the question and answer session that followed a
speech by Ann Coulter at the University of Texas
at Austin, Ajai Raj waited in line, and when his
turn arose, he asked a question. In regard to Coulter's
bizarre defense of the "sanctity of marriage,"
Raj asked, "How do you feel about marriages
where the man does nothing but fuck his wife up
the ass?" Raj promptly abandonded the microphone
and left Coulter with her brittle lips agape, her
long, polished hair flapping in the path of the
air conditioner. As he triumphantly and righteously
made his way down the aisle toward the auditorium's
exit, signaling to his friends that it was time
to go, he made gestures "simulating masturbation,"
according to the police report. For this he was
promptly grabbed by two police officers, slammed
into a wall, arrested, and charged with Disorderly
incident has since gained widespread local and national
attention. Ann Coulter has appeared on the usual
right-wing talk shows to denounce Raj in absentia,
without any hope of a rebuttal. Running the gamut
of the neo-fascist right's playbook, she shamelessly
extrapolated Raj's actions and described them as
indicative of all "Liberals"-codeword
for anyone who disagrees with her. To those taking
Coulter's words to heart it must have seemed as
if Raj had been acting on marching orders from Howard
Dean or MoveOn.org. Heavily edited video of the
protesters railing against the police who detained
Raj has appeared on both the local news and the
aforementioned right-wing scream fests. Though cameras
were present and ON during the entirety of Raj's
illegal detention, the video has been cut. Cut for
time. Cut for content. Cut to make it seem as if
Raj's support was miniscule. The usual.
blogs and news sites on the Internets are obviously
paying quite a bit of attention to the whole Coulter/Arrest
fiasco, devoting a modest amount of bandwidth to
say the least. Raj's inbox is probably hemorrhaging
at this very moment.
charge was Disorderly Conduct (Arrest
affidavit) which is a Class C Misdemeanor and
in the state of Texas, is to be punished by a fine
not to exceed $500. Fines can be avoided and charges
essentially dropped and cleared by up to 180 days
of Deferred Disposition. It is also worth noting
that Class C Misdemeanors are crimes that are not
to result in confinement.
a person is charged with a Class C Misdemeanor in
the state of Texas they are not to suffer incarceration.
Raj, for following Ann Coulter's direct request
to ask her a question, did exactly that and was
arrested for a non-arrestable offense and charged
with Disorderly Conduct. His arrest and silencing
done not only in contravention of his first amendment
rights, but also state and local laws as well it
enough, by arresting Raj for exercising his right
to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Constitution
of the United States of America, the arresting officers
engaged in a federal crime. Under Title 18, U.S.C.,
Section 242: it is a punishable offense "to
willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any
person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured
or protected by the Constitution and laws of the
simply put: Ajai Raj was deprived of his civil rights
under the "color of law."
add contravention to Federal Civil Rights Law to
would like to invite those moderate, capital-L Liberals
and their smirking, authoritative counterparts on
the right who cheered Raj's arrest with their decisive
cries of "serves him right!" to answer
the following question: Do you think that Ajai Raj
would have been arrested had his words not been
directed at a well-known political personality,
in front of a large crowd that roared with approval
and laughter at every hateful and incisive snipe
she made at her opponents?
me save the fatherly patrons, holders of all pragmatic
and realistic wisdom the effort. The answer is no.
was not the "children under the age of ten,"
who attended Coulter's "lecture" that
sealed Raj's fate as implied by the police report.
It was not that Raj "incited an immediate breach
of peace within the crowd," as the police report
firmly --and without a modicum of truth to back
up such an assessment-- attests. (In fact, Raj's
question all but silenced the auditorium, effectively
bringing peace where there was once only the rehearsed
hatespeech of a neo-fascist, GOP shill.) No, it
frighteningly comes down to something more. Something
wholly undemocratic and completely at odds with
the founding principles and documents of the United
States of America that at least spoke of freedom,
liberty, justice and all that.
comes down to the suppression of dissent under the
pretext of disturbing the peace, as I noted previously.
The catch-all charge of Disorderly Conduct was thrown
at Raj simply because there was nothing else to
fit his alleged crime. Campuses are supposed to
be one of the foremost bastions of freedom of speech,
baptised in the blood of many a student activist
killed by the functionaries of the state. The portion
of the event during which his question was posed
came during a time where the concept of "open
dialogue," was at the very least understood
and implied. He did nothing to interrupt debate
or stifle Coulter's own right to speech. He waited
his turn and opened his mouth. When he did he said
what some people considered the wrong thing to say.
He dissented with courage and anger. He uttered
taboo. Tom Paine is perpetually spinning in his
grave, but this incident gave him one more little
person who stood up to Coulter and engaged her on
her own terms had to be forcibly and visibly shut-down,
first and foremost. Rationale, justification, the
law only came second. For having the audacity to
attack Coulter with his words the same way that
Coulter attacks anyone to the left of Augusto Pinochet,
Raj was handcuffed and silenced, made an example
of. The message was perfectly clear: "We had
this kind of stuff back in the 60s, and it ain't
gonna happen again."
question was crude. No doubt. But who hasn't heard
such things? (Better yet, who has heard them used
to such great effect against such a mind-bogglingly
awful person?) Some have told me that he could have
used different words and gotten the same point across.
Some have said that he shouldn't have made the gestures
that he did. Some have said he should have asked
an equally damning question of Coulter. All of this
is immaterial. Whether Ajai Raj chose his words
and actions wisely should not be the concern of
anyone in favor of justice. Raj himself poses the
real question quite clearly in his open reply:
did he deserve to be thrown into a squad car for
saying something that caused no amount of disorder?
the cops need to use any amount of force on Raj
we really feel that saying naughty words should
be grounds for confinement?
Raj was arrested and detained for engaging in conduct
that was deemed disorderly, when in truth the disorder
only came after Raj was manhandled and deprived
of his basic, fundamental rights by way of detention.
using the two words that he did in conjunction was
more offensive than Coulter's own ridicule of a
homosexual conservative who posed her a genuinely
concerned question to which she replied, "I
usually get that one from the girls."
Raj's question was more incendiary than Coulter's
repeated calls for bodily harm to be inflicted upon
Raj's conduct was "abusive, profane, and vulgar,"
in the eyes of the almighty arbiters of justice
we call police officers. And what conduct was that?
Saying two whole swear words? And in front of children,
no less! (Though YHWH only knows what kind of parents
would bring their children to see such a speaker.)
Obviously the profanity and vulgarity of Coulter's
abusive and jugular attacks on immigrants, Arabs,
homosexuals and everyone else she dislikes must
have escaped those officers who think keeping the
peace is akin to slamming harmless kids down on
have received quite a few denunciations for my unfounded
"generalization[s]" regarding the police
force. Oppositely, I have received a comparable
number of responses denouncing the "corruption"
of police officers in general. I believe that both
types of comments stem from a basic misunderstanding
of my tangential conclusion to the previous article.
was not making a generalization about police officers.
I was simply regurgitating theory.
it seemed that my comments about cops were a blanket
characterization, then I apologize for not making
clear my argument.
if not most, police officers at least start out
as honest, hardworking people. Whether or not they
get hardened and corrupt as years go by is another
story. By stating that police serve power and not
the people, I was not offering any type of judgment
on the way that police officers perform their jobs.
When I said that police were duty bound, I was trying
to speak their language, to appeal to them, to naive
principles of justice being served by state officials.
I was reaching out to a higher power that exists
in name only.
do not believe that the curtailment of rights such
as that recently happened at the University of Texas
to be due to any sort of general corruption. The
officers were not fueled purely by machismo. Nor
were they purely driven by any sort of Napoleon
complex. It is just business as usual. The status
quo. Society. Whatever you want to call it, police
are there for that reason only. Police are not and
never have been in force to protect individuals
or communities, have a hand in serving justice,
or even to uphold laws.
function is to protect property and preserve power.
I of course do not think that individual police
officers think too much about this if they do at
all, nor do I think that they are bad people. Many
do engage in great, heroic activities, granted.
But, their overall function is what Michael Parenti
has termed "System sustaining." Police
are there to protect a system. That system is controlled
by the powerful.
was not generalizing on this one experience. My
previous conclusion was no unwarranted extrapolation.
I just used this event as a particularly deplorable
and telling jumping off point. Historically; in
the recent past and in dusty history texts it is
the same old, ugly story. There is a systemic function
that police serve. That function is the preservation
Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242
Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law
statute makes it a crime for any person acting under
color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or
custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived
from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities
secured or protected by the Constitution and laws
of the U.S.
law further prohibits a person acting under color
of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom
to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any
person to different punishments, pains, or penalties,
than those prescribed for punishment of citizens
on account of such person being an alien or by reason
of his/her color or race.
under "color of any law" include acts
not only done by federal, state, or local officials
within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority,
but also acts done without and beyond the bounds
of their lawful authority; provided that, in order
for unlawful acts of any official to be done under
"color of any law," the unlawful acts
must be done while such official is purporting or
pretending to act in the performance of his/her
official duties. This definition includes, in addition
to law enforcement officials, individuals such as
Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors,
Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by
laws, statutes ordinances, or customs.
varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to one
year, or both, and if bodily injury results or if
such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened
use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire shall
be fined or imprisoned up to ten years or both,
and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping
or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse
or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse,
or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this
title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for
life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.