The Martial Law Mind-Set

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Immortal scholar, noteworthy victim of lethal police brutality:
The heroic Archimedes (left) and the armed goon who murdered him, as depicted in this 16th century mosaic.

While Archimedes is rightly revered for his many imperishable contributions to science, he could also be considered the first recorded victim of lethal police brutality.

A native of Syracuse, Archimedes did his considerable best in the doomed but worthy effort to repel Roman invaders. Following the conquest, Roman soldiers were dispatched to “pacify” the restive streets of the newly conquered city.

One afternoon, so the story goes, Archimedes was sitting inoffensively at the side of a street drawing geometric equations in the sand when some mouth-breather in Roman military garb trod heedlessly on the improvised tablet, ruining the elderly scientist’s calculations.

By this time, the venerable physicist was in his ninth decade, and he saw no point in enduring this act of thoughtless vandalism by an armored imbecile to pass without protest.

“Please don’t disturb my circles,” Archimedes insisted in what was probably a direct but polite tone of voice.

Like law enforcement officers who would follow in his footsteps — albeit in jackboots rather than sandals — the Roman soldier took offense that a mere civilian, and an elderly one at that, would demand deference from someone wearing the uniform and insignia of authority.

If the technology had been available, the Roman quite likely would have given Archimedes a “ride on the Taser.” Instead, the thug withdrew his sword and summarily killed him.

Some might object that this crime was committed by a soldier in an occupying army, not by a civilian police officer. That objection has merit, if only to underscore what should be an obvious fact: Our militarized government police force is an army of occupation.

It makes little difference whether law enforcement personnel are of the federal or “local” variety, or whether they are dressed in quasi-civilian attire or kitted out in full paramilitary drag. American civilians are generally expected to render to law enforcement personnel the kind of docile submission that Archimedes — at the price of his life — refused to offer the Roman soldier who was patrolling his neighborhood in Syracuse.

Under the martial law mind-set, civilians are to give instant and unqualified obedience to any armed individual in a state-issued costume. I had plenty of experience with this attitude while living in Guatemala under martial law following the 1983 military coup that ousted CIA-installed President Efrain Rios Montt.

Anybody who has spent any time in airports since 9-11 will likewise recognize that mentality. And Portuguese-born Canadian citizen Desiderio Fortunato can testify about the treatment one can expect if he insists on rudimentary courtesy from the anencephalic knuckle-draggers who act as border guards for the Department of Homeland Tyranny.

Mr. Fortunato resides in British Columbia and maintains a part-time home in Washington State. He regularly crosses the border separating quasi-socialist Canada into the quasi-fascist U.S.A.

Like many people, he resents being treated like a criminal or a domesticated animal; unlike most, he actually does something about it — specifically, he insists that border guards display a particle of courtesy when issuing instructions to people driving through the border crossing.

This takes a certain admirable temerity of the sort one wouldn’t expect in a 54-year-old professional jazz dancer, but such is Fortunato’s honest profession, and such is his disposition.

According to Fortunato, he has often chided Canadian border guards by asking them to say “please” when telling him to shut off his motor or perform other tasks. This request is generally honored, often with a sheepish grin — on the Canadian side of the border, that is.

Last week, during a crossing into the United States, Fortunato was gruffly instructed to turn off his engine by a tax-fattened time-server.

“Excuse me sir — `please,'” Fortunato replied. It would have taken a tiny fraction of a single second to honor that reasonable request. But had the border guard done so he would have been deferring to a mere mundane, someone not clad in the sacred vestments of the Most High and Holy State. So the ill-tempered drudge escalated his demands, finally threatening to assault Fortunato with pepper spray.

Fortunato — showing that, in the language of Louis L’Amour, he had more “sand” than an entire concert hall full of Republican Chickenhawks — stood his ground. So the thug pepper-sprayed him, and, with the help of several of his fellow trough-swillers, gang-tackled and handcuffed the middle-aged professional dancer. Fortunato was held for three hours before being released — without apology — into Canada.

Let’s be clear about something: This had absolutely nothing to do with protecting the borders of the United States from terrorists or any other threat. An actual terrorist would go out of his way to be inconspicuous. The assault on Fortunato was intended to punish him for failing to display proper submissiveness to the Man In The Uniform.

“Our officers will give direct orders or commands to passengers,” explained Mike Milne, a spokesdrone for the Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agency. “It is the obligation of the passenger to be compliant with those.” (Emphasis added.) The same point was made by Tom Schreiber, CPB Staffelführer in Blaine, Washington: “This is not a situation where we’re asking; this is a situation where we’re ordering you to do that.” (Emphasis added.)

Once again: Whenever a civilian is told that he is subject to the “orders” of someone in uniform, martial law exists.

A few weeks before Fortunato was treated to a chemical-weapon assault by the heroic guardians of our sacred northern frontier, a photographer named Robert Taylor (no, not that Robert Taylor) was accosted by a police officer while attempting to take a photo of a train.

“The cop wanted my ID, and I showed it to him,” Taylor told the New York Times. “He told me I couldn’t take the pictures. I told him that’s not true, that the rules permitted it. He said I was wrong. I said, `I’m willing to bet your paycheck.'”

Of course, Taylor was right and the tax-gobbler was wrong: The photographer was able to call up the relevant transit authority rule on his BlackBerry. But that didn’t end the matter, of course.

A police sergeant materialized and immediately began lying on behalf of his subordinate: The sergeant insisted that their rules were different from those of the transit authority, a claim intended — once again — to get Taylor to yield to those garbed in the accoutrements of the State’s priestly caste.

Taylor wasn’t having any of it. “I [told the sergeant], `If you feel I’m wrong, give me a summons and I’ll see everyone in court.’ The sergeant told them to arrest me.” The photographer was handcuffed and given a batch of summonses, all of them spurious and most of them quickly dismissed.

The one significant charge the police insist on pressing is “disorderly conduct,” which supposedly took the form of speaking to the officers in an “unreasonable voice.” “Unreasonable” in this instance refers to a tone of voice other than one associated with timid, cringing submission.

This is the same supposed offense that got Archimedes killed, and led to the assault on Desiderio Fortunato: Mr. Taylor refused to behave like a whipped dog when confronted by an armed bureaucrat. In fact, he insisted on treating the officers as equals before the law, rather than the incarnation of The Law.

Martial law exists anywhere an individual can find himself arrested, assaulted, or murdered simply for insisting on being treated as a free man. The 2006 murder of Michael Kreca in San Diego provides the most compelling example I’ve seen that such a condition exists — albeit in a latent form — wherever government police are found.

Kreca, a gentle and unassuming man and accomplished writer specializing in freedom-related issues, was walking in Sorrento Mesa one morning in when he was accosted by two police officers — Officer Samantha Fleming and Sgt. Elmer Edwards — who claimed they had heard gunshots. Kreca replied that he had not been shooting and hadn’t heard gunfire.

He consented to a body search (during which his arms were physically restrained by the officers) that turned up, in the waistband of his baggy casual clothes, a 9mm pistol the Navy veteran carried for personal protection.

According to the official police account, Officer Fleming told Kreca that she was going to handcuff him "for her safety.”

"No, you’re not going to do that," replied Kreca. "Let me go; I want to leave."

Bear in mind that Kreca had consented to a pat-down search, something he wouldn’t have done if he harbored violent intentions toward the officers. They had no reason to treat Kreca as a threat, much less to arrest him — apart from the arrogant assumption, typical of their professional tribe, that a civilian in possession of a firearm is a “threat.”

As Kreca tried to leave, a needless and pointless scuffle ensued. It ended when Sergeant Elmer Edwards valiantly placed his gun against Kreca’s chest and fired twice, killing him.

Predictably, an official inquiry found that Sgt. Edwards "acted within the law," since California statutes permit police "to use deadly force to protect themselves and members of the public from serious injury or death…." The same report by the District Attorney acknowledged that “Irrespective of any laws applicable to situations where peace officers use deadly force in accomplishing their duties, the law of self-defense is available to any person” and that homicide is justifiable “when resisting an attempt by a person to commit grave bodily injury or to kill any person.”

This observation was intended as a supplemental defense for the officers who murdered Kreca, since Sgt. Edwards insisted that he was afraid Kreca was reaching for his gun. This made no sense, given that Kreca was confronting two armed individuals and hadn’t resisted at all until the police threatened to shackle him.

And it shouldn’t be forgotten that the kill-shots were executed with the gun in the victim’s chest, not by an officer diving for cover in fear for his or her life.

Furthermore, after the police murdered Kreca they found that his gun wasn’t loaded — which means that he couldn’t have shot them even if he had wanted to. So the “justifiable homicide” defense here is based on the subjective impression on the part of Sgt. Edwards that Kreca was going to shoot him and his partner with an empty gun. That assumes, of course, that Edwards’ account of the shooting itself wasn’t perjury, which is never a safe assumption in incidents of this kind.

Kreca had much more to fear from the police than they had to fear from him. The proof of this proposition resides in the simple fact that he is dead, and his murderers continue to pollute the earth.

“The truth is told by whoever is left standing,” explained Tom Zarek, Battlestar Galactica’s resident arch-Machiavel, after he presided over the massacre of his political opponents. Kreca is dead, his murderers agree on a cover story, and those with the authority to prosecute the crime have accepted that account as the “truth.”

In practically every jurisdiction in this once-free land, it is a “criminal offense” — and often a felony — to disarm a “peace officer.” Why isn’t it a crime to disarm a law-abiding citizen?

Michael Kreca’s only "crime" in this affair was his failure to display the docility of an ancient Spartan helot — that is, a member of class not protected by law, and subject to summary execution at the whim of the Krypteia (ancient Sparta’s militarized secret police).

Every encounter between civilians and the state’s armed enforcers has the potential to escalate into an episode of state-inflicted lethal violence. If we permit them — and only our principled resistance, peaceful where possible, but forceful where necessary, is the only thing that will stop them — those who presume to rule us intend to reduce us to abject helotry. And the question is not whether this will happen, since it’s already taking place.

William Norman Grigg [send him mail] writes the Pro Libertate blog.

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