Metro Threatens Flex Your Rights with Legal Action, ACLU Defends

Flex Your Rights’ response to the new random search policy on D.C. public transportation may soon find us in court. The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has threatened us with legal action due to our use of Metro’s "M" logo on our informational flyer about refusing random searches. Metro alleges that our use of the logo on the widely-distributed flyer constitutes a violation of their registered servicemark and has promised legal action if we do not destroy all remaining flyers and issue an apology by January 5th.

The 5th has now passed, and we have no intention of complying with Metro’s ill-conceived intimidation tactics. We’re well aware that the 1st Amendment protects "fair use" of trademarked material for the purpose of criticism. The ACLU of the National Capital Area has agreed to represent us in the event that Metro files a lawsuit. Our attorney Art Spitzer contacted Metro in a letter today, urging that the legal threats against us be promptly withdrawn to avoid an inevitable loss in court.

As controversy surrounding the random search program continues to escalate, Metro’s frivolous threat is just the latest in a series of bad choices by Metro dating back to the announcement of the program itself. Here’s a quick recap of what’s happened so far:

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Video: Flex Your Rights Protests Random Searches in D.C.

On Wednesday, Flex Your Rights brought together numerous allies, volunteers and friends to protest random searches on public transportation in the Nation’s Capital. The effort was aimed at voicing opposition to the new search policy, while educating the public about the 4th Amendment right to refuse police searches.

The event generated considerable media attention, including the Washington Post, the Washington CityPaper, and local ABC and NBC affiliates:
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The Citizen’s Guide to Refusing DC Metro Searches

In response to the random search program announced yesterday by the Metro Transit Police, we’ve prepared this handy guide to protecting your rights when using public transportation in the Washington, D.C. area. We’ll also be organizing some volunteers to help distribute flyers about the program at various Metro stations. Please contact us if you’re interested in helping out.

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Refusing a Search Doesn’t Mean You’re Guilty

People who’ve had bad experiences with police have sometimes responded negatively to our materials, arguing that police will simply take things to the next level if you refuse a search. Here’s an interesting example from Florida, in which police were forced to drop the charges after wrongfully arresting a suspect who refused a search:

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Happy Constitution Day!

Constitution Day is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental rights and freedoms we enjoy as Americans. But for many, it also provides an occasion to take note of all the ways in which the promise of liberty handed down by our forefathers has been broken time and again as our criminal justice system grows sufficiently enormous to terrify even the best-behaved among us.
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Rachel Hoffman: Another Reason to Know Your Rights

ABC’s 20/20 covers the tragic death of 23-year-old Florida girl, Rachel Hoffman. Caught with what the Tallahassee police chief described as “about a baggie” of marijuana, she was tricked/blackmailed/threatened into becoming a police informant.

The chief blames Rachel for her death, repeatedly calling her a drug criminal. But it is clear that he is a scoundrel defending incompetent, callous officers who sent a sheep into a lions’ den.

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