Constitutional Rights Under Seige — Not Just Guns!

While many Americans are rightfully concerned about preserving their Constitutional right to bear arms, other vital Constitutional rights are being threatened.  Case in point:  A Chicago-area woman was arrested for merely videotaping her neighbor’s arrest!

When CBS2 Chicago reported the news earlier this week on their website, they used a slightly-inaccurate headline, Two Naperville Women Arrested for Trying to Block Smart Meters.  In reality, one of the women, Kim Bendis, was arrested for merely videotaping officers as they arrested the other women, neighbor Jenn Stahl, as she was arrested for trying to block utility workers from installing a controversial “smart meter” at her home.

This isn’t the first time a citizen has been arrested for exercising a First Amendment right.

Since May 27, 2011, when I published a post about photographers’ rights, I’ve shared news of two other arrests under similar, but not identical, circumstances.

In a post Aug. 24, 2011, I highlighted an event during which U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, an Ohio Republican who somehow went on to win re-election, had police officers seize cameras from constituents attending one of his town hall meetings.  See video below:

One week later, I shared the incredible story of a Robinson, Ill., man facing up to 75 years in prison for filming police officers.  See video below:

If you’re a citizen journalist or simply someone who wants to gain a better understanding of his Constitutional rights, watch the video below and be sure to read about your rights.

"Three Days In August" Promotional PhotoBob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is coming soon was released May 2013.

Charges to be Dropped Against Petition Circulators

In response to pressure from two freedom-loving attorneys representing them, charges against two petition circulators who were cited last weekend for gathering signatures on the public sidewalks of St. Charles, Mo., will be dropped, according to an announcement this morning by the city’s attorney, Mike Valenti.

What kind of petition were the two unnamed individuals circulating?  A news release received this morning from Dave and Jenifer Roland, the Freedom Center of Missouri attorneys who represented the duo, offered the following details:

This controversy was sparked in the early hours of January 15, when two volunteers with the Show-Me Cannabis Regulation campaign were gathering signatures on North Main Street in St. Charles.  The ballot initiative seeks to legalize the production, sale, and use of marijuana under Missouri law and to regulate it in a manner similar to tobacco or alcohol.  Two police officers approached the petition circulators, issued them citations for “soliciting without a permit,” and confiscated some of the petitions, which included approximately fifty signatures.  Acting on behalf of the volunteers, the Freedom Center of Missouri insisted that the First Amendment required the City to drop the charges, return the seized petitions, and to destroy any copies the police had made of those petitions.  The City has agreed to comply.

While I’m not an advocate of legalizing marijuana, this outcome is important as it safeguards the freedoms of all, including those of us outside of the “Cheech and Chong crowd,” to circulate petitions on matters near and dear to us.

Good job, Dave and Jenifer!

First Amendment Under Siege: Illinois Man Faces Up to 75 Years in Prison for Filming Police Officers (Update)

The First Amendment appears to be under siege in the United States.

Only one week ago, I shared a report about an Ohio congressman — a Republican, to boot — who had cops seize cameras from constituents attending a town hall meeting at which he was speaking.  Below, I share a rather-lengthy video — more than 14 minutes long — about the case of 41-year-old Michael Allison of Robinson, Ill., who is facing the possibility of spending 75 years in prison because he filmed on-duty police officers.

This disturbing news comes barely six weeks after I shared news about the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling that makes it illegal for someone to give someone else a referral on an apartment without government approval, barely a year after I reported on the First Amendment being suspended on the Gulf Coast and 27 months after a Tea Party organizer was muzzled at a city council meeting in Quincy, Ill.  [FYI:  The Quincy thing backfired.  For details, See Quincy Tea Party Turns Table on City Council].

See also Photographers’ Rights for Citizen Journalists.

Hat tip:  Alex Jones

UPDATE 9/01/11 at 10:53 p.m. Central:  Appeals Court Rules It Is Not Illegal to Film Police.

If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Follow me on Twitter @BloggingMachine. Thanks in advance for your support!

Ohio Republican Congressman Has Cops Seize Cameras From Constituents at Town Hall Meeting

Apparently, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot and members of his staff failed to read my May 27 post, Photographers’ Rights for Citizen Journalists.  If they had, they would never have tried to scam constituents in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District by having a police officer confiscate their video cameras for trying to record a public meeting with an elected official in a public place.  The videos below tell the sad story of this establishment Republican’s latest town hall meeting.

Regardless of whether the people filming were Democrats or Republicans matters none when it comes to the freedom of photographing public officials in public places. Here’s the second video:

Hat tip:  InfoWars via Drudge Report.

If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Follow me on Twitter @BloggingMachine. Thanks in advance for your support!

Missouri Supreme Court Ruling Makes Apartment Referrals Illegal Without Government Approval

The battle for liberty is not for the faint-of-heart or the easily-discouraged.  We know that in a great many circumstances the deck will be stacked against our success, which will make it that much sweeter when we do eventually prevail.  But, unfortunately, today is not the day of celebration that we had hoped for as the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-2 decision that the state may prohibit truthful, harmless speech.

Dave Roland

Dave Roland, director of litigation at the Freedom Center of Missouri, shared the words above in an email to friends on the heels of a Missouri Supreme Court opinion issued today in Kansas City Premier Apartments v. Missouri Real Estate Commission.

The Show-Me State’s highest court upheld a state law that criminalizes the communication of truthful, harmless information, said Roland in a separate news releaseAlthough the government’s own expert witness had testified at trial that KCPA’s speech was both truthful and unlikely to cause any harm to the public, five of the high court’s seven judges ruled that Missouri citizens may not tell others about real estate unless the government has given them special permission to do so.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects nude dancing, burning the American flag, and images of animals being crushed to death,” said Dave Roland, director of litigation for the Freedom Center of Missouri, the public interest law firm challenging the speech restrictions.  “But today the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that you can be thrown in jail for helping a friend find an apartment.”

The court’s ruling runs contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent emphasis on protecting free expression.  As Judge Michael A. Wolff pointed out in his dissenting opinion, less than one month ago the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Vermont law that prohibited the sale of certain commercial information, powerfully reaffirming the constitutional principles that should have applied to the speech restrictions at issue in this case.

Jenifer Roland

Wolff, whose opinion was joined by Chief Justice Teitelman, also highlighted the government’s failure to identify any likely harm that might justify the prohibition of KCPA’s speech: “If the state wants an injunction limited only to the use of false or deceptive information, the state may be able to make the required showing.  But the broad prohibition of this injunction violates the First Amendment.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that where the government seeks to restrict speech, it must show evidence as why that restriction is necessary,” said Jenifer Zeigler Roland, executive director of the center.  “In this case, the government offered no evidence to justify its criminalization of truthful speech.  By failing to protect KCPA’s speech, the majority has left all Missourians at the mercy of overzealous bureaucrats.”

The Rolands said they plan to appeal today’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Follow me on Twitter @BloggingMachine. Thanks in advance for your support!

‘SniderGate’ Details Begin to Surface in Illinois (Update)

Three days ago, I shared news about powerful Illinois Democrats circling their wagons to protect one of their own after a St. Patrick’s Day incident at a Carlinville, Ill., tavern.  In the final paragraph of that post, I wrote:

When — not if — more details do surface, this story has potential to become the “Story of the Year” in Illinois.  Until then, Dan Riehl offers more about the story and the media coverage it has received to date in a piece published today at BigGovernment.com.

Some much-anticipated details about events that lead to Ken Snider resigning from his posts as chair of the Macoupin County (Ill.) Democrat Party and president of the local school board (a.k.a., “SniderGate”) surfaced in an article and an accompanying editorial published today in the Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat weekly newspaper.

Mum’s the Word

The article, appearing under the headline, Investigation into Snider’s resignations stonewalled, recapped some of the basic aspects of the controversy before offering the paragraphs below under the subhead, “Mum’s the Word”:

Although the newspaper has questioned many eyewitnesses in an effort to obtain the details of the incident, no one would go on  record as to what took place. Sources contacted have repeatedly said they are afraid to come forward with any facts concerning the alleged altercation between Snider and a Blackburn College student.

The newspaper sent its reporter Daniel Winningham to BC last Tuesday to learn more about the incident. Winningham visited the campus around noon and asked several students if they had heard of the incident and whether they had any knowledge of the incident, which occurred at the Anchor Inn.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m., Carlinville police officers entered the newspaper office looking for a person  named “Dave.” The police were told there is no “Dave” employed at the newspaper. The officer then made a call, and whoever the officer called could not remember the reporter’s name. A newspaper employee then asked if they meant Dan or Daniel. The officer said, “Ya, that’s who we need to talk to.” When Winningham talked to the officers, they told him that BC had accused him of harassing students, and he was to never step foot on the campus again.

It went on to describe how, it appears, officials at Blackburn College reached the conclusion that the reporter — by asking questions that were sure to make some Illinois Democrats, including Gov. Pat Quinn and Snider, uncomfortable — should be banned from campus.

According to the newspaper account, five hours passed between the time the reporter left the college campus and Ashley Call, a BC student working in the security department, called police about the reporter’s behavior that they described as “harassment.”

The article also included mention of college president Miriam Pride’s call for newspaper reporters to go through security in the future despite having covered numerous on-campus events in the past without incident:

“We resent being accused of something we did not do,” Enquirer~Democrat managing editor Louise Jett said. “No harassment took place. If anything, the college is bullying us by filing false reports and stifling our First Amendment rights.”

Incredibly, both the BC student allegedly involved in the incident and his mother refuse to speak, the newspaper reported.  In addition, the city of Carlinville refuses to release the police report despite the fact that the investigation of the incident was handed over to the Illinois State Police, who also refuse to discuss the matter.

Editorial

Published under the headline, Mum’s the word on St. Patrick’s Day incident, the newspaper’s editorial about the incident began with a simple statement about the issue:  Should the newspaper be allowed to question Blackburn students about an incident, which took place off campus? It was followed by an “Our View” statement:  Yes. The First Amendment should not be stifled in any circumstances.

Everything else one needs to know about this cover-up can be found in the first two paragraphs of the editorial:

Carlinville made a name for itself last week in both the state and national media and it was not a good one. Ditto for Blackburn College who now can boast it called the police on one of our reporters who was questioning Blackburn students about an incident involving their student and a state police officer. “What is going on in that town,” was the mantra of people unfamiliar with Carlinville, and “Everyone knows what happened but no one is going to talk about it on the record,” was the mantra by those in Carlinville.

While countless media have literally taken a crack at the story, the fact remains that very few facts about the incident have been substantiated by any governing authority and that is where the problem lies and why Carlinville now has an ugly black mark on its reputation of being a community who treats all individuals with dignity and respect.

No doubt, we will learn more about “SniderGate” and the chain of events involved in it.  It’s just a matter of time.

UPDATE 4/1/11 at 10:05 a.m. Central: Cross-posted at Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com.

UPDATE 4/3//11 at 4:41 p.m. Central: Someone VERY close to this story contacted me last night and said this matter is “actually much bigger than the reports are stating.” I expect to be able to report more soon.

UPDATE 4/5/11 at 7:17 a.m. Central: Blackburn College student Bryan Reynolds was interviewed by a reporter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about his altercation with Ken Snider.  The story that followed seems to confirm our previous reports from Carlinville.

Stay tuned!

FYI: If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Thanks in advance for your support!

Democrats and Labor Bosses Said, ‘It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government’

By Paul R. Hollrah, Guest Blogger

Republican governors Scott Walker, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Mitch Daniels are not the originators of the fear of the overreaching power of public employee unions.  That credit goes to FDR and the president of the AFL-CIO, George Meany.  In 1955, Meany said, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

The point Meany was trying to make is that government is so big and so powerful that any group of workers who attempted to bargain with it (coerce it) would be squashed like so many bugs.  What he failed to consider is what labor leaders of subsequent generations have discovered, which is that government doesn’t have to be bargained with if it can be bought.  In recent years, public employee unions have discovered that, by taking hundreds of millions of dollars from their members and using it to elect (buy) more and more Democrats, at all levels of government, their “collective bargaining” efforts became easier and easier with each passing year.

The subject of public employee union power is now being rehashed in state legislatures across the country.  However, there is a much larger question that more and more politicians are now beginning to address… a question that has never been fully tested and argued before the courts.  It is the question of whether or not workers in any industry or any economic sector have a right to bargain collectively for uneconomic wages, benefits, and working conditions.

In a September 3, 1937 speech titled, “Labor and the Nation,” delivered just months after the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis stated the union position in terms that union members and labor leaders still embrace.  He said, “The workers of the nation were tired of waiting for corporate industry to right their economic wrongs, to alleviate their social agony, and to grant them their political rights… They, therefore, have organized a new labor movement, conceived within the principles of the national bill of rights and committed to the proposition that the workers are free to assemble in their own forums, voice their own grievances, declare their own hopes, and contract on even terms with modern industry for the sale of their only material possession – their labor.”

No one would deny that workers are free to assemble in their own forums, voice their own grievances, or declare their own hopes.  Those rights are guaranteed by the 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The constitutional principles that Lewis spoke of endowed workers with: a) their freedom of speech, b) their right to peaceably assemble, and c) their right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. These rights are not at issue in the growing debate over union rights in Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.  What is in dispute is the right of workers to enforce their economic demands through coercive collective bargaining and work stoppages.

In the operation of every business enterprise, whether privately or publicly owned, the managers of the business must go into the marketplace to obtain three primary necessities: goods, services, and labor. It is then the business manager’s job to apply whatever quantities of goods, services, and labor are necessary to produce a product that consumers wish to purchase, at a price they are willing to pay.  The goal, of course, is to produce a product that is equal to or better than the competitors’ product, and that the cost to produce it will be such that the employer can still earn a small profit, over and above the cost of goods, services, and labor.

Now let’s assume that the workers decided to exercise their right to peaceably assemble and their right to freely state their opinion regarding their compensation and their working conditions.  So far, so good.  The worker has an absolute right to complain to anyone who will listen… his wife, his friends, his co-workers, or his employer… that he feels he is underpaid or underappreciated. However, it is when workers organize themselves to bargain collectively for wages and benefits, where workers are guaranteed a certain level of compensation, regardless of the quality of their work and regardless of their productivity, that the process runs afoul of the rights of others.

To illustrate the point, let’s assume that Company A decides to restock its warehouses with enough raw materials and component parts for a full month’s production.  And let’s assume that the company has some twenty suppliers from which it can obtain its component parts and/or raw materials.  However, if those twenty suppliers, in an effort to insure their continued profitability and the jobs of their workers, exercised their right to “peaceably assemble and at that meeting they all agreed to engage in “collective bargaining,” arriving at a uniform price that Company A would be forced to pay, at least twenty people would go to jail.  It comes under a body of law called anti-trust, and the prisons have housed thousands of businessmen who thought they could engage in restraint of trade and get away with it.

Replace "UAW" label with "Public Employees Union" and this cartoon works.

Companies also require services in order to produce a product: legal, accounting, utilities (gas and electric), communications, data processing, personnel, janitorial, etc., etc.  And while they may not have a large number of gas and electric companies to choose from, all of the other services are obtainable from a large number of providers.  So let’s assume that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Verizon all got together in a “collective bargaining” effort to determine what Company A’s wireless telephone services were going to cost.  Again, if the conspiracy was discovered, people would likely go to jail.

But what about the labor component?  In a recent appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host David Gregory asked Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) his opinion of the possibility that most public employees in Wisconsin will lose a major portion of their collective bargaining “rights.”  Durbin, the assistant majority leader in the U.S. Senate, replied, “Let me tell you why what’s happening in Wisconsin… goes way beyond the discussion of the Wisconsin budget…  For over 80 years in America, we have recognized the rights of our workers to freely gather together, collectively bargain, so that they could have fairness in the workplace and fairness in compensation… This governor of Wisconsin is not setting out just to fix a budget; he’s setting out to break a union.  That is a major move in terms of American history.  I believe the president should have weighed in.  I think we should all weigh in and say, ‘Do the right thing for Wisconsin’s budget, but do not destroy decades of work to establish the rights of workers to speak for themselves.’

Yes, the assistant majority leader of the United States Senate actually said, in a nationally-televised interview, that what the public employee unions have been working toward for decades is “fairness in the workplace and fairness in compensation” and to “establish the rights of workers to speak for themselves.” To understand what Durbin said would require, in Hillary Clinton’s words, a “willing suspension of disbelief.”

The truth is, Wisconsin public employees have worked for decades to establish UNFAIRNESS in the workplace and to establish the right of workers NOT to speak for themselves.  Through collective bargaining, they have worked tirelessly to establish a system in which the laziest, most unproductive workers are compensated at exactly the same rate as the very best workers, and where union leaders, who have no concern for the relative value of individual workers, do all of their speaking for them.  It is a system in which the only “value” is the possession of a union card and nothing more. It is a system that rewards sloth and incompetence, while unfairly penalizing hard work and dedication.  It rewards the unworthy and punishes the worthy.

Being a liberal Democrat, a believer in the redistribution of wealth, it has apparently escaped Durbin’s attention that, when numbers of people conspire to take the assets of the owners of business through coercion… i.e. collective bargaining… they are engaging in theft.  If Durbin were asked to show where in the U.S. Constitution workers have a right to hold hostage the property and the invested capital of the owners of business, or the taxpayers of a city or town, he would be unable to do so.  The right simply does not exist.

Union leaders and Democrat politicians would have the American people believe that the public employees in Wisconsin are “fighting for the middle class.”  Again, nothing could be further from the truth.  What they fail to acknowledge is that 86% of workers who do not belong to unions… who are responsible for their own economic advancement in their jobs… are the same middle class people who pay the taxes that pay the inflated wages of public employees.  They are the same middle class taxpayers who send their children to the Wisconsin public schools where only 34% of 8th grade students are able to read at an 8th grade level.

Those who sell the only thing they have to sell… their time and labor… have the right to peaceably assemble, and they have the right to form an opinion of what their labor is worth.  What they do not have is a right to force that opinion on an employer under threat of withholding their labor and preventing other willing workers from taking their place.

Employers, whether in the public sector or the private sector, are interested in hiring only the best, most capable and productive workers.  It is the obligation of the individual worker to insure that he/she is one of those whose continued employment the employer wishes to obtain.  That transaction, between the employer and the worker is what John L. Lewis spoke of as “the sale of the worker’s only material possession – his labor.”  But it is an individual right, not a collective right.  And when it is consummated through collective bargaining and coercion it is indistinguishable from extortion.

 

Paul R. Hollrah

Hollrah is a senior fellow at the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a contributing editor for Family Security Matters and a number of online publications.  He resides in northeast Oklahoma.

FYI: If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Thanks in advance for your support!