“Extremist powers become normalized,” explains Greenwald. “They just become such a fixture in our political culture that we are trained to take them for granted, to view the warped as normal.”
But there are encouraging signs that Americans are fighting back against this extremism. Citizens are actively protecting our Constitution by making video and audio recordings of government abuses of their personal liberties as they are actually taking place.
Betrayers of the Constitution are being caught in the act. Last week, I wrote about how the New Jersey branch of the American Civil Liberties Union had made available a smartphone app that could surreptitiously record police stops of New Jerseyans.
And, in what would greatly please James Madison, the Aug. 3, 2012 New York Daily News invites us to glory in its guest op‐ed: “Your camera can stop NYPD abuse.” David Galarza writes about seeing “a man with a badge and a uniform” — dig this — “body slam a teenager on a Sunset Park subway platform.”
Galarza simultaneously made a video of that stop and frisk that was in contempt of our Bill of Rights.
This modern‐day Tom Paine adds pertinently: “Most of us now carry cellphone cameras in our pockets. We have access to YouTube, which is a free and easy platform for sharing video. We should use these tools daily, if necessary, to keep police officers honest.”
Even more vital to helping other citizens recognize that we are part of a self‐governing republic, Galarza adds:
“At Trinity Lutheran Church, where I am an active member and the Rev. Samuel Cruz is senior pastor, we strongly believe that monitoring the police contributes to public safety — which is why Trinity’s new project, La Casita Comunal de Sunset Park, is working with other groups to provide training to members of its congregation and the community.”
This training enables all who enroll to become active supporters of the Bill of Rights’ Fourth Amendment:
“We’ll be arming members of our congregation with cameras. We urge other congregations and groups to do the same.”
Wow! A new American Revolution — in the tradition of Samuel Adams’ Committees of Correspondence!
Galarza continues by declaring: “All New Yorkers, regardless of who they are or where they live, should be allowed to walk our streets without fearing the very law enforcement that is supposed to protect us.”
This, of course, does not prevent a police officer in any city from stopping and searching a person whom he reasonably believes has committed or is about to commit a crime. But that does not mean an officer can just stop a person who is — or appears to be — black or Latino, period.
As Galarza says — and this applies not only to New York City — “In too many neighborhoods, getting stopped and frisked is a rite of passage.”
That’s why I often ask: Is this still America?
As I said last week, in view of the ACLU-NJ already providing smartphone apps that let citizens record unconstitutional police stops, the national ACLU should encourage its other affiliates around the country to also put citizens’ Fourth Amendment independence into smartphone action.
As Galarza says: “The police work for us — and they should know that we are always watching” — at least on our streets.
However, in some states, there are laws that create obstacles to our keeping an eye on police, when officers place themselves above the law. Katie Wang, ACLU-NJ’s communications director, sent me a press release about these laws: