighbors to what you perceive to be abuses by the State, really the worst thing that is going to happen is that guys with guns will come to your house, and throw you in a cage. If you can deal with that–and notice that you have to get over fear of black people, if that’s something plaguing you–then things become much clearer. The State relies not so much on force, but on fear. And that is power that you give it over yourself.
==> Third, I feel I must say this, even though I know it may cause some grumbling: This particular case never had a shot of garnering mass sympathy for CopBlock or the broader civil liberties movement. Why? Because the victim here was not particularly sympathetic. Most people over 45 hearing of this story are going to think, “Somebody should have slapped that kid around, teach him some manners.” I’m not condoning that reaction, I am just stating a fact.
The sad fact is that most Americans right now do not believe they live in a police state, even though the New York Times openly discusses the fact that the president and his advisors have a secret list of Americans whom they are trying to kill with flying robots. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence, but I did, and it is true. As Jar-Jar Binks would ask, “Whensa yousa thinkin we’s in trouble?!”
So the primary task of liberty lovers right now is to get others to see the problem. It makes it difficult to do this when people on our side are dropping f-bombs and coming off as completely disrespectful. The Civil Rights movement was effective to the extent that its participants seemed completely harmless and in the right. When you are hopelessly outnumbered, you have to appeal to the moral conscience of the masses to win them over.
Being educated, eloquent, and well-mannered isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also the best strategy for liberty.