Abolish Your Local Police

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Two gangs gathered near a home in California. The man who lived there avoided one, and was severely beaten by the other.

Ronald Weekley, Jr. , a 20-year-old college student from Venice, California, was riding his skateboard on the “wrong side” of the street in front of his house when he was assaulted by four armed gangsters and severely beaten. The assailants then abducted the victim and accused him of a criminal offense because he was insufficiently docile while being beaten. They also claimed that Weekley had previously been seen on their turf, without permission, after sundown.

The assailants belonged to that privileged caste of social misfits andintellectually stunted functionaries called “police officers.” According to a friend named Alexis Parker, the police pounced on Weekley after he tried to avoid a confrontation with an unlicensed street gang on the other side of the street.

Weekley had done no harm to anybody by riding his skateboard on the “wrong” side of the street, but because he didn’t immediately stop with an armed stranger in a government-issued costume demanded it of him, he was taken to the ground in front of his house and beaten nearly to death, while onlookers screamed in terror. Another member of the sanctified fraternity of official violence ran interference for the four who mauled Weekley, ordering spectators to keep their distance while his comrades pummeled the helpless man. 

Weekley, who suffered a broken chin bone, a broken nose, and a concussion, was then charged with the non-crime of “resisting arrest.”

The cretinous bullies who had participated in the thugscrum also claimed that the 20-year-old man had “outstanding warrants” for “curfew” violations that he supposedly committed before he turned 18. (A curfew, it should be understood, is a martial law measure.)

“I was screaming because I thought they were going to kill him,” one eyewitness to the atrocity, which took place about a year ago, told a local television station.

This episode offers a splendid opportunity to examine the kinship between the street gang we call the “police” and their much less dangerous private sector competition. If Weekley had been confronted by the private gangbangers he sought to avoid, and then fought back when they assaulted him, the assailants would not have had the privilege of prosecuting him for resisting. That is the most significant material difference between those contending groups of armed thugs. It’s also worth pointing out that common street gangs don’t havetax-supported employee unions who demand that the public celebrate their acts of unprovoked criminal violence.

Weekley’s predicament brings to mind the passage from the Old Testament describing how “a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him; …. [then he] went into his house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him” (Amos 5:19). He had done no harm to anybody, and was trying to avoid a violent confrontation – and then encountered an even more acute threat before winding up enduring lasting and unjustified injury in his own home.

This incident likewise underscores the wisdom expressed by Edmund Burke in his essay “A Vindication of Natural Society”:

In a State of Nature, it is true, that a Man of superior Force may beat or rob me; but then it is true, that I am at full Liberty to defend myself, or make Reprisal by Surprise or by Cunning, or by any other way in which I may be superior to him. But in Political Society … if I attempt to avenge myself, the whole Force of that Society is ready to complete my Ruin. 

In any free society worthy of that description, the innate right of an innocent person to resist criminal aggression by government functionaries is recognized, respected, and cherished. While stipulating that politics is a snare and a delusion, I earnestly hope that Americans will agitate for the restoration of legal protection for the right to resist unlawful arrest. Eventually, however, we must demolish the spurious legal protections that allow the continued existence of government “law enforcement” agencies that claim a monopoly on aggression.

In the decades leading up to the American Founding, Anglo-Saxon common law recognized not only a right to resist unlawful arrest, but also the duty of bystanders to intervene to prevent an abduction by law enforcement officers.

In the in the 1710 case Queen v. Tooley, the Queen’s Bench ruled that every Englishman “ought to be concerned for Magna Charta and the laws. And if any one against the law imprison a man, he is an offender against Magna Charta.” 

An illegal arrest is an act of lawless violence against a helpless person, which “is a sufficient provocation to all people out of compassion” in any circumstance, observed the court. In fact, a criminal act of that kind carried out by a law enforcement officer is “a provocation to all the subjects of England.”

This ruling grew out of the attempted arrest of a woman named Anne Dekins by a constable named Samuel Bray. When Bray attempted to arrest Dekins for what we would now call “disorderly conduct,” she put up loud, insistent resistance. Her cries for help drew the attention of a man named Tooey, who – in the company of several others – confronted Bray and demanded that he explain his actions.

Bray produced his official credentials, which failed to impress Tooey and the others. He then called for backup. When the other constable arrived, he drew his sword and engaged in combat with Tooey, who defended himself. The constable, as it turned out, was not the better man. Several other constables arrived, seized, Tooey, and charged him with murder.

The trial court threw out the murder charge, ruling that the warrant was defective. Since the arrest was illegal, the court pointed out, Dekins had a right to resist.

In trying to enforce an invalid warrant, Bray “did not act as a constable, but a common oppressor,” observed the trial court. Tooley and the other bystanders were properly “provoked” by the act of aggressive violence against Anne Dekins, and their forceful but measured response – first demanding that the abductor release the hostage, then exercising defensive force to free her – was entirely appropriate.

There is no place in a genuinely civilized society for any group of people – however accoutered, by whatever name they call themselves – who claim the supposed authority to commit violent aggression. Anybody who countenances such behavior in the name of “supporting your local police” is an enemy to human liberty and basic decency.

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