No protesters deserve tortureBy Jim Trageser
This article was originally published in the November 19, 1997 edition of the North County Times.
California Democratic Party leaders are wondering where the outrage is. Wondering why the public isn't more angry about Attorney General Dan Lungren's refusal to investigate the use of pepper spray by police on anti-logging protestors last month in Northern California. These Democrat leaders believe that it is an abuse of police power for law enforcement agencies to use pepper spray on nonviolent protestors.
But if those who speak out now worry at public indifference to the issue, perhaps they should look in the mirror. For it was their very party and its allies on the left who created the precedent that makes legal police torture of nonviolent protestors.
When another group of nonviolent protestors engaged in the exact same behavior as the anti-logging protestors going limp and refusing to cooperate with police the Democrats had absolutely no problem with police using a form of torture to try to enforce compliance.
To the shame of Democratic leaders, they either remained silent or even cheered outright as police used martial arts weapons, nunchuku and "pain compliance" (a fancy name for torture) on anti-abortion protestors.
And uncomfortable as it is, pepper spray doesn't cause the kind of permanent physical damage that the nunchuku do. The tourniquet-strength pressure applied by the two sticks and rope around the wrist has broken bones, damaged ligaments and tendons, and caused permanent nerve damage. Several of the tortured protestors whom the police freely admit were nonviolent have been permanently disabled by their injuries.
And where was the American Civil Liberties Union during all this? Well, in San Diego its members were busy videotaping the license plates of the protestors and turning the videotapes over to the police to assist in their prosecution of the protestors.
The same ACLU that has, to its credit and on principle defended the free speech rights of Nazis and Klansmen, abandoned every one of its principles when it ignored the rights of abortion abolitionists. Can you imagine if prison guards inflicted that kind of punishment on prisoners? The ACLU and Democrats would be on the warpath. But when the victims were ordinary citizens opposing abortion, they turned a blind eye.
So the Democrats and their allies shouldn't be surprised if their condemnation of the pepper spray incidents go unheeded. They don't exactly have much credibility on the issue of defending free speech anymore.
And yet, the Democrats' hypocrisy cannot let the Republicans off the hook. It is simply wrong for the police to intentionally inflict pain on nonviolent protestors whether in China, which the GOP loves to condemn, or here in California where Lungren and his allies remain silent.
Besides, not only is such behavior wrong, it is clearly unconstitutional on at least three grounds:
It's time we all agree that no matter the issue logging or abortion the police have no right to torture those who peaceably advocate their position. And it's time Dan Lungren started enforcing the laws of the land.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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