pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
I am disgusted, but not; sadly, surprised.

Backstory on Peter Watt's Arrest

The bare facts, as I know them, of the result


I am, in a very quiet way, pissed off. Antonin Scalia would say I have no right, a jury, duly constituted looked at the law, looked at the evidence and decided he had broken it.

Which is true, insofar as it goes. It, of course (this is Scalia), fails to account for systemic injustices which can exisit independently of the inherent justice of a law (and I don't think assaulting a cop, nor resisting arrest, shouldn't be discouraged).

I said pretty much all I want/need to say on the subject in the first post, but I'll hit the high points of how the system is stacked against anyone in Peter Watt's position.

1: The nature of things is that people tend to believe that people who are arrested are guilty.
2: Cops tend to be respected, and so given greater weight when they testify.
3: Cops are trained to testify.
4: Cops lie.

The last, I realise, is the most controversial. They have, after all, taken an oath to tell the truth. They are, by and large, honorable people. They are interested in the public good.

And... they lie. The evidence for it is overwhelming. Studies have shown it to be implicitly encouraged. Common sense tells us that those cops who shade the truth are more likely to have more of their case end with, "bad guys" getting what they deserve.

There is another thing, which I waited to list.

5: Cops have incentives to lie in cases like this.

Not only is there the question of just what they did (because if the accused didn't deserve to be arrested. If the accused didn't resist, then the actions of the cops are morally suspect, if not outright wrong).

Which is an incentive to lie, because they face personal exposure (lawsuits) and professional harm (sanctions). The 'system' also has incentive to favor them (lawsuits/loss of respect).

Juries also have an incentive to believe the cops. We don't like to believe the custodians of our liberty are capricious. We don't want to believe the only thing between us and a couple of years in prison is the whim of a cop.

My honest take, Peter Watts did committ an offense, one so egregious the Border Patrol couldn't stand to let it go; contempt of cop. He compounded the error by not taking his lumps and going quietly into the night. No, he maintained his innocence. That's a threat to the relationship we've been allowing cops to force onto us (there used to be jurisdictions where one couldn't be convicted of resisting arrest for a false charge; since the arrest was unreasonable. For good reason that no longer exists anywhere, but the flip-side it, it's a lot harder to get justice for wrongful arrests. There are also legal tricks by which cops can make some arrests disappear, I know this because I was arrested on a false complaint. The cops were, in that regard, blameless. But they so botched the actual execution of the arrest that the potential for me to have made a decent sum [after paying the lawyers] that they used a piece of the legal code to, "unarrest me". Never mind that the justifications in that part of the code didn't apply to me, and now there is an implication I was an habitual user of illegal drugs in my record. That's the price I pay for having an arrest, mostly, go away).

The real travesty here isn't the miscarriage of justice I think happened. It's not that cops beat him, and covered it up (which is what I think happened), it's that we, as a society, are allowing them, enabling them, and rewarding them (which only encourages them) to do this.

The upshot is... we have fucked things up. We are allowing cops to be even more arbitrary than their position as the arbiters of offense (not law, but if they choose not to arrest, then it's almost a given that no prosecution will take place) makes possible.

Honestly, if I were a foreigner... I don't know that I would be willing to travel to the States (absent a diplomatic passport). I don't think I can (dearly as I would like to see any number of people) really encourage people (even citizens of the US) to cross the borders. I don't like the idea that they only way to avoid becoming an example of how the cops treat people who don't "behave" is to meekly, abjectly, give them license to do whatever the hell they please.

(Peter's comments on this)
pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
Someone asked me why, since Bush is out of office, I'm still riding the torture hobby-horse.

I'm doing it because it still needs doing, because evil practices don't just wither away, they have to be torn out, root and branch; and the best time to get that done is when you have someone sympathetic to your desires in office (that's how the peple who like torture, and all the other trappings of police state the Bush Administration installed did it).

Which is why shit like the US Border Agents pulling someone out of a car and, by all reports, beating him, pepper spraying him, arresting him and then charging him with assualting a federal officer.

This is the report that went out:

Peter, a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle. When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him. At the end of it, local police laid a felony charge of assault against a federal officer against Peter. On Wednesday, he posted bond and walked across the border to Canada in shirtsleeves (he was released by Port Huron officials with his car and possessions locked in impound, into a winter storm that evening). He's home safe. For now. But he has to go back to Michigan to face the charge brought against him.

That's the DHS, in all its twisted glory. Why were they searching a vehicle going out of the country? What probable cause did they have? Why the overreaction (and don't try to tell me he must have, "provoked them." Contempt of cop is often less than smart; not because it's illegal, but because cops have the power to do shit like this, and then file CYA charges like these).

Read the last bit again, describing his release, On Wednesday, he posted bond and walked across the border to Canada in shirtsleeves. Weds, the 8th of December, walked, in his fucking shirtsleeves. I don't care if he did do it (which, from people I trust seems damned unlikely, to the point of non-credible), that's criminal behavior. The weather there today (1300, warmest part of the day) is 18F/-8C. He was released in the middle of the night.

What did he do? I don't know. I'd guess he asked them what they were doing. He may not have been adequately deferential. He's tall. That's probably all it took. The cop felt nervous, and went off. No, I don't have all the "facts".

Rather what I have is a good understanding of cops, and a serious lack of faith in the honesty of DHS, and the organisations it swallowed. This one is getting a fair bit of play. That's good for Peter, but what of all the other people, the one's who don't have a lot of people (and friends of those people, like me) willing, or able, to make a stink?

If we assume, arguendo, that (irrespective of how it ended) what started this was an honest query about the legitimacy of the search, then this is a time to stand up and be counted; because Peter Watts did. Someone has to have the courage to look authority in the eye and challenge it. To force the powers that are to justify themselves. We like ot say we have a system where the people who are in charge are answerable to the people they are governing.

That only works when the governed refuse to act like sheep.

He has a legal defense fund. If you were considering buying a calendar, want to buy a photo, or even just thinking of sending me a little lagniappe (and I know a lot more of that sort of thing is thought about then done), don't, send the money Peter's way.

There's a donaton link on his website to The Niblets Memorial Fund, for the moment that's the working method to get money to him (because coming back to the states to defend himself isn't going to be cheap).

For other links (with more detail)

Dr. Peter Watts Arrested (Boing Boing)

Please, Please Help (Emma Bull)

Peter Watts, distinguished Canadian SF writer, arrested by US border police while trying to re-enter Canada (Making Light)

(UPDATE: I do have his version of events: In an alternate universe Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.


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May 2016

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