comes about as close to what really happened there as I've seen:
But whatever the real story is regarding the showing of identification information by Gates and the officer, police misconduct in this incident went further. Gates reportedly got understandably angry and frustrated at the officer for refusing to provide him with this identifying information and/or for refusing to accept his own identification documents, and at that point, the officer abused his power by arresting Gates and charging him with disorderly conduct.
There's nothing unusual about this, sadly. It is common practice for police in America to abuse their authority and to arrest people on a charge of "disorderly conduct" when those people simply exercise their free speech rights and object strenuously to how they are being treated by an officer. Try it out sometime. If you are given a ticket for going five miles an hour over the posted speed limit, tell the traffic officer he or she is a stupid moron, and see if you are left alone. My bet is that you will find yourself either ticketed on another more serious charge, or even arrested for "disorderly conduct." If you happen to be black or some other race than white, I'll even put money on that bet. (If you're stupid enough to go out and test this hypothesis, please don't expect me to post your bail!)
Mr. Lindorff goes on to say that we have devolved into a 'police state' where the cops have unfettered power to do with you what they will. I don't go quite that far, although it's true to some extent.
The police are the average citizen's 'point of contact' with government. The cops are at the sharp end of the establishment, ostensibly to protect society from criminals. Prevent crime? Hardly. React
to crimes already committed is about the best they can do, given that this is not really a police state where they can pre-emptively bust you before
you can commit a crime, although Bush tried to change that.
One definition of government is 'those who have a monopoly on violence'. That's how governments stay in power in the final analysis. The cops have the power of life and death over you, a power that is said to be granted by 'the people', but really granted by 'the state'. If you as 'the people' wish to rescind that power from them on your own out on the street, you had better be prepared with a lot of armed people ready to do serious violence. Most people won't and the cops know this. The cops have one basic motto: "Win or Die", and they are trained and armed and usually have reinforcements on call, particularly in large urban areas, and they will come down on any kind of uprising with all the force they can muster, and it's a lot.
After all, their basic job is to protect the political status quo
, basically powerful rich white people, from the great unwashed, which is everybody else, and they have a lot of leeway in how they can do it, although, all things considered and thanks to the Constitution, they're pretty restrained in what they can do in most cases.
If a cop decides you need a little fuckin' with, they're more than happy to oblige. That's what I think happened with Mr. Gates. He was tired and cranky from his flight from China, frustrated by not being able to get into his house, and then the cops showed up on a tip from his neighbors
, for God's sake, to put the fucking icing on the cake. That his neighbors didn't recognize him says more about that neighborhood than I want to go into here. I'm glad I don't live there. I recognize my neighbors for a block around even if I don't know them personally.
Gates lipped off to the cop, and from accounts went too far and brought the cop's mother into the conversation. He's lucky he didn't get his lights punched out, but the cop knew better than to do that. The cop decided to teach him a lesson and arrested him for 'disorderly conduct', but the real
offense, which isn't in the penal code, was POPO - Pissin' Off a Police Officer. This happens all the time.
This wasn't about race
. It was about Gates being a temporary asshole to the wrong cop. It cost him forty bucks in bail and the spurious charges were dropped. If he wasn't a prominent figure, the media wouldn't have turned it into yet another circus and the whole deal would be over with no harm done other than to Gates' pride.
Here's a little personal story about how the cops can fuck with you and be entirely within their rights to do so.
In my drinking days I used to get arrested all the time. Sober up in jail, walk a mile home, go to court, pay a fine. One time, I lipped off to the booking cop waaaay
too much and she just said, "That's it! I've had enough abuse. You just earned a trip to the county jail.", and off to county I did go. She probably wouldn't have done that, but it was just my bad luck that there was a jail transport Suburban there at the time to haul some burglar or meth dealer away, so she could and did.
Our county jail, aka "Wayne's World
", is 65 miles away, 25 miles on a rural Interstate
, up and over and down from Donner Summit
, and 40 miles down a state highway
on it, no towns, no people. They just put me in a holding cell, let me sober up, and let me out at about 11PM. All they said was, "Turn left. See ya."
There's not much traffic on that state highway late at night. I waited a while for a car to come and stuck out my thumb and the guy, a local who knew what lay ahead, gave me a ride. Nice guy. His rig was an old Jap Jeep and when he wanted to see how fast he was going, he turned on his flashlight to check the speedo. Heh.
He took me halfway up the forty mile stretch to the Interstate, to the turnoff to the town he lived in. He said he felt bad about leaving me out there with the bears in the middle of nowhere in the dark. I thanked him for getting me that far.
So there I was, exactly halfway between nothing and nowhere on a road with no traffic. None. Zip-point-zilch. Did I mention it was dark? Did I mention it was starting to snow and all I was wearing was a flannel shirt? (Yes, I had on pants and shoes.)
I waited like what seemed forever for another car to stick my thumb out at. I could see the glow of its headlights for miles
! It was a CalTrans
pickup. The guy wasn't supposed to pick up hitchhikers, of course, but he wasn't about to leave another human being stuck out there, and gave me a ride to I-80. Thank you, sir.
Two cars total, two rides. So far, so good.
Now I was at about 6500' elevation and it was snowing. I-80 had lights, so I went and stood under one of them. Lotsa traffic. Trouble was, it was all big rigs gaining speed on a downhill run for an uphill run ahead, and they weren't about to stop.
Finally a car stopped for me and gave me a ride to town and I walked the rest of the way home and got home to a pretty icy reception from Mrs. G, as might be expected. Took me about 3 hours from the jailhouse door to mine, not too bad, considering.
Lesson learned: Don't mouth off to cops.