Thursday, February 25, 2010

Guilty of Drinking While Not White and Straight

Adam Weinstein has a good, if short, article in Mother Jones about the public intoxication laws in Texas.

The comedian Ron White has a comedy bit, made famous in the movie Blue Collar Comedy Tour, with the following bit:

Now, at this point I had the right to remain silent, but I no longer had the ability. "I don't want to be drunk in pub-LICK. I WAS drunk in a bar, which is perfectly legal. THEY threw me into pub-LICK... arrest THEM."

The irony is this: Ron White, a Texan, was in his story just after being thrown out of a New York bar. Turns out, in Texas, it actually is illegal to be drunk in a bar. And cops may electively arrest people for being drunk in a bar without any blood or breath test whatever, without any complaint from the bartender, owner, or other patrons...

... and, as was shown in Fort Worth, Irving and Arlington last year, the cops can- and will- arrest you for being gay, or Hispanic, or black, with a beer in your hand.

A half-dozen police cruisers, an unmarked sedan, and the prisoner van slid to a stop in front of the Rainbow Lounge, Fort Worth's newest gay club, at about 1:30 a.m. on June 28, 2009—40 years, almost down to the minute, after New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn with billy clubs and bullhorns. Inside the bar, the officers fanned out, grabbing and arresting six patrons for public intoxication. Benjamin Guttery, a 24-year-old Army vet, says an officer told him to put down his drink, then "bulldozed" him through the crowd to the paddy wagon but then let him go. "I'm 6'8", 250 pounds, and I had just finished my second drink," Guttery told a local reporter. "I might have had enough to have a loose tongue, but not a loose walk or anything like that." Another man alleges that he was slammed against a wall, elbowed, and fell on the ground, landing him in intensive care for a week with bleeding in his brain. He was charged with public intoxication and assault.

Unconstitutional? Illegal? Nope. State courts have not only signed off on the law in question, but actually EXPANDED it- giving police complete carte blanche to arrest anyone for anything, provided they're in a bar.

"Having no standard allows the police to arrest whoever pisses them off and call it PI," [defense attorney Robert Guest] says, adding, "If you have a violent, homophobic, or just an asshole of a cop and you give him the arbitrary power to arrest anyone for PI, you can expect violent, homophobic, and asshole-ic behavior."

Weinstein adds in a separate blog post:

When a magazine in Dallas offered me a job last summer, my wife and I jumped at the chance to settle in the city that Molly Ivins once painted red. We had visions of a Lone Star libertarian utopia, where there was enough open space and distrust of government to allow everyone some freedom in choosing their bliss.

Boy, were we wrong. From the hip neighborhoods of Lower Greenville and Deep Ellum to the grittier areas of South Dallas, what we experienced was an over-policed nanny state—exactly the sort of thing you'd expect pro-secession and anti-liberal Texans to hate. But they're not angry, because they're not the target: Few straight white Texans have anything to worry about. That's documented.

That's the Republican way: freedom for rich, white, straight Protestants; no freedom for anyone else.

If you're Texan and haven't voted in the primaries yet- I urge you to vote in the Republican primaries... for the worst, most insane Republican candidate you can find. With any luck one or more of them will get nominated... and a Democrat or three might actually win in November, and bring some sanity to this state.

No comments: