Airing The Dirty Laundry Of The Justice System
“You need to respect the law, whether you agree with it or not.”
~Judge Anna Brown at the Stanek hearing, June 26, 2017
Ammon Bundy was reported to have appeared in Judge Gloria Navarro’s* court in his underwear. In this writer’s opinion, this act by Ammon Bundy got little attention and has been all but forgotten. But, it should go down as one of the greatest acts of civil disobedience in the history of the USA, similar to what Rosa Parks did for racial integration. I was in Montgomery, Alabama this week, so the story of Rosa Parks is fresh on my mind. Please bear with me, I will explain later.
Ammon refuses to dress and undress himself when he undergoes a strip search. Apparently, in a contest of wills, prison staff refused to dress him for a court hearing with Anna Brown following a strip search but knew that he could not appear in the nude, so they at least put his underwear on him.
Strip Searches Are A Pretext To Punish
Did you catch that? He was buck naked, nude, because that is the essence of a strip search. Prisoners are required to take off all their clothes in front of other guards, often female guards, and be inspected for contraband. Prisoners undress and dress at the command of prison staff. The inspection can involve cavity searches or touching of private areas all under the pretext of looking for contraband.
Now, here is the thing. Ammon was going to a court hearing, with shackles and constant supervision. How can stripping down to raw nakedness for a court hearing be justified in the slightest degree? How is it humanly possible to pass contraband to or from him?
Opponents to Ammon Bundy’s stands, may say something like this, “That is just the way it is. You are a prisoner, you are subject to prison rules. It is not a democracy in prison. Prisons are like martial law, civil rights are suspended. It may be unfair or overreaching, but it is hopeless to rebel because, in a contest of wills, the guards always win.”
Go Along, To Get Along
Others may not see any similarity to the Rosa Parks story. I will not repeat the full story here. In summary, she refused to give her bus seat to a white person, because the white section on the bus was full. A white person had the option, by law, to take a seat from a black person in the black section. A standing law and practice that served the community for many years until Rosa Parks said, not this time.
Rosa was not behind physical prison walls. But the law of the land made her existence similar to a prison. Using the logic that is being applied to Ammon Bundy, it is just better to go along in order to get along. Rosa Parks was upsetting something that was a long standing practice, supported by law, and as a result, it was a contest of her will against the will of the community. Law and order people, “don’t rock the boat” people, advocates of domestic tranquility, peace and stability, may all say that it would be better if Rosa just gave up her seat rather than create more problems.
Many of the political prisoners may not agree with Ammon Bundy and the stand that he is taking. Many could say, better to go along so that he does not alienate the judge or the decision makers that have his fate and the fate of other prisoners in their hands. Better to expend his energy in preparing his defense, and in doing everything possible so as not to make the judge and prosecutors even more venomous towards him. Better to face reality, he is in prison and prisons are not known for being havens of civil rights. Just face it and move on.
Rosa Parks was put in jail and fined for breaking the law. Being denied a seat on the bus because of your race is obviously wrong. But it was not obviously wrong back in 1955. It was the status quo. Had she not taken a hard stand against the law, the law may have been in force for many more years to come.
Taking A Stand With Rosa Parks And Ammon Bundy
I propose that what is happening to Ammon Bundy (and others) is every bit as bad, if not worse, than what happened to Rosa Parks:
- For Ammon, race may not be the factor, but his last name and his association with ranching may be a factor for putting him in jail. Factors that lead to unjust bias and denial of basic rights.
- Ammon, like Rosa Parks, was never convicted of a crime. Rosa, like Ammon, was placed in jail although she had the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
- As a prisoner who has never been found guilty of any crime, Ammon’s or Rosa’s pretrial detention cannot be justified. The courts have declared that a person charged with a crime has a right to prepare their defense outside of prison under the doctrine of innocence until proven guilty.
- Hopefully, Rosa never had to strip down to her nakedness like Ammon. If she was subject to a strip search, then we can add sexual abuse to the unjust racial discrimination and segregation abuses. The constant exposure of one’s private parts to prison staff is sexual abuse, pure and simple. Such abuse is further amplified when there is no conceivable way for contraband to be smuggled in.
- Rosa took an illegal stand that eventually benefited millions of others who are similarly situated. Ammon is taking a stand that may eventually benefit millions of current and future prisoners, many who have never been tried in court. Future prisoners includes you and me, if we ever find ourselves being civilly disobedient to an intolerable application of law by government.
- Both Rosa Parks and Ammon Bundy are mild mannered, easy going people. Had they chosen the road of least resistance, to do nothing but just accept it, then how would such heinous injustices get changed? If not them, then who?
Playing Nice In Hopes Of Changing The Outcome
Rosa Parks could have given her seat to the white person who demanded it, and then worked within the system to get it changed, hoping that by being submissive and obedient to current law, that she would garner the goodwill of the general public and after a long, patient but obedient struggle, finally get things changed.
Judge Anna Brown, relying on the same logic as that given to Geoffrey Stanek at his June 26 hearing for occupying the Malheur Refuge Center, could have told Rosa Parks the same thing, “You need to respect the law, whether you agree with it or not.” For the law and order people, life is black and white (no pun intended), it is reduced to simple terms, obey and respect the law, no matter how unjust or harmful its effect.
With regard to the hope of somehow influencing the judge, prosecutors, jury pool or elected politicians in a favorable manner, I am of the opinion that no amount of submissiveness or groveling will change the opinion of the judges and prosecutors. All we need to look at is the sentencing of Jerry DeLemus and Todd Engel, both of whom were respectful and obedient to prison rules, to get an idea what going along does for you.
As to the jury members and elected officials, if they are doing their jobs, they will do their homework, ask for evidence and take charge of the decision making process. If they cannot see the injustice of what is happening to Ammon Bundy, then the justice system is broken and we are all in grave danger.
Memorialized In The Annals Of History
I would like to see Ammon Bundy go down in history and remembered for appearing in court with only his underwear on. It was a result of an act of disobedience built upon a foundation of egregious injustice. I would like to see Ammon Bundy mentioned in schools and history books, just like Rosa Parks.
*Edited to reflect corrected courtroom.