During a peaceful march on Tuesday evening in New York City, an unmarked Kia minivan pulled up alongside protesters before random men in NYPD T-shirts, khaki shorts, and sneakers jumped out to grab 18-year-old Nikki Stone, dragging her into the van.
The protestors went mad, charging the white van, trying to rescue the girl. One bystander yelling, “What the f— is wrong with you pigs?”
Video of the incident went viral, racking up over a million views.
nypd is out here KIDNAPPING protesters off of the street pic.twitter.com/LCCBj0Ipp8
— Natalie (@Naddleez) July 28, 2020
AOC went off. The New York congresswoman tweeted, “Our civil liberties are on brink. This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.”
She’s right: Unmarked cars, clandestine arrests, nameless officers—oh, my! 2020 has taken a hard left (or right), and it’s all very sketchy.
Who Had Clandestine Cops On Their 2020 Dystopia Bingo Card?
Clandestine state law dogs and federal tactical teams have been targeting protesters in major cities, seizing people and using force without identification or markings. Portland has taken center stage, as videos of shadow officers striking, grabbing, and gassing citizens have gained national attention.
These covert acts by law enforcement raise a host of issues that impact your constitutional rights—primarily the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions says you have the right not to be searched or seized by law enforcement unless they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime. This requires more than a hunch or suspicion. Probable cause is about having articulable facts.
Basically, the Fourth Amendment means five-O needs concrete info to justify ransacking your stuff or hauling you away in handcuffs. Boundaries aren’t just the cornerstone of mature relationships, but also a functioning democracy. (Quote me on that.)
This has been the law for centuries. But even though the agents know the law, they may not always abide by it. Law enforcement is usually backed by the powers that be, so they rarely suffer any consequences for violating your rights.
In his spirited testimony on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General William P. Barr (the nation’s top cop) agreed that your Fourth Amendment rights must be protected—but he also made clear that he’s not backing down from sending agents into cities to aggressively police protesters.
You may be seeing more law enforcement soon. In fact, since sending agents into Kansas City and Portland in early July, the Trump Administration announced last week that it was dispatching officers into other major cities, claiming that federal troops are necessary to combat “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.”
Sounds scary, right? Fortunately, criminologists confirm that we shouldn’t be sounding the alarm, as crime isn’t a big issue.
Across the board, crime rates are lower than they were last year. This recent spike in crime is a product of governors lifting the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders—basically inviting people to return to their typical shenanigans, which unfortunately includes crime.
Don’t let the fear-mongering get you. Even though crime isn’t something you should necessarily be concerned about right now, it is imperative to protect your constitutional rights by continuing to protest.
“A lot of people got scared off of joining the march after cops grabbed protestors, but that’s exactly when people should gear up and join in,” says a 30-year-old writer who attended Tuesday’s march in Manhattan. The avid social justice warrior, who prefers to remain unnamed, noted, “You have to operate from a cautious optimism: prepare for the worst but hope for the best.”
Stone likely hoped for the best upon being seized Tuesday by the unmarked officers. After spending the night in police custody, Stone was told that the NYPD arrested her for allegedly destroying surveillance equipment. We’ll have to see how those charges play out in court.
In the meantime, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio indicates that he doesn’t want what happened in Portland to happen in his city, adding, “I think it was the wrong time and the wrong place to effectuate that arrest” of Ms. Stone.
Whether or not you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time, know your rights and continue to unapologetically exercise them. No one needs the final stretch of 2020 to end with dystopia.
Images: Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Naddleez/Twitter