Thugs defy or ignore the rule of law, and instead follow the rule that the strong and the politically powerful should prevail over the weak and the powerless. In theory, the government should pursue the rule of law, rather than the rule of thuggery. But reality bears little relation to theory or aspiration, least of all when police officers are involved.
Today's example: Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, who is pursuing the rule of thuggery over the rule of law.
Radley Balko knocks this story out of the park, so I will be brief (for me). Philadelphia resident Mark Fiorino carried a firearm openly in a manner that was fully legal — at least under the rule of law. But Mark Fiorino erred in disregarding the law of thuggery, not bearing in mind that the police are frequently ignorant of applicable gun laws, frequently have strong opinions of what gun laws ought to be, and are frequently and violently outraged that citizens think they are bound by the former (the rule of law) rather than the later (the law of thuggery). Mark Fiorino found himself confronted by screaming police with guns drawn and threatened with death:
Fiorino offered to show Dougherty his driver's and firearms licenses. The cop told him to get on his knees.
"Excuse me?" Fiorino said.
"Get down on your knees. Just obey what I'm saying," Dougherty said.
"Sir," Fiorino replied, "I'm more than happy to stand here -"
"If you make a move, I'm going to f—— shoot you," Dougherty snapped. "I'm telling you right now, you make a move, and you're going down!"
"Is this necessary?" Fiorino said.
It went on like that for a little while, until other officers responded to Dougherty's calls for backup.
Fiorino was forced to the ground and shouted at as he tried to explain that he had a firearms license and was legally allowed to openly carry his weapon.
"You f—— come here looking for f—— problems? Where do you live?" yelled one officer.
"I'm sorry, gentlemen," Fiorino said. "If I'm under arrest, I have nothing left to say."
"F—— a——, shut the f— up!" the cop hollered.
Fiorino lived that day. He was in the right, legally, but he was also very lucky not to be shot, or tased, or beaten into a coma, or sodomized with a broom handle, or arrested immediately for some invented offense.
But Fiorino's experience was not over. He had taped the encounter. He put the tapes on YouTube.
And — as we well know — embarrassing the police is a sure way to get prosecuted by their lapdog prosecutors.
Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams has allowed his office to file charges against Fiorino for “reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct” — two charges frequently employed because there's no explicit law on the books for "contempt of cop." Apparently the government's theory is that Fiorino was "belligerent and hostile” to the investigating police, and that his persistence in asserting his rights required many police to race to the scene to confront him, threatening public order. The police theory of the case sounds similar:
Police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said the department believes that Fiorino wanted to get into a confrontation with cops, that he wanted to see them lose their cool so he later could file a lawsuit.
The District Attorney and the police, ostensibly guardians of the rule of law, have thus retreated into thuggish wife-beater logic: "you know that you provoke me when you mouth off like that, so why did you make me hit you and make a scene?"
Fiorino walked down a street carrying a firearm in compliance with all applicable laws. Confronted by out-of-control police, he responded by asserting his rights. The YouTube videos put the lie to the government's claim that he was "belligerent and hostile" — at least as free people would define those terms. Assertion of rights is only "belligerent" or "hostile" if the government official hearing the assertion is thuggish, hostile to those rights, or pathologically entitled.
But remember: some cops, and some government officials, feel entitled not only to our adherence to the rule of law, but to unquestioning compliance with their every demand. They expect us to grovel.
The criminal charges pursued by Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams represent the thuggish fist of the government lashing out at a citizen who failed to grovel. Williams is a thug, and should be treated like one.