File under “Things that seem to contradict Flex Advice”

Gotta love the ACLU for fighting for the First Amendment rights of a jackass motorist who gets arrested cited for flipping a cop the bird.

So says Sara Rose of the ACLU…

“The law is clear that using one’s middle finger to express discontent or frustration is expressive conduct that is protected by the First Amendment.”

Finger Flinger David Hackbart will likely get a $50,000 payment from the city of Pittsburgh. But after lawyers fees, he’ll probably net about $10,000.

I wonder what Peter Griffin thinks about this?


Flex Fan Arrested After Refusing to Show TSA His ID

Hours after I met Phil Mocek at the Drug Policy Alliance conference in Albuquerque, he was arrested at the local airport after he refused to show Transportation Security Authority officials his identification.

While we at Flex Your Rights start by educating folks on how to avoid arrest, we admire the Flex experts (Flexperts?) like Phil who know their rights and are prepared to take an arrest in order to test bad laws in court.

And this is where things get weird with the shadowy world of the TSA: Phil didn’t break any written laws. Refusing to provide ID to TSA agents isn’t a crime — yet he was charged with disorderly conduct, concealing identify, resisting arrest and criminal trespass.

Presumably, most or all of these charges will be dropped. And Phil is likely to fight things out in court if they are not.

Regardless of the outcome, Flex gives major props to freedom fighters like Phil and John Gilmore who put their freedom on the line to expose new and strange limitations on everyone’s personal freedoms.


Chicago Politicians Demand Exemption From Routine Searches

If you don’t enjoy being searched anytime you enter a government building, you’re not alone:

Chicago aldermen with their noses out of joint Friday demanded to know why they are searched along with the masses at the city’s central headquarters for administrative hearings.

[Administrative Hearings Director] Bruner initially defended the policy, telling aldermen, “It’s not my intention to offend anyone. It’s only our intention to make sure that people coming through are searched. . . . We’re trying to treat everyone equally.” [Sun Times]

Apparently, the idea of “treating everyone equally” didn’t sit very well with those in positions of political power:

Budget Committee Chair Carrie Austin (34th) was so “offended,” she warned Bruner what might happen if he fails to “take another look at your policy.”

“It’s not a matter of giving anybody any preference. But us that are aldermen — we are the ones who set your budget. If we’re the ones setting your budget maybe we’ll take an adjustment” downward, if the policy is not rescinded, Austin warned.

She says she doesn’t want special treatment, then in the same breath she threatens to defund the department if it doesn’t surrender to her demands. Unbelievable.

Maybe instead of demanding new privileges for themselves, Chicago’s aldermen should do more to deal with the city’s rampant problems with police abuse. If you don’t like being searched at security checkpoints in city buildings, then maybe you should show more sympathy for all the innocent people who don’t like being illegally searched on the street.


You Don’t Have to Let Them in

A couple people have sent us this clip from the latest cop show, Police Women of Broward County. I don’t know what exactly to say about it except that if you’ve decided it’s necessary to grow your own marijuana at home, you should really teach everyone in the house about their rights during police encounters, so that they don’t rat you instantly when cops come to the door.

Either there was simply no plan in place here, or the young man just completely freaked when he saw police in the doorway. Regardless, “it’s not mine” is a really awful response when police are inquiring about the possibility of contraband in your home. I would have recommended “do you have a warrant?” instead.


Photos from Our Upcoming Film

I’m thrilled to announce that we’ve wrapped shooting for Flex Your Rights’ upcoming film, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police! And we’ve got pictures to share.

We’re now in the editing phase and are scheduled to release the completed film before the year’s end.

Shooting was an exhilarating process, and I can scarcely describe the joy of seeing our vision finally come to life. Our production team, led by Producer Roger Sorkin and Director Rubin Whitmore, did an outstanding job controlling the chaos. And Billy Murphy dazzles as our starring narrator.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you for continuing to support our work and making this project possible. (If you’re signed up to our email list, you’ll be the first to know when the completed film is ready.)

BTW: It’s not to late to see your name appear in the screen credits! If you donate $100 or more to 10 Rules between now and Oct. 15, your name will appear in the screen credits. For each additional $100 you may add a friend or family member’s name too.


The Epidemic of Pot Arrests in New York City

Marijuana possession is technically decriminalized in New York City. Yet in 2008 NYPD made 40,000 marijuana possession arrests. How did they do it? Friend of Flex Prof. Harry G. Levine explains how in this excellent Alternet analysis. Few scholars appreciate the connection between easy pot arrests and the waiver of constitutional rights as well as he does.


Some Thoughts on the Gates Arrest

A rather typical encounter

Last week’s media frenzy surrounding the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. illustrates once again that concerns about racial profiling and police abuse are as potent as ever in American culture. The incident itself is fascinating not only because of what happened, but because of what didn’t happen. No blood was shed, no property destroyed, and no one will be facing years behind bars. Instead, we’ve witnessed a rare event in which the media has had the opportunity to debate a much more common scenario: a misunderstanding that escalated into hostility and a questionable discretionary arrest.