Jared SpurbeckJared Spurbeck– Sat Jun 25, 5:24 pm ET
COMMENTARY | According to The New York Times, the FBI just raided a data center in Virginia and seized many of its servers, causing websites owned by "tens of clients" to go offline -- including those belonging to people who hadn't broken a law, and were not suspected of any crime.
It may seem silly to get upset about the police taking down websites you don't use. A certain quote may come to mind, though, as we look at other ways that the police in America abuse their power.
Tasering nonviolent people to death
A 72-year-old woman named Kathryn Winkfein got tasered not too long ago after she lost her temper at the cop who pulled her over. Her offense? Shouting at him.
Luckily, she "learned her lesson" about talking back to America's authority figures. She was also awarded $40,000 in damages, which her County Constable, Richard McCain, complained was a reward for "bad behavior." Apparently putting 50,000 volts through the heart of someone's great-grandma is not bad behavior, as long as you wear a police uniform.
Winkfein was lucky. In what Digby calls the "Taser Atrocity Of The Day," a man who took groceries without having paid for them was tasered continuously for 37 seconds, after he became "aggressive and was communicating loudly." He died in the hospital.
The police officer who killed him was suspended for five days.
Stealing your cellphone (and its data)
Recordings of government workers performing their duty are, by law, in the public domain. So if you think a police officer is going to do something untoward, try filming him so you have evidence. Right?
Not so fast. Prepare to have your cellphone taken from you and stomped on. The Miami Beach, Fla., police in particular have a history of doing this, and they aren't alone. But the people who have their phones stolen and vandalized by the police are lucky; a man named Michael Allison faces up to 75 years in prison for trying to record a judge, and was arrested without any warning.
Meanwhile, the Michigan State Police is taking people's cellphones when they pull them over for traffic violations, and using "extraction" devices on the phones. The ACLU is trying to find out why they're doing that, but the police department placed a price tag of over $500,000 on their Freedom of Information request. How much justice can you afford?
Arresting nonviolent activists
Want to feed homeless people free meals in the park? Prepare to be arrested. Or how about dancing in front of the Jefferson Memorial? Prepare to get tied up and beat up.
Our country's police has a long history of suppressing nonviolent activists, and it hasn't stopped with the Civil Rights Era. Environmental activists like Tim DeChristopher are served 10-year prison sentences for civil disobedience, that harms no one but impedes oil companies' profits. Meanwhile, the FBI labels nonviolent activists as "domestic terrorists."
They were recently granted more power to go through your trash and your data, so expect things to only get worse. Actually, expect things to get worse in general. The police state is the new normal.