Port of Seattle cop Greg Anderson expects he’ll lose his job for warning other officers across the country — in a video that went viral — to resist and to not violate the Constitution when ordered to enforce coronavirus stay-at-home edicts issued by mayors and governors.
Anderson taped himself in his squad car, in uniform (reportedly against department policy), reminding fellow officers that under the Constitution, Americans have the right to assemble, and worship, and that government’s powers are derived from the people, not the other way around.
“Regardless where you stand on coronavirus, we don’t have the authority to do those things to people just because a mayor or a governor tells you,” Anderson said.
“We don’t get to violate people’s constitutional rights because someone in our chain of command tells us otherwise. It’s not how this country works,” he added.
He’s already feeling the political pushback. But he’s not alone. In states across the country, local law enforcement has resisted commands by political leadership to enforce draconian coronavirus orders. It isn’t the American Civil Liberties Union taking the lead, but cops.
Is the ACLU even interested in the Bill of Rights anymore?
This is National Police Week and police find themselves in a bizarre limbo between those political bosses who want everyone locked down and Americans who demand their liberty be restored as they fear losing their jobs, savings, businesses and homes, and unemployment rates reach Depression-era levels.
Add to that an appalling illiteracy among Americans about civics and a generational indifference to the Bill of Rights, and you realize the tinder is dry, just waiting for a spark.
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Anderson said on that video. “I’m afraid that these (police) actions are going to wake a sleeping giant, i.e., the American people. They are going to be put in a position where they won’t have their rights trampled anymore. And us as law enforcement officers? We’ll have our ability to enforce the law stripped from us in about 10 minutes.”
What could come next? Violence, Anderson said.
Weeks ago, at the beginning of this, I wondered what we’d learn about ourselves and our nation. We’re learning it in real time now, aren’t we? Let’s hope that rather than chaos, this will be a learning moment.
Many of us are home, with time on our hands. You might click on the 1776 Series from RealClear Public Affairs and read the thoughtful essays from distinguished historians on the foundational themes of our American experience. Full disclosure: Tom Bevan, the president and co-founder of parent RealClearPolitics.com, is a friend of mine. He’s run my Tribune column on his site and has been a frequent guest on my podcast, “The Chicago Way.”
I’ve read the first few essays, and interviewed Bevan about the project for the current podcast, and I’ll read more. I wouldn’t recommend the 1776 Series if I didn’t think it was important, especially now.
“Every time I turn on the television … I’m seeing people getting arrested or cited for going to church, for traveling on the roadways, for going surfing, opening their businesses, going to the park with their families, or … using their own house as a place of business,” said Anderson, who said that he’d served in the Iraq War.
“And charge them with what, a crime? I don’t know what crime people are committing by doing nails in their own house. We need to start looking at ourselves as officers and thinking, ‘Is what I’m doing right?’”
Anderson has already been suspended. If there’s anything in his background, any complaint politicians can find to use against him, it will be used. He stepped forward. He resisted. And for that, politicos who love resistance except when it applies to them may move to publicly ruin him.
But what about the larger theme of his complaint, that law enforcement must protect the Constitution, which prohibits government from stopping Americans from peaceful assembly, or worshipping in church?
I haven’t seen Democratic governors or mayors in blue states publicly worrying about the Bill of Rights, as they glorify themselves at their news briefings and laurel wreaths are placed upon their heads. Or if they do worry, they don’t worry enough.
They legitimately worry about deaths caused by the virus. And they worry about how they’re losing control of their people.
Some mayors and governors talk tough and are depicted as epic heroes in memes. But many state legislatures, including in Illinois, where the coronavirus death toll mounts, haven’t met to write the executive edicts into laws. For weeks, legislatures have sat back and watched mayors and the governors rule by executive orders. I call that rule by whim.
I’ve spent my professional life covering politics. I understand blue-state mayors and governors becoming upset with cops like Anderson, especially here in Illinois, where conservative legislators, businesses and churches are pushing back with lawsuits against the governor.
But weren’t these same Democratic Party leaders applauding sanctuary city and sanctuary state laws in defiance of federal immigration law? Yes. They were among the cheerleaders of the resistance to President Donald Trump.
They encouraged the #resist hashtags, and the #resistTrump bumper stickers, and wrote #resistance op-eds and carried their resistance in public appearances.
But isn’t that exactly what those who demand we reopen the economy are doing now? Aren’t they simply resisting what they believe to be an overreach of authority?
Or is it #resist only for me, and not for thee?
Listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin — at www.wgnradio.com/category/wgn-plus/thechicagoway.
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