Greens call military-style police measures and violation of citizens' rights a "breakdown of law"
GREEN PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES
For Immediate Release:
Monday, August 18, 2008
Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624, cell 202-904-7614, firstname.lastname@example.org
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805, email@example.com
Greens condemn curfews, anticonstitutional police harassment of innocent citizens in Arkansas and DC, and the War on Drugs as "self-defeating" in efforts to eliminate crime
WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party candidates and leaders called the 24-hour curfew imposed on the city of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, a gross violation of the rights of local citizens and a symptom of the rapid growth of unrestrained police power over the past two decades.
Politicians and law enforcement officials have justified such measures as part of the war on drugs. Greens have endorsed an immediate end to the drug war, calling it a catastrophic failure.
"A city that hands its police force a license to trash the constitutional rights of its citizens is not a city that is upholding law and order and protecting its citizens. On the contrary, unlimited police power is a complete breakdown of the law," said Joshua Drake, Arkansas Green Party nominee for Congress (4th District) (http://www.drake08.com).
The curfew in Helena-West Helena (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26171820/), a response to the crime rate in some neighborhoods, empowers officers armed with military rifles to stop and interrogate citizens without warrent or any semblance of probable cause.
A similar curfew has been imposed on Washington, DC's Trinidad neighborhood, where the police have established checkpoints allowing officers to question all drivers entering the area. Citizens must convince the police they have a "legitimate reason" for their presence in the neighborhood.
"These interrogations and checkpoints are comparable to police practices in authoritarian regimes and especially apartheid-era South Africa -- which is even more ominous given the fact the residents of these new 'Red Zones' are mostly African American and poor," said Rosa Clemente, the Green Party's nominee for Vice President of the United States (http://www.rosaclemente.com). "Such measures also recall the repression by police and private security firms in post-Katrina New Orleans, which accompanied the obstruction and expulsion of mostly poor and black residents from their homes."
"These policies have only empowered criminal gangs involved in the drug trade, just as Prohibition fed the growth of organized crime. The ACLU is right -- two of our most important freedoms, the right of mobility and protection against warrantless search and seizure, are being nullified for the sake of the disastrous war on drugs, in violation of local law and the US Constitution," added Ms. Clemente. (August 8 letter from the ACLU of Arkansas to Helena-West Helena Mayor J.F. Valley: http://www.acluarkansas.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=89&Itemid=4)
Greens noted that curfews and harassment of citizens reflect the militarization of civilian police departments enacted by the Clinton Administration in the mid 1990s, with officers trained in military tactics to fight the drug war.
Along with police militarization and the expanded war on drugs, the Nixon, Bush Sr., Reagan, Clinton and Bush Jr. administrations also oversaw the rapid growth of the private prison industry, which profits from filling up prison cells with more and more inmates. The outcome has been record incarceration of US citizens, especially of young African American and Latino men locked up on nonviolent offenses and plea-bargaining deals.
"Democratic and Republican politicians are equally responsible for the transformation of civilian police into militias," said Abel Tomlinson, Green nominee for Congress in Arkansas' 3rd District (http://www.abelforcongress.com). "The drug war has very little to do with drugs -- it's about control, coercion, and power. It's about money. America won't get sane drug laws and law enforcement until enough Greens get elected to public office to overturn these self-defeating, unconstitutional policies."
The Green Party supports the principle that governments can best address crime and drug use by promoting local self-determination and residents' ownership of their own communities, observing citizens' rights, and recognizing that addiction is above all a medical problem.
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