Thursday, September 14, 2017

When Free Speech Gets Patriotic

The First Amendment guarantee of free speech was designed to protect dissent.  Political speech that criticizes government is the most patriotic speech and thus deserving of the strongest protections.

Especially when that speech - "speech" of course including action, even if silent - offends members of the ruling class and their pet storm troopers

A remarkable coalition of athletes, activists, and academics has come together in solidarity with Michael Bennett against the slander being put forward to discredit him by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Las Vegas Police Protective Association. Their statement of support follows.

Statement of Solidarity With Michael Bennett

We, the undersigned, stand with Michael Bennett, a professional football player with the Seattle Seahawks, philanthropist and activist, following an incident of police brutality in Las Vegas. On the morning of August 27th, a reported shooting on the Vegas strip led to chaos. Michael Bennett ran for cover, as did hundreds of others. Instead of being assisted, video and photographic evidence shows that Las Vegas police targeted Bennett, put him on the ground in handcuffs while the primary officer took out a weapon and placed it near the back of his head. According to Bennett, the officer said that if Bennett moved, he would “blow [his] fucking head off.” Bennett was then put in a police car, and after a period of time let go without charges.
We condemn this act of racial profiling and excessive force perpetrated by the Vegas police against Mr. Bennett.
This story is awful enough. The response by the Las Vegas police union has been even worse. They have issued a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell calling for Bennett to be investigated for “obvious false allegations against our officers.” Instead of refuting these allegations, the police union made reference to Bennett’s protests of the national anthem, writing, “While the NFL may condone Bennett’s disrespect for our American Flag, and everything it symbolizes, we hope the league will not ignore Bennett’s false accusations against our police officers.” They are, in effect, using Bennett’s political protest as a pretext to investigate him.
Since Bennett publicized his encounter with the LVMPD, a spokesperson for the police has confirmed that it is conducting an investigation of Bennett to determine “Whether Mr. Bennett was involved in the altercation at the hotel casino prior to his detention on Las Vegas Boulevard.” This is clearly an act of retaliation against Bennett for speaking out against police brutality. It is also a gesture of intimidation against anyone else who would dare challenge the right of the Las Vegas police department to act with impunity. This is unacceptable.
Michael Bennett has been sitting during the anthem precisely to raise these issues of racist injustice that are now an intimate part of his life. Now we stand with him.
This is a threatening escalation of the blackballing being perpetrated against Super Bowl quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and even of the deliberate breaking of Thabo Sefolosha's leg.  The next black athlete who dares to challenge the ruling power is going to get killed.

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