Hal Ginsberg: The Case of Steven Salaita
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When Henry Louis Gates was arrested, Barack Obama wasn't afraid to step into the fray and to speak his mind. Yes, he was criticized for interfering in a local matter, but that always struck me as silly. The President is, of course, allowed to speak up about local matters. It happens all of the time. Another criticism was that he was speaking off the cuff and didn't know the whole story. Fair enough, though it seems his position was basically vindicated in the end.
So, I think it's time that Obama speaks up about the rampant police brutality and unnecessary arrests of Occupy protesters around the country. One protester told Obama today:
“Over 4000 peaceful protesters have been arrested. While bankers continue to destroy the American economy. You must stop the assault on our 1st amendment rights. Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable. Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.”
Well, sometimes these protesters can be a little hyperbolic. I don't think that Obama has sold them out yet. But it might be time to start ordering up some blanket pardons for any peaceful protesters who might find themselves facing charges. Maybe it's time for the President to tell America's mayors to stand down. Maybe local law enforcement needs to known that federal civil rights cases could well be pursued by the attorney general if, say, a bunch of kids are pepper sprayed for sitting where a cop tells them not to.
Obama's silence about police violence isn't helping the cause. I know, I know, it would get the Republicans in a tizzy. But what doesn't?