You can’t give the authorities license for lawlessness—you have to protest. It might seem ineffective on the surface, but this approach does eventually put a stop to terror and abuse of power. And most importantly, it protects the individual from coercion.
—Sergei Kovalev, ex-prisoner of the Kolyma gulag
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves...
—Henry David Thoreau
Looking back a decade later, it still saddens me that I could not interest any of Concord's poets, librarians, teachers, professors, lawyers, selectpersons, chamber of commerce functionaries or cultural council apparatchiks regarding my arrest and incarceration in Concord for exercising free speech in Concord.
Would Thoreau have been offended to learn that I, resident of Concord, was arrested and incarcerated (9/1/99) for criticizing the STATE on the grounds of his beloved Walden Pond? Perhaps he would not have been surprised, but I sure as hell was.
FACT: Judge Sanders dismissed the prosecutor's case against me.
FACT: Swearing in public is not a crime in the state of Massachusetts.
FACT: The arresting cop got double-time pay for appearing in court.
In a Concord jail cell, I spent four long hours for having had a non-violent dispute with a park ranger. Compare that with the absence of hours spent in jail by Senator-for-Life Teddy Kennedy (now defunct) after having driven drunk, crashed a car, caused involuntary homicide, left the scene of a fatal accident, and failed to report it until 12 hours later. This, however, is Massachusetts, where the millionaire politicians call themselves public servants and demand unequal treatment before the law... and get it.
Three months later and many hours spent in the Concord District Courthouse, I was finally given the choice between a jury trial and all charges dismissed, despite the STATE prosecutor’s fervent desire to prosecute and put me behind bars for a longer period of time. Because I lacked faith in juries, could not interest the ACLU at all (“Where the hell is the ACLU?” had wondered Lenny Bruce), and could not find a lawyer with ideals, I chose to have the charges dismissed. Judge Sanders accorded me that choice, but refused to answer my questions as to why my automobile had been impounded and why I’d been arrested and incarcerated in the first place. Silence was all I’d gotten from State authorities, including those at Walden Pond, with the exception of a letter informing that it was against state law to post criticism of Walden Pond authorities at Walden Pond (see letter above). Nearly a decade of perseverance later, I obtained further responses and bumped into the Supreme Court’s decision in Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization (1939), which clearly counters the state's ban-on-posting regulation for public parks. Where to find pro bono legal council??? Aiuta, per favore!
In any case, would Thoreau have been offended to learn a State trooper sent by State-Park Reservation authorities had accosted me on those grounds nine months later (5/17/00) to inform he would arrest and fine me if I continued leaving my flyers in the Thoreau replica shack at Walden Pond State Reservation? Would Thoreau have been offended to learn a State trooper on horseback half a year after that (9/7/00) had literally pushed me off the pond grounds with his horse's snout because I’d simply asked a park attendant why he did not believe in the First Amendment? The attendant argued my wish to exercise free speech was an instance of harassment. Some democracy, eh?!!
Would Thoreau have been offended to see the Shop at Walden souvenir boutique, operated by Thoreau Society, selling tee-shirts and trinkets in his memory, not to mention a censored C-Span tape of Gandhi’s grandson speaking about “Civil Disobedience” in Concord? THOREAU WAS NOT A SOCIETY, NOR SHOP! THOREAU WAS A DISSIDENT! read the sign I'd held up for several seconds in front of the camera during that speech. C-Span simply blotted it out of the tape. Amazing but true! A brief account of the arrest and incarceration forms part of W. Barksdale Maynard's Walden Pond: A History (see documents on the right). Maynard's account, however, is somewhat flawed. I brought it to his attention.
In your account, you should have noted that the judge threw the case out and that in accord with Massachusetts law, I did not break any laws at all. Indeed, swearing in public is not illegal in the state of Massachusetts. Thus, why was I even arrested? And why was I swearing in the first place? Tourets? You didn’t even express interest. Why do Walden Pond State Reservation authorities to this day still refuse to permit me to post flyers on its “public” property?
For other opinions, details and documents (police reports, towing receipt et al) regarding the above events, click on the following links and see below:
1. Arrest, Incarceration & Subsequent Harassment
2. Transcendental Trinkets (Highly critical open letters by the editor to Henry David Thoreau, poems, essays, broadsides, watercolors, and cartoons)
3. Comments by Ed Cantarella, Favoring Police Restriction of Free Speech
Equally offensive is the Police Barracks set up next to the Shop at Walden boutique. How many officers believe in “Civil Disobedience”? As for the bronze statue, cite Thoreau himself:
“We shall lose one advantage of a man’s dying if we are to have a statue of him forthwith… at this rate they will crowd the streets with them. A man will have to add a clause to his will, ‘No statue to be made for me.’ It is very offensive to me to see the dying stiffen into statues at this rate.”
One must wonder if the bulk of Thoreau Society members have ever read Thoreau, that is, in between the lines of his descriptions of nature. Statues, trinket shops, censorship, and suppression of free speech were not Thoreau ideals, gentlemen and women society members! And what does Thoreau state about "gentlemen" and civility?
“Men are so generally spoiled by being so civil and well-disposed. You can have no profitable conversation with them… It is possible for a man to wholly disappear and be merged in his manners. The thousand and one gentlemen with whom I meet, I meet despairingly and but to depart from them, for I am not cheered by the hope of any rudeness from them. A cross man, a coarse man, an eccentric man, a silent, a man who does not drill well,-of him there is some hope. Your gentlemen, they are all alike. They utter their opinions as if it was not a man that uttered them.”
And what about criticism spoken or even hollered in public? Well, it is not a crime in the State of Massachusetts, though one can still be incarcerated for it, as I was, at the mere whim of a democracy-scorning cop!
The U.S. Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that individuals have a right to question police officers, even if police officers find the speech that they use to be offensive. Police officers don't have the right to be censors.
—Attorney Jason Huber
Indeed, the law clearly stipulates the police must not be permitted to arrest and incarcerate citizens for harsh criticism spoken in public. They must not be permitted to proclaim such speech "disorderly conduct," as Officer Crosby did mine. Judges must not only throw out such cases, as one did mine, but must also castigate police and prosecutors who bring such cases to court, which was not done in my case. Moreover, police must not be permitted to impound the automobiles of those charged with harsh criticism spoken in public. Yet free speech in the Commonwealth cost me not only much time and anxiety, but also $95 to retrieve my car, which was not at all illegally parked. Officer Crosby knew damn well what he was doing: acting as judge and jury, fining me $95.
When behind bars in Concord, I was refused the right to a phone call, toilet paper, and blanket. What kind of town has Concord become? The ordeal was a Gestapo-Kafkan nightmare propagated by a faceless Walden Pond park ranger and policeman with nothing better to do than to lock up a non-violent citizen. Had that Ranger even read Thoreau, that is, in between the nature descriptions? Or did he simply not give a damn about the DISSIDENT THOREAU? And if he didn’t, why the hell was he employed at Walden Pond? Why does he wish to remain ignorant of the following State of Massachusetts jurisprudence?
1. Commonwealth vs. Smith (1850): “It is no offense against the law to utter loud cries and exclamations in the public streets...”
2. Commonwealth vs. Le Pore (1996): “Conduct must disturb through acts other than speech; neither a provocative nor a foul mouth transgresses statute.” Nothing in the officer’s report indicated that I was doing anything but speaking. Also, a person is deemed disorderly if, “with purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm, or recklessly creating risk thereof... by act which serves no legitimate purpose of actor.” Any language I used was used with purpose and in the name of POLITICAL free expression.
3. Commonwealth vs. Johnson (1994): “Mere use of obscenities in public does not make out crime of disorderly conduct.” I expressed my anger at the state, at the corruption I’d witnessed at Fitchburg State College, at the inaccessibility of public documents to the public, at the legalization of nepotism in 1986, rampant cronyism, patronage and corruption in other aspects of public business. That was my argument, not really even with the Park Attendant, but rather with the rules, the corruption of the rules.
4. Commonwealth vs. Jarrett (1971): “Mere making of statements or expression of views or opinions, no matter how unpopular, or views with which persons present do not agree is not punishable as disturbance of the peace.”
Business as Usual in the Connected-wealth of Massachusetts
As the State continues unabashedly in its century’s’ old tradition of nepotism, cronyism, and patronage, Big Dig and lesser dig scandals, intellectual corruption in the public colleges and schools, secret payoffs to public cronies, secret personnel files, secret archives of public arbitration and grievance hearings, oligarch hogs of public office (e.g. Teddy Kennedy), absence of freedom of information, whistleblower legislation, apathetic community newspapers (e.g. The Concord Journal), and suppression of free speech, it has become more important than ever for citizens of conscience to muster the courage to speak out against, and otherwise fight and challenge the corrupt State and all those who seek to perpetuate its status quo… for personal profit. The State wants citizens to be ignorant, indifferent, and good team players in its pitiful state of affairs. Its public schools, indeed, have been doing a fine job educating citizens in that direction.
The purpose of this Public Notice is to inform the public and encourage the public to think critically, question and challenge State authority, and otherwise, in the words of Emerson, “stand upright and speak the rude truth in all its ways.” The Concord Free Public Library refused  to post it. What is in the minds of those librarians? What is in the minds of the citizens of Concord who are up in arms over the US Patriot Act, yet don't give a damn about what happened to one of their fellow citizens? Well, it is safe to protest what is distant and, yes, for them, the US Patriot Act is quite distant. I brought this matter to the attention of Robert Plotkin who was organizing Concordians against the Act. He refused to even respond. Silence rather than debate!
Subj: The Patriot Act and other acts...
Dear Mr. Plotkin: It is interesting (or revealing?) that you have chosen not to comment on my letter at all. BTW, I had an interesting thought regarding you… a conclusion in effect. Your real fight is not for the First Amendment but rather against Bush. In reality, you don't really care about the First Amendment. You simply want to nail Ashcroft and Bush. Why were you not up in arms—and I'm damn sure you weren't—when Clinton signed a bill drastically limiting habeas corpus? Most likely you are one of those sad liberal ideologues that Bernard Goldberg hammers in his two books, Bias and Arrogance. Read those books. You might learn something. [No response]
How not to get angry at these characters! Their hypocrisy is base and grotesque. The following are letters sent, amongst others, to Walden Woods Project, Thoreau Institute, Walden Pond State Reservation, a Thoreau impersonator, and a Hearing Officer.
Subj: Stir things up? Ha!
Dear Walden Woods Project: Why am I kept out of the Festival of Authors year after year? I'm a local published Concord author. "We need people stirring up the way we think about things," states one of your Walden Woods Project protegees. Well, I have stirred up things... but too much no doubt for your comfort! Why not publish my new 740-page autobio novel: THE POET: An Indictment of Intellectuals from the Bottom-Feeding Grounds of Fifth-Tier Academics… and Elsewhere? Why not examine my account of being arrested and incarcerated for a non-violent argument at Walden Pond and my being pushed off grounds on another occasion by a mounted cop for merely protesting silently with a placard: NO FREE SPEECH AT WALDEN POND. Why not read my account of protesting the new community bulletin board in downtown Concord? Why not read what the new Concord Poetry Center director has to say about protest at its center? WHY NOT? It's all on my website. Why not read my press release in this week's Concord Journal? WHY NOT? Well, I know why not... I do hope you do to. G. Tod Slone...
Subj: Teach ALL of Thoreau, not just the feel-good pabulum! variety!
Date: 9/3/03 2:51:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time
To Kent Curtis, Thoreau Institute: Why not take Thoreau one-step further and out of the "working together for higher salaries" (uh, I mean, public education!) MTA-propaganda machine? Have the children and young adults visit my site regarding Thoreau, Thoreau Society, Thoreau trinket boutique, and Walden Pond, where free-speech is a jail-able offense. Yes, have them contemplate my arrest and incarceration in Concord for exercising my First Amendment rights at Walden Pond State Facility. I'd be more than happy to deliver a free lecture on the subject (I do have a PhD, have been a dissident college professor for the past 15 years and have NO CRIMINAL RECORD.). Thoreau was much more, at least for a few of us, than a friendly, ardent ecologist. Read between the lines in his journals! BE CURIOUS and examine my anti-conformist site. Teach the children to be curious, rather than indoctrinate them. Stop perverting Thoreau by placing him in a feel-good museum and context.
FromTimofey Pnin Timofey_pnin@hotmail
Hello. Found your chest-beating Thoreau-inspired tantrums kind of funny, but I have to tell you that your magazine's message would be a lot more convincing if the writing wasn't so lousy.
Thanks for the comment. Bad writing? That must mean you were offended by the truth. Always kill the messenger with epithet, then you can ignore the truth in his message. I'll include your letter in next issue due out in a month. I always included the harshest criticism of The AD and its editor. Of course what perturbs the most is those who worship Thoreau, profit from him in some way, and choose to ignore his wonderful statements of wisdom.
To Kevin Krader, Thoreau Impersonator: I suppose it was you who I bumped into at the Concord Museum the other day. Anyhow, why not a little courage and step out of the impersonator mold and "Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine" instead of promoting it? I am an enemy of the Thoreau Society as you most certainly know. I suppose Thoreau too would have been an enemy. No doubt, he would have found you totally aberrant walking around disguised as him! How interesting this perversion of Thoreau into Society, bronze statue, trinkets, shop at Walden, human animated Thoreau effigy for cash, and gorilla cops pursuing at Walden a man simply holding a sign proffering the absence of Free Speech at Walden? Well, if you're a Thoreau Society member, I suppose you won't even give it a thought.
Subj: Message of protest
Date: 12/20/01 10:10:10 AM Eastern Standard Time
To the Walden Project: What you have been doing is grotesque. Leave Walden alone! Let the goddamn pond erode... NATURALLY! Let FREE SPEECH thrive at the pond, not trinket shops and bronze statues! Hell, I was incarcerated for speaking out on the grounds of Walden Pond. Do you give a shit? Of course not... surely your silence condoned it. You have become a perverse carcinoma upon the back of Henry David. For an account of my arrest, see the site below. But then I doubt you're at all curious... too busy bowing in front of Hillary and Billy... or is it Bush now. That Clinton photo in your brochure is an insult to Henry David. Clinton was everything Thoreau despised in a man. Why do you choose to ignore what Thoreau said regarding such "distinguished" people? Here's Thoreau. I've memorized these lines because they are beautiful in TRUTH: "A cross man, a coarse man, an eccentric man, a silent, a man who does not drill well,-of him there is some hope. Your gentlemen, they are all alike. They utter their opinions as if it was not a man that uttered them." In fact, I even incorporated them in a poem. Feel free to use the poem in your next brochure. In fact, why not invite me, a dissident poet, to one of your joyous fundraisers? Here is my poem. Enjoy it. But will you dare read it? Will you comprehend it? Do you have curiosity? Have you traded your soul in for a seat at society's table?
Februrary 2, 2001
Town of Concord
Officed of the Parking Clerk
22 Monument Sq.
Concord, MA 01742
To the Hearing Officer:
How do I find out who gets off without paying parking tickets in Concord? As a citizen, may I consult your files? If so, how do I do this? I am not happy with your police officers hanging around the corners, hiding and looking for citizens to nail and otherwise screw up the citizen's day for some minor infraction of minor regulation. They are not helping citizens, but trying to fine and incarcerate them. It is scandalous that I was ticketed while parked in front of Town Hall doing research on town corruption inside Town Hall. The ground was full of snow and the no parking sign was hardly visible at all. I sure as hell did not see it.
This town is beginning to disgust me. I cannot even exercise free speech in front of Walden Pond off Pond property without your town cops harassing and threatening me with incarceration. What the hell has happened to Concord? Wasn't it the cradle of liberty? I think the entire way how the police operate here needs to be examined in profundis before we too end up with a POLICE PROBLEM like Spencer, Boston, Newark, NYC, LA, Chicago and need I go on.
These things said, please reconsider your arbitrary and capricious determination. I did not receive a remittance copy, so cannot forward it to you. If you determine again that I must pay, well then I'll have to pay. In that case, would you at least consider several hours of community service in lieu of the dollar bill? I have been unemployed for some time due to blacklisting by the corrupt Fitchburg State College. I await your letter.
PS: Please consider subscribing to my Concord-based literary journal, which ought be of interest to a hearing officer and even his/her children. Its focus is corruption.
Subj: yr letter of 2/2/01 in response to denial of parking ticket appea l
Date: 2/7/01 10:08:01 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: BSommers@concordnet.org (Bill Sommers)
To: email@example.com ('firstname.lastname@example.org') CC: PRobertson@concordnet.org (Pat Robertson)
From the Hearing Officer: I have your letter noted above. The hearing was held on February 1 for all those who had appealed their tickets. No one showed for the hearing. I carefully reviewed each appeal, taking into consideration the situation and the police officer's activity note attached to the appeal. Your appeal was denied because the signs where you parked clearly state half hour parking only and since you parked longer than the allotted time, you were ticketed - and were other parkers who also overstayed the half hour. While it was a snowy day, the two signs, which delineate the restricted parking are, are about 7 feet off the ground. The restricted parking area in front of Town Hall is set at a half hour to encourage a rapid turnover and thus be more accommodating to citizens who have business at the Town Hall.
Since the hearing has already been held and a decision reached and notified, I cannot hold another hearing. However, you can appeal my decision through the Middlesex District Court; you can get the particulars of the appeal by calling the Clerk at the Court whose phone number is 369-0500.
I should add that the police officer who is assigned the parking enforcement duty is in sight, full uniformed and drives in a fully marked police car.
Thanks for your letter. Regards. Bill Sommers, Hearing Officer
Subj: Interview Request
Date: 2/7/01 5:26:21 PM Eastern Standard Time
To the Hearing Officer, Well, you said it yourself. The signs are 7 feet hight! I would have had to get out of my car on that snowy day and purposely look straight into the sky to see them. Now, why the hell are they seven feet high? Normally, a person looks straight in front of himself when he walks, not sky high. By the way, the woman at Town Hall said, and I remember quite clearly, there was no need for me to go to the hearing, that it wouldn't matter... and most don't go to the hearing. That's what she said. So please talk to the people in Town Hall and tell the sonsabitches not to tell people they don't have to go to the hearings. What kind of good ole Massachusetts crony-infested inefficiency exists at Town Hall?
How does it feel to be a FUNCTIONARY OF THE STATE? In fact, would you mind if I interviewed you for my magazine, THE AMERICAN DISSIDENT? I and my readers would be very curious to learn what might be in the mind of a STATE FUNCTIONARY. How is it that so many of you think alike as if ONE ENTITY? These things I'd really like to ask you in the context of an interview. Seriously, can I interview you at Town Hall for my magazine? Thanks for your letter. I look forward hearing from you. G. Tod Slone
PS: Again, let me underscore that it is sickening to see the cops in this town hiding behind corners waiting to pounce on citizens. What the hell has happened to this Democracy? I am not the only one to notice the cops lurking behind bushes and corners!
September 13, 2000
Executive Director: John Roberts
99 Chauncy Street, Suite 310
Boston, MA 02111
To Mr. Roberts:
Again, I wish to request legal assistance from your organization regarding Walden Pond State Reservation's continual harassment of my efforts to exercise free speech upon its premises… even outside the grounds by its entrance. On three different occasions (5/17/00, 9/8/00 and 9/9/00) park authorities ordered state police to force me off park grounds. Enclosed is a letter I sent to the Concord police chief, my state rep, state senator, governor Weld, who of course doesn't answer letters from common citizens, and Dept. of Environmental Management in Cambridge. I doubt any of these entities will even respond. Can you help, or are you content that free speech does not exist for those not involved in high profile, high media attention occurrences. Not even the Concord Journal will cover this matter.
November 10, 2000
Wendy M. Zimny
99 Chauncy St
Boston, MA 02111
To Wendy M. Zimny :
Thank you for your second reply. I am curious where we are going with this thing? If we are indeed going no where, then why continue? Why not just tell me that the ACLUM has limited funds and that my case is not pertinent, as the ACLUM told me when contacted regarding my whistleblowing at Fitchburg State College and at Martha's Vineyard Regional H. S. several years ago? Well, if indeed you intend on doing something, enclosed are the documents requested. I was never given a document regarding the outcome of my trial in front of the judge, who did simply dismiss the case. I have not been to Walden Pond since being forced off the premises by BOTH state and city of Concord police. Authorities at Walden refuse to answer my correspondence, thus I cannot offer you their particular code of rules. But I assume their rules are the same as enclosed Title 304. I have scanned these documents for you and taken time to send you this letter. I did attempt to file a complain against the arresting officer for fraudulent testimony, but was told I'd have to pay $100 and that chances were 99.9% I'd lose.
Again, please inform me what gives the police and park authority the right to prohibit a citizen of Massachusetts from holding a sign of protest on STATE property? Is not STATE property PUBLIC property? Am I not PUBLIC? Interestingly, the PUBLIC library in Concord will not allow me to post on its PUBLIC bulletin board an account of the incidents at Walden. This state has really begun to disgust me with its Senator for Life Teddy Kennedy and prolific cronyism. Have you checked out my website? Maybe you can get the ACLUM to subscribe to my journal, which is a free speech friendly journal. The State cultural council with board member his eminent crony William Bulger has yet to grant me subidy.
May 17, 2000
Executive Director: John Roberts
99 Chauncy Street, Suite 310
Boston, MA 02111
To Mr. Roberts:
Would the ACLUM be willing to back me if I contest Walden Pond State Reservation park authorities and continue placing the enclosed flyer in its outside information booth? A state trooper today at Walden Pond informed me that he would arrest me if I continued doing so. I cannot afford to hire a lawyer to help me in this evident First Amendment concern, being unemployed and blacklisted by the state college system of Massachusetts. As you can see, my flyer only solicits thought from the citizenry, nothing more, nothing less. By refusing me the right to post it at the park, the State refuses me the right to criticize the State within in its grounds. Is this not illegal in Massachusetts? Or is there some technical addendum to the law that I have missed?
June 4, 2000
Executive Director: John Roberts
99 Chauncy Street, Suite 310
Boston, MA 02111
To Mr. Roberts:
It is apparent that you are too big to respond personally to a common citizen of the Commonwealth, and too big to feel anything whatsoever for the plight of a common citizen of the Commonwealth struggling to exercise his supposed free speech rights in the Commonwealth.
Your statement in today's Boston Globe article on a proposed Speaker's Corner was, at best, lame, and, at worst, absolutely reprehensible. Recall what you said: “Although Boston's gut reaction to disagreeable speech is often to censor it, once we get an opportunity to raise the issue of free speech, there is often an understanding of its importance.” Clearly, only a comfortable functionary could make such a statement.
Considering those flaccid words and your evident indifference to the plight of common citizens of the Commonwealth struggling for free speech, how can you expect common citizens of the Commonweatlh to support the efforts of the ACLU in Massachusetts? In America, everything is for sale. May I ask: Who purchased the ACLUM and how much did they pay?
How strange that you do not even comment on the absurdity of a tiny Corner in the entire state where free speech may be permitted. Such a Corner could only constitute, in the eyes of the few who have not been fully indoctrinated by the state's public educationists, but a memorial monument to the lost democracy. How much will parking cost by that Speaker's Corner for those of us not living downtown? Shame on you, Mr. Executive Director, for not giving a damn about my new publication, The American Dissident, devoted to Free Speech! Shame on you for not giving a damn about my immediate termination as teacher after I criticized Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in the Martha's Vineyard Times!
Shame on you for not giving a damn about my being blacklisted as a college professor because I tried in vain to expose State college corruption in the Commonwealth!
Shame on you for not giving a damn about my spending four hours in a Concord jail cell for criticizing the State at Walden Pond State Reservation! Shame on you for not giving a damn that a state trooper accosted me last month at Walden Pond State Reservation, threatening arrest and fine if I continued leaving my pamphlet, which criticizes the State, on State property!
Have you ever read Thoreau… I mean, really read Thoreau, Mr. Executive Director?
Have the wealth-drooling lawyers surrounding you, like the one you had respond to my last letter, poisoned your sense of purpose? No, Mr. Executive Director, I hold no illusions. I doubt you will ever get to even read this letter. Mine is but an exercise in Freedom.
May 18, 2000
Ranger Luke Brackett
Dept. of Environmental Management
817 Lowell St.
Carlisle, MA 01741-1315
To Ranger Brackett:
Well, I was expecting a Court Order or Arrest Warrant when the mailman presented the certified letter at my door. No wonder there are now two million citizens rotting away in American jails, where the rate of incarceration is the highest in the entire world. I am not a violent person, Ranger, but will express myself in public, despite the fact that you and the police clearly detest such expression. Now, you threaten me with arrest… once again. Indeed, a state police trooper accosted me yesterday at Walden Pond to inform that he would arrest me if I left my flyer in the Thoreau replica shack. There is nothing like the State police to put fear in the hearts of questioning and thinking citizens. Is that what you seek at Walden Pond today? Wouldn't Henry David Thoreau have been absolutely dumbfounded?
Why do you refuse to permit me to post one flyer critical of the Park and Thoreau Society at Walden Pond? Surely, it will not harm anybody, not even the Society's Executive Director. I'm sure not even one out of one hundred visitors educated in the Nation's public schools will even take the time to read it, let alone comprehend it.
One must wonder which fascist school dispensed its education to you or whether you have even read Henry David Thoreau, let alone Jefferson or Madison. I suppose it is quite possible that you cannot even comprehend my flyer, nor my anger for being incarcerated last September as a result of a nonviolent dispute with one of your park rangers. He never did file an official complaint, so I do not know his name. Your manner of operating Walden Pond is extremely disturbing. It is disgraceful to think that the Pond made famous by Henry David Thoreau does not permit First Amendment rights upon its grounds today. I a citizen of Concord do not even have the right to criticize you, a government official, on State, that is, public property despite the legal statutes in effect. Of course, we both know that State property is not really public property, that is, when the public disagrees with the State.
I am currently seeking legal assistance regarding this First Amendment concern, if not outright violation. Perhaps pro bono assistance will be impossible to find for we both know that American lawyers tend to be money obsessed and justice indifferent today. Perhaps, or most likely, you will succeed in keeping anybody critical of the park, not willing to spend large sums of money, from speaking against the park on park, that is, public grounds. It is most disgusting to me that you are running the pond in a Gestapo-like manner, sending the State police to accost citizens to inform they do not have First Amendment rights upon the grounds of Walden Pond. Give the police/rangers too much leeway and you end up with a police state. God help the Nation! What are we becoming, an army of uniformed automatons, unquestioning, obedient citizens, where conformity is God and nonconformity punishable by incarceration? Can this really the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?
By the way, I wish to apply officially for the Park Interpreter position announced on your bulletin board. I am 52 years old; hopefully, you do not also practice age discrimination. I have a doctoral degree and profound knowledge of the writings of Henry David Thoreau. I have also taught college and evening school adults. I would love nothing more than to teach park visitors from personal experience about the meaning of Thoreau's “Civil Disobedience,” for example. I get along fine with people, but will question and think. I doubt any other applicants will have these qualifications. Please set up an appointment for an interview. I am available any time. You may contact me via email or snail mail. I am a citizen of America and should have equal opportunity regarding all public jobs. (Of course, we both know that just isn't and won't be so.)
May 7, 2000
Walden Pond State Reservation
915 Walden St.
Concord, MA 01742
To Whom It May Concern:
In the name of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, I formally request space on the bulletin board at the outside park information booth at Walden Pond to post the enclosed information bulletin, which denounces not only park authorities but also the Thoreau Society, which apparently has greater influence than common citizens of the Commonwealth since it has been accorded the right to post its flyers on said bulletin board.
I am making this request because one of your rangers informed me today that park regulations, which are not posted, do not permit citizens to solicit 'thought' from other citizens on park grounds. This of course is the only thing the enclosed flyer solicits. Your prohibition, of course, seems aberrant because citizen taxpayers funded the park in the first place, and I am a citizen taxpayer. Can it really be true that the park forbids taxpayers from exercising their First Amendment rights to, amongst other things, criticize the park on park grounds?
If in fact you choose to ignore this letter, as you chose regarding a previous letter requesting a list of words prohibited on park grounds, then I will continue distributing my flyer in the name of the First Amendment. You may wish to call one of your state police officers to have me incarcerated a second time.
I enclose another flyer regarding my arrest and incarceration last September as a result of a wholly nonviolent argument I had with one of your rangers, who ordered the state police to hunt me down. Curiously, that ranger never even filed a complaint against me. Because of my incarceration it has become most difficult for me to enjoy my walks around Walden. In fact, I am always left feeling a bit criminal when entering the park as if a gag order had been placed upon my speech. I wonder what Thoreau would have thought.
Finally, perhaps you need to instruct your rangers that in the State of Massachusetts, incivility is not a crime. Perhaps you ought to use my flyer in their training sessions. Perhaps you ought to request my services as professor in their training sessions. Currently, I am unemployed, having blown the whistle on corruption at Fitchburg State College and elsewhere in the Commonwealth. The State of Massachusetts unlike other states does not have whistleblower legislation, preferring instead to destroy the livelihoods of whistleblowers. If it had enacted such legislation, perhaps the Big Dig would have been a smaller dig, if you get my drift.
For some interesting articles about speech concerns, try the First Amendment Center or simply browse the free-speech articles on this website.
Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.
—Justice Louis D. Brandeis
The following include detailed essay accounts of the editor's arrest, incarceration, and expulsion due to diverse events that occurred at Walden Pond State Reservation. For a negative, pro-cop critique of these essays, read Ed Cantarella's "Natural Laws".
1. Incarcerated in Concord
2. The Price of Free Speech in America: A Jail Cell
3. The Price of Free Speech: The Courthouse
A judge who frequently rules against police officers is likely to wake up next election to find police-organization support and money going to his opponent, perhaps an ambitious deputy prosecutor ready to accuse the judge of being 'soft on crime.'
—Attorney David Brown, Beat Your Ticket
It is the accumulation of our denunciations that will hopefully someday make a difference. Let the following thus constitute one more account, be it minor or not, of injustice to add to the monstrously large warehouse of testimony.
Inside the replica shack at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts is a page from “Civil Disobedience.” I've often wondered if anybody but I had ever read that page... and if they had, had they really understood it?
Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?... They [men and women] think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?
During the 150th anniversary of “Civil Disobedience,” I protested in front of Gandhi's grandson who was delivering a speech for the Thoreau Society outside the First Parish church in Concord. My sign, THOREAU WAS A DISSIDENT, NOT A SOCIETY OR SHOP, was either read in disgust or simply ignored by Society members (see Northwoods Journal, Fall 1999 issue). A month later, I was incarcerated for having a simple nonviolent argument with a park attendant regarding rules. Sure, I had uttered the word “fuck” now and then, but I'd later discover that saying that word in public did not violate the Massachusetts disorderly conduct statute. Sure, I was agitated and angry, but remained in my car and did not make any threats whatsoever. Here follows the details:
During the summer, I swam at Walden Pond nearly everyday. On the second day of this past September, a Thursday morning, I pulled into the park, waited behind the car in front of me, and waited and waited and waited as the attendant gabbed, indifferent to my waiting. So, I drove around the car, pointing to my seasonal sticker and parked. The attendant had hollered: “SIR, SIR!” But I kept driving. I didn't like waiting on lines, which explained my being at the park early. I also didn't like being referred to as SIR by a young person in authority. I'd rather be called old man, which would be less hypocritical and certainly more refreshing.
I swam 45 minutes. Walked back up the hill, got into my car, drove out of the lot, pulled over to the control station, and asked the attendant what was wrong. He said I hadn't followed the rules. “What fucking rules?” I replied. I pointed to my seasonal sticker and said I'd paid my dues. An argument ensued about the rules. I remained in my car. But I had sinned. I had used the word “fuck,” which everybody in the world used, even park attendants. “Fuck the rules and fuck Massachusetts with all its goddamn corruption and cronyism!” I said as he continued on his rant about following the rules. Yes, I had sinned again: I expressed anger in public, that is, in front of one public park attendant. Needless to say he got visibly angry at my anger and as he dialed the police, I said, “Fuck this!,” and left.
Soon, on Route 2, an unmarked car was flashing its lights behind me, so I put on my signals, and eventually pulled over into the lot of an apartment complex. I got out of the car. The officer got out of his car and asked for my license and registration, which I handed him. He called in the information. I was angry, now pursued like a criminal, and asked what he was going to charge me with. He refused to respond. “This is fucking crazy, getting arrested for taking a fucking swim at Walden Pond and arguing with a park attendant,” I said.
While the officer was calling in, I was taping my voice on a little tape recorder, mentioning his name and badge number, his unmarked license plate number, and the details of the citizen ordeal. When he got out of the car he told me to turn off the recorder or face a five-year felony. Could that really be true? I wondered and turned it off. Because I was a writer, I had the habit of using the recorder, so soon found myself speaking into it again. I didn't want to forget anything. He told me to turn it off again. I told him that I wasn't recording him, that I was simply recording me. I asked what he was charging me with. He wouldn't respond. “Well, this is fucking crazy,” I said. “I didn't do anything wrong. Now I'm being arrested.”
The officer was apathetic, impassive, and utterly taciturn. I told him out of frustration to go ahead and arrest me. Of course, he could have handled the matter differently. He knew I was angry and could have easily persuaded me to calm down. Instead, he arrested me, probably because he didn't like my voice, attitude and physical appearance. Indeed, I was unshaven and dripping wet from my swim with the look of an unemployed rebel, if you will, especially since I was not manifesting overt deference to a supposed public servant and was even being so audacious as to ask questions.
“Give me the recorder,” he ordered. I gave it to him. He told me to face his car. I did. He put handcuffs on me. He told me to get into the car. I did. Inside, I asked him if he had ever read Thoreau. “I don't believe in civil disobedience!” he exclaimed. “Well, maybe you shouldn't be working at Walden Pond then,” I said. He didn't respond. Well, at least he'd heard of Thoreau. He stood next to the car talking on his cellphone with a tow truck company. Then the truck finally arrived and impounded my car, even though there were no motor vehicle violations outstanding or current. Apparently, this is the officer's right and way to punish and fine citizens by proxy. $95!
The officer got into the car, and we took off. I asked him to please loosen the cuffs, that my hands were getting numb. He did not respond. I asked him to read my rights. He did not respond. I asked him what I was being charged with. He did not respond. Later, I asked him again. He remained silent. I asked if he were going to bring me to the woods and shoot me. I said they'd probably never find me. Angered, I asked why the police didn't seem to have anything better to do than arrest a person who had a nonviolent argument with a park attendant. I asked what he thought of the five cops who had tested positive for heroine and cocaine in Boston and about the disbanding of the entire force in the town of Spencer because of profound police corruption. He refused to speak. So, I stopped talking. Next to me was a state trooper's hat. So I suspected he was with the state police, not the local police. He was about 55 and, from his attitude, quite ready to retire.
No, I was not deferent to the officer. I don't like the police. I don't like their fascist manner. I don't like the fear they instill, nor how they behave in front of the poor and other non-pillars of the community. Sure, there must be some good officers out there, but I have yet to meet one. Indeed, things have become so twisted-citizens becoming so indoctrinated by public education and the government-that I assume many if not most people would agree that the officer should have arrested me. Most people seem unable to comprehend that officers are supposed to be servants of the public, rather than vice versa. In that light, officers ought to manifest deference to public citizens, rather than vice versa. Citizens should not be obligated to show deference to the police. Yet because the police are the police of the wealthy and have a long tradition of fighting the poor on behalf of the wealthy (e.g., killing and maiming to break unions and civil rights demonstrations), citizens are obligated de facto to show deference to them.
We arrived at the police station in front of the Concord State Reformatory. The nonchalant officer told me to get out. I got out. He directed me into the building. Again, I obeyed his every command. Again, I asked if he were going to read me my rights. Again, he did not respond. Inside, a couple of officers were talking but didn't even look at me. They were obviously used to men in cuffs. He directed me to a room. In that room, the Miranda Rights were dangling from the ceiling. The officer then finally read me those rights: “You have a right to remain silent...”
When he was done, he started asking me questions. “I thought you just told me I had the right to remain silent,” I said. “Yes, but not about this,” he mumbled. “Well, I'm going to remain silent until I have a lawyer,” I said. “If you don't talk, I'm going to lock you up for 24 hours,” he said. “Go ahead then,” I said. “I didn't do anything illegal.” He directed me into the jail area and into the first cell, where he uncuffed me, then ordered: “Take off your sneakers!” I took them off, put them outside the cell, then he shut and locked the door. Inside, everything was dark and painted thick navy gray including the cement slab bench without a cover or mattress. I lay down on it. Next to my head was a toilet without a seat and without toilet paper. On the wall on the other side of the bars were three or four typewritten pages. The writing was too small to read. Also, there was a sign: THIS AREA IS BEING VIDEO MONITORED AND TAPED. Indeed, two video cameras were affixed to the wall staring down into my cell. The minutes crawled. I had 24 hours of them with absolutely nothing to do. The constant sound of the air conditioner blowing in on me was peaceful though. But it was damn cold. I was shivering-didn't even have a towel to dry off-, dressed in tee shirt and wet bathing suit. It must have been 50 degrees. A great void of sensory deprivation soon overcame me.
It was sad, dreary cell. I quickly became saddened… and for all those people in jails: two million in America alone, 500,000 more than in Chinese jails, desperate or simply beaten and mentally crushed. I felt really and viscerally saddened. A tear came to my eye. “I want to make a phone call!” I said for the record, gazing upwards to the video cameras. “I need toilet paper! It's freezing in here! I want a blanket!” Nobody responded. Time went by. “I want to make a phone call!” I repeated. “I need toilet paper! I want a blanket!” Again, nobody responded. I sat up. I lay down again. “Et le poète soûl engueulait l'univers.” I said in French, standing up to face the video monitors. Then I repeated and improvised on that line from the poet Rimbaud: Et le poète soûl engueulait l'univers. J'engueule, moi, tous les mardeux d'Amérique. Qu'est-ce qui se passe, mon Amérique? Mon Amérique, pourquoi tu me fous en taule?”
“YOU WOULDN'T EVEN BE IN HERE, IF YOU HADN'T OPENED YOUR FUCKING TRAP!” hollered a black-haired, gestapo-looking officer who'd suddenly entered the cell area. “FUCK YOU!” I stood up angered, if not provoked. “WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? I SUPPOSE THE CAMERAS ARE BROKEN. I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG. IT'S FUCKING COLD IN HERE. I WANT A BLANKET! I WANT TO MAKE A PHONE CALL!” For some reason, he didn't come into my cell and beat me to death. He left with sadistic smile and slammed the cell area door. I lay back down. Only 23 more hours to go! The other cells were empty. I'd go crazy. I needed something to read, even something I could eventually use as toilet paper. I hated the sensory deprivation. What could I do, but lay down and close my eyes. I wished I had memorized poems or sections of essays that I could regurgitate. But I had nothing in my head, nothing but anger for the state of Massachusetts and America.
Finally, after a couple of hours, the arresting officer opened my cell, put the cuffs back on, and directed me back out to his car. We took off and arrived at the Concord Middlesex Court House. Inside, he dropped me off with a probation officer who asked questions. “I thought I had a right to remain silent,” I said. But she assured that her questions were simple fact questions to help identify me. “If you don't answer them, I'll send you up to Billerica state prison for the night!” said a less than amiable guard. “You know, I really don't feel like going to Billerica,” I said. “Ask me the questions.” “Smart choice,” said the guard.
I was put in another cell, where I waited and shivered and requested a blanket and got no response. An hour later, I was directed to the court where I stood on an elevated tribune next to another guy wearing shackles. I felt bad for him, realizing he was probably going to be staying in one of those nightmare cells long enough to break his mind and spirit. “Well, we don't know if he is who he says he is,” said the judge talking to the probate officer, regarding me. “So, we'll have to put him back in the cell until after lunch break.” The judge then ordered recess.
“These are yours!” said a guard, directing me down the hallway. “Hey, here's your license!” he said looking in the manila envelope. The implication was that there was the proof that I was who I was, but, well, tough luck, you'll have to go back into the cell for another hour and a half. I entered the cell; he shut and locked the door. THANK JESUS and THANK YOU JESUS were scraped on the yellow wall in front of me. A half hour later an officer came by and slipped a baloney and cheese sandwich on white bread accompanied by a generic orange soda through the food slot. I ate like a prisoner, slowly and unemotionally. I imagined the judge sitting in some fancy restaurant in Concord center, joking and having a good time.
An hour later, I was herded back out to the court in handcuffs. A few words were exchanged between the probate officer and the judge, who then ordered the cuffs removed, because he was now satisfied that I was who I was. “You can speak with Madame the Prosecutor to make a deal if you wish or come back for a hearing with or without a lawyer,” he said. “I'll speak with the prosecutor,” I said. I rubbed my wrists. Yeah, I was free. I walked down the hallway and met the prosecutor. “I'd like you to tell me what happened,” she said. I thus told her what happened. “I'm willing to drop the charges if you pay the $100 in court fees,” she said. “No, I can't do that,” I said. “I didn't do anything wrong. Why should I have to pay court fees? Do you know where my car is? It was towed by the arresting officer.” She knew nothing about the impoundment, seemed surprised, then said she'd look into it. I went back into court and waited and waited for the judge to get back to me. When he did he set a pretrial hearing since no deal had been struck. It was for November 5th. “If you do not show up, you will be arrested and spend 90 days in jail and will be fined $5,000,” said the judge. The prosecutor handed me a slip with the tow company name and address.
The sun was an inferno. I waited for my girlfriend, Jeanne, to pick me up... and waited and waited. I paced on the lawn of the courthouse while several officers cast dirty looks my way. I was a beaten man, quite depleted. It had been a very long day. Well, Nietzsche had said even the strongest men had moments of fatigue. I ended up walking five miles in the blazing heat back home. When I arrived, it was 5:30. Jeanne had thought I was going to call back. I hollered the guts of my wrath out upon her, then she drove me to the tow company, where I paid $95. Days later, I drove back to the police station to request a copy of the police report, which indicated: “Disorderly Conduct 272 F53.” Why had the prosecutor thought I'd be willing to pay $100 in court fees when the judge had mumbled, “fineable $50”? Well, I'd soon discover why after talking with the ACLU. “Because the judge can fine you some crazy amount if he wants to,” said the representative. “He can do anything. You could have been arrested at four o'clock and spent the night in jail or the whole weekend if it were a Friday. The judge will always take the policeman's side if there are no witnesses.” Perhaps the prosecutor realized that with no prior criminal record whatsoever, no resisting arrest and no complaints of threat, I was not the best candidate for the cell. The ACLU refused to represent me. The total lack of indignation expressed by the representative relative to what had occurred surprised me. Well, what should I have expected? “Where the hell is the ACLU?” had once said Lenny Bruce.
Since the ordeal, I, of course, have pondered it over and over and over. For example, what is disorderly conduct or public disturbance in the state of Massachusetts? I had no idea. The very term seemed vague and highly subjective, especially when totally nonphysical. It would seem that, in my case, it comprised a simple dispute between a citizen of the Commonwealth, myself, and a public servant or servants. The subjectivity of the charge is underscored by the fact that there were no other people present to support or not support claims made, though the officer noted in his report “visibly upset” people. It is nonetheless difficult for me to believe that even “visibly upset” people could put a person in a jail cell for four hours. If they were so “visibly upset,” couldn't they have simply walked away? Well, I didn't remember seeing a soul around, let alone “visibly upset” ones.
The police report noted: “Irate and Confrontational” and “Argumentative/Irrational.” Apparently, citizens can be arrested for being angry. They can be arrested for being confrontational and argumentative. In other words, a citizen should not argue with a public employee, or risk arrest by doing so. Yes, that was the real America I'd discovered. Yes, taping an officer can put you in jail for five years, and a cop can have your car impounded for no reason at all. That was what the ACLU confirmed.
The police report noted: “offensive and assaultive language.” The Forest and Parks Rules (Title 304, Chapter 12.00), which I found in the public library using Premise, notes “obscene language.” Clearly, in the absence of witnesses, the officer could have simply stated that I said “fuck” to him and the judge would have sided with him. The System clearly favors lying police officers over honest citizens. I tried in vain to find a list of illegal words that might have constituted “obscene language.” Clearly, because of vagueness, the charge of disorderly conduct may be applied arbitrarily and capriciously, which I assume is often done, a horrendous situation, but no less quite American. What words then pronounced in front of a public employee warrant arrest and incarceration? It is my humble opinion that no words should warrant such punishment. Indeed, and surprisingly, my research discovered that according to the statute, “mere use of obscenities in public does not make out crime of disorderly conduct (Com v. Johnson 1994).” In other words, I never even should have been pursued by the officer, let alone arrested, jailed and fined $95 by proxy. Now, who can justify paying the outrageous fees of a lawyer to obtain retribution?
There are so many questions and curiosities and inequities in our justice system. For example, why do so many people wrongly think they have a right to make a phone call when incarcerated? Surprisingly, the Concord Journal agreed with me on that point. Yet the editor, who called me up because of a letter-to-the editor I'd written wondering why my arrest had not been listed under the paper's police blotter, did not wish to inform people about that misconception. Nor was he interested in publicizing just how horrendous conditions are in the holding cells. Indeed, the cell where I was placed at the courthouse had toilet paper crumbled all over the floor.
Why do our schools not teach students basic rights? Sure, they teach the Bill of Rights, but not the basic everyday rights, nor that constitutional rights cost roughly $100,000 to defend. Why do so many of us know nothing about our basic rights or lack thereof? Must common citizens stay in their cars when an unmarked car arrests them? Does the law require citizens to stop for unmarked cars? What if I had forgotten my wallet and didn't have any identification? Would I have spent a week in a prison cell? Does the law actually provide a five-year felony charge for a citizen who records an officer's voice? If so, why did legislators enact such a horrendous law? Police lobby? Indeed, the police lobby is so powerful in Massachusetts that the governor himself had to back down when he tried to cut the gross excess of police moonlighting overtime. Why is the government and public education content to perpetuate ignorance of basic rights amongst the citizenry? Thoreau had asked that very question over 150 years ago. The government has yet to provide an answer.
Finally, I admit that deep down, while standing next to the officer's car, I was curious: Could he actually throw me in jail for having an argument and saying the word “fuck”? Indeed, as a writer, I was in need of an eye-opening jail experience. Every citizen should have one. How else can citizens attempt to comprehend those two million compatriots rotting behind bars? In any event, it is a sad day for America when a police officer stops a common citizen, refuses to tell him why he has been arrested and does not read him his legal rights. It is a sad day for America when a police officer stops a common citizen because of a nonviolent argument, arrests and incarcerates him for roughly four hours in a cold, concrete cell without mattress, without blanket, without toilet paper, and without that one phone call. It is a sad day for America when a common citizen without any prior police record is treated like that. It is a sad day when citizens are made to fear the law and police officers, rather than respect it and them. It is a sad day when police officers are not required to tell arrested citizens why they're arresting them.
The judges seem more concerned with keeping the police content than keeping the citizenry informed. It is a sad day when intelligent persons are not permitted to serve on the police force (see Boston Globe, 9/10/99, “Smarter than the average cop: Force's rejection of high-IQ applicant upheld”). It is a sad day when the community newspaper and ACLU don't give a damn about any of these things. But most of all, it is a sad day when the large majority of citizens do not care about their ignorance of the law, nor about the two million prisoners in America. Three months after my citizen ordeal, I am now ever on guard when leaving the house and fear getting into an argument, for I am by nature questioning and challenging, thus “confrontational.” From my citizen ordeal, I now sometimes hold my head lower and try to look obedient when in public. I keep my eyes peeled for the police when driving. I fear the law much more now though respect it much less, because I have come to realize that it is purposely vague and unpublicized, and that the greater our ignorance of it, the more power to the powerful, including the police. Most of all, I fear that the law will eventually make obedient automatons out of all of us. So what happened in court? Find out next week.
Throughout our own history, Americans have been silenced by patriots who considered themselves true sons of liberty. Only a small percentage of these assaults on speech and assembly are covered by the press, for it has only so much space. These small silencings in places remote from the big cities are known only to the natives and the victims.
—Nat Hentoff, Free Speech for Me-But Not for Thee
What they do in the county courthouse is make you sit and wait and wait and wait. It was 8:55 when they finally opened the doors to courtroom 3, where I was supposed to appear as the accused, yet I was summoned to be present at 8:30. Well, I entered and took a seat. Nobody was inside, leaving me wondering if I was in the right place. Three portraits of three honorable millionaire judges hung high on the walls, the odor of Mr. Clean in the air. I contemplated how fear reduced citizens to slavery, unconscious or not. A handful of others eventually walked in, including the arresting officer, Crosby, jack-booted, equestrian-panted with a belly much larger than I'd recalled. He sat arms crossed, whistling a quiet tune. My exercise of free speech three months before had given him the morning off or, if my friend Pirolli was right, the morning with time and a half.
It was 9:00, and still the judge had not entered. The two young female prosecutors entered with airs of grandeur dressed in tight black pants suits. At 9:10 the female bailiff arrived, then announced at 9:15: “All rise...” I couldn't understand the rest of her mumbled dreary habit. The judge entered. Then we all sat down in orchestrated, if not fascistic, harmony. Later, during recess I asked the bailiff what the judge's name was. Why didn't they mention the names of these people? Why didn't they put nametags on their desks? I never did find out what the prosecutor's name was.
Judge Sanders had me called to the microphone at about 9:30. I walked to the proper location and stood without a tie and sports jacket before balustrade-like barrier, surprisingly a little higher than the judge who was about 20 feet away. She quickly informed me that other cases were more important than mine and that the prosecutor, three months before, had expressed her willingness to drop the charges if I paid the $100 in court fees.
“That essentially you do not want to pay the $100?” stated the Judge. “That's right, Your Honor,” I replied. “This is not much money, you know,” said the Judge. “Well, it is, if you're not guilty; besides I was forced to pay $95 in towing charges even though there were no outstanding motor violations,” I said. In the state of Massachusetts, police officers, I discovered, had the right to impound your car if they arrested you, rightfully or wrongfully, assuring punishment before trial. “Those charges are another matter,” said the Judge, who turned to the prosecutor who, for some reason was down below in the 'well.' The prosecutor mumbled something about being absolutely certain she wanted to prosecute me.
“Well, you have to understand that this is not really very important,” repeated the Judge looking at me. “Do you still want a trial by jury?” “Yes,” I said being very careful to say as little as possible, fearful of cuffs and not knowing what my speech rights were in the courthouse. Just the same, I opined: “So, the $95 towing charge is the cost of free speech in the state of Massachusetts?” “I said that was another matter, sir” said the Judge angrily. “It has nothing to do with this! That's all for now. I will have to think about this.”
I left the accused area and sat back down in the audience, not knowing what the Judge was going to do nor when I'd have to stand up again. I was absolutely convinced that I'd rather a six-person jury than Judge Sanders. The first case was a family battle between a young couple. The wife wanted the husband to vacate the home and immediately began crying. Already, the Judge seemed to settle into the tedium of the day, her face yawning, her chin resting upon the back of her wrist. The second case was a bit more interesting. The Judge read the accusation against a young black man: “...lasciviously exposed himself.”
At 9:40, the bailiff announced: “All rise...” It was already coffee break for the Judge, who stood up and left the room. One of the officer guards said to the bailiff: “Why don't we start the trial and get that over?” I didn't know if he meant my trial or someone else's. I remain seated, sketched the Judge and wondered why the lawyers and judges have remained so silent regarding rampant prison abuse and police corruption. Fear must surely be their best ally, fear of the prisons by citizens behaving in ways not quite automaton.
To my surprise, the Judge called me forward at about 10:15. A month earlier I had waited four hours in the courtroom to obtain a date for my case. The bailiff called me down into the well, where I stood in front of a large tape recorder. The judge, about three feet above my head, the prosecutor, next to me, and I entered into discussion. “I'm going to offer to drop the charges,” said the Judge. “But it's up to you. You do have a right to a jury trial. And if it's okay with the prosecutor, of course.” “Well,” said the prosecutor, “I'll leave it up to the Judge's discretion.” “Well, then I offer to drop the charges,” said the Judge. “It's up to you.” I hesitated in front of the recorder, then said: “Well, I'm kind of confused about the law.” “Frankly,” responded the Judge gazing at the police report, “I don't think you stand a chance.” “I sure believe that,” I said, “which was why I wanted a jury trial.” “It's basically a crap shoot, if you decide to go before a jury,” added the Judge. “Listen, this is about as good as it gets in the courthouse.”
“Okay, I accept the offer," I said, deciding at that moment, that maybe it was very possible I'd end up with six people like the Judge and spend six months behind bars, the maximum for my crime of exercising free speech, otherwise known as disorderly conduct. The Judge also made it clear that I wasn't going to get anything in front of a jury, surely not reimbursement for the $95 impoundment. “You are free to go,” said the bailiff. “There's no fine to pay.”
“Thank you,” I said without the 'Your Honor' tag and walked down the aisle, through the doors and out of courtroom 3. I sat for a moment on one of the hallway benches in a daze. It had been three long months of anxiety and bad dreams. I quickly wrote down my thoughts and dialogue, fearful I might forget the Judge's conversation, then left the building feeling somewhat elated, though not quite as elated as several years before when I walked Vineyard Haven beach after my sudden firing at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School… for exercising free speech in the local newspaper. I was still nothing but a naked citizen of the Commonwealth without the First Amendment wrapped de facto around my vulnerable crotch. I walked back into the courthouse.
“Can I file a claim against the state?” I asked the female clerk, who hesitated then walked over to pose the question to somebody else in the back. She reappeared and said: “Yes, but, well, you probably won't win. But, yes, you can file a claim.” I looked at the Small Claims Form, noted the $15 charge and said: “Fifteen bucks? I guess I'll skip it.”
Clerk calls the case. Make a motion. Your Honor, I would like to make the following motion. Because the prosecution has completely ignored my written request to discover the officer's notes, I request that the court order the prosecution to provide a copy of the officer's notes, so I may better prepare my case. I have here a copy of that request made on September 9, 1999.
Officer not present. I am ready to proceed to trial. I have spent much time and energy preparing for this case. I have received no advance notice from anyone that the case would not proceed. Certainly if I failed to show up and the officer were present, I wouldn't be entitled to a last minute postponement. So, I respectfully ask that the court dismiss this case and order the state to reimburse the expenses incurred by the officer's impounding of my car for lack of prosecution and in the interest of justice. Judge tells officer to testify. You interject: Your Honor, I would like to reserve the right to make a very brief opening statement until just before I testify. Officer testifies.
Objection, Your Honor, the officer is referring to his notes, a copy of which I requested by way of discovery; several months ago; my written request for those notes -which I'd like to show the court is right here-was never responded to. I ask that the evidence be excluded and that the officer's testimony be disallowed. I would like to ask for a continuance so that I may examine the notes. Objection (hearsay)
Cross Examination. Judge may simply want you to present your story or rebuff your wishes to cross examine and make a final statement. If officer continues talking. You can try to stop him. “Thank you.” “I think you've answered my question.” “Objection your Honor...
Objection your honor, the officer's answer is not responsive to my question. I ask that the witness be instructed to answer the question I asked. Your Honor, I ask the court to instruct the witness to confine his answers to my questions.
1. Is it true that you pursued me because of an event that you yourself did not even witness?
2. Is it true that when you in your unmarked car turned on your lights and siren, I pulled over for you as soon as I could, that is at the first exit road off Route 2?
3. Is it true that when you asked me to give you my license and registration I in fact gave them to you? 4. Is it true that when you verified the information on my license and registration that there were no warrants or violations outstanding? 5. In your report, you mention “visibly upset” people were present. Precisely how many of those people came up to you to complain about my behavior and if indeed they were so upset, then why didn't they file complaints?
6. Please inform me what their names were, describe where they were, and what they looked like.
7. Were these supposed observers confined to stand in my presence, or could they simply walk on and go about their business? Were we blocking or even near the entrance to the apartment building?
8. What was I wearing? Please describe my appearance? Do you know why I had gone to Walden Pond?
9. I notice your report lists absolutely no particulars. What precisely was I saying and doing?
10. Is it true when you asked me to give you the tape recorder that I used to record my voice and not your voice, I gave it to you? Did you not inform me that I could spend 5 years in prison for recording my voice in front of you?
11. Is it true that I did not threaten you physically, that I did not pick up a stick or throw punches or kick, that in fact I obeyed your every command?
12. Is it true that you put cuffs on me that were particularly tight considering that I have no police record whatsoever, and that I mentioned that to you, and that you did not loosen them? 13. Is it true when you asked me to get into your car, I did get into your car?
14. Is it true that you called the tow company and had my car impounded even though there were no outstanding motor vehicle warrants and that we were in a large parking lot where my car could have easily been parked, and that you punished me by doing that?
15. Is it true that I asked you if you had read Thoreau and that you replied that you did not believe in Civil Disobedience?
16. Why are you working at Walden Pond, famous for a man who fervently believed in Civil Disobedience?
17. Have you ever stood guard at a rap concert where so-called “offensive and assaultive and argumentative” language is current? Why do officers not arrest the rap stars for using such language in a public place? Are you aware that in Com. V. LePore (1996) 666 N.E.2d 152, 40 Mass. App. Ct 543, that “conduct must disturb through acts other than speech; neither a provocative nor a foul mouth transgresses statute”?
18. Is it not true that all I was doing was committing acts of SPEECH?
19. Is it true that I asked you on at least several occasions to read me my rights and that you refused to respond? Is it also true that on at least several occasions I asked you to tell me why you had stopped me and arrested me and that you refused to respond? Is not true that you barely said a word to me?
20. Is it true that I got out of your car and walked into your police station without any problems whatsoever?
21. Is it true that you finally read me my rights and told me what I was being charged with at the police station, a good half hour after the incident off route 2?
22. Is it true that you told me you would incarcerate me for 24 hours if I chose to remain silent, even though you had just informed me that I had a right to remain silent?
23. Is it true I obeyed you when you asked me to take off my sneakers and step into the jail cell?
24. Is it true that two video cameras face the cell in which I was locked up and that a sign informs that the area is being recorded?
25. Is it true that you refused the requests I made in front of the video cameras to make a phone call, to have toilet paper and a blanket, as I was cold from having just come out of the pond and an air conditioner was blasting cold air into the cells?
26. Is it true that another officer came into the cell area and used offensive and assaultive and confrontational language towards me in front of the video cameras?
27. Is it true that several hours later, when you asked me to step out of the cell, turn around so you could cuff me and follow you to your car that is precisely what I did?
28. Is it true that when we arrived at the courthouse, I obeyed your orders to get out of the car and enter the building?
29. Have you ever seen me in Concord handing out political flyers or have you talked with another officer about my activity?
30. Finally, are you aware that in U.S. v. Pasqualino, D. Mass., 1991, it was determined that it was unlawful to arrest under the disorderly conduct statute a person who, “yelling, screaming, swearing and generally causing a disturbance but, though the yelling was undoubtedly loud enough to attract the attention of others..., it did not rise to level of 'riotous commotion' or 'public nuisance'? Are you aware of other cases of jurisprudence that have helped define the statute? Your Honor, I will present several other cases during my testimony.
Redirect Examination (prosecutor crosses the officer only regarding to questions brought up during my cross)
If prosecutor asks other questions you have the right to re-cross examination limited to new issues evoked by prosecutor
Your Honor, I intend showing facts that will demonstrate I am not guilty of violating the state's disorderly conduct statute. Specifically, I will rely on my own testimony and research regarding the jurisprudence that has defined that statute in an effort to prove I did not violate that statute, and that the arresting officer never should have pursued me to begin with, never should have impounded my car, never should have placed me under arrest, and never should have incarcerated me.
My Testimony (don't read, but glance at notes)
First, because I can not justify paying the outrageous fees for legal representation, I must represent myself. If my presentation in any way upsets court etiquette, it is not by maliciousness or disrespect, but by simple inexperience.
Now, allow me to introduce myself. I am 51 years old, have never before been arrested, have no criminal record whatsoever, have no motor vehicle violations current or outstanding, have a doctorate from the Université de Nantes in France, spent over 14 years as a full-time college professor, and am a fervent believer in American First Principles. So fervent, in fact, that I created and edit a literary review, The American Dissident, essentially devoted to the subject. Moreover, I am a linguist by trade, and have published extensively on the subject in scholarly journals such as Geolinguistics and Language Problems and Language Planning. I am currently under much stress because I am experiencing much difficulty finding suitable employment. Although, I have been charged with Disorderly Conduct, I wish to underscore that by no means did I willfully violate that statute. Clearly, the absence of criminal record would seem to support that assertion. First, the seriousness of my alleged offense must be seriously questioned for several key reasons:
1. The park attendant is not even present today.
2. Walden Pond State Reservation has not even responded to my request made on Sept. 9th for information regarding use of language on its grounds. And even more disturbing, the park has not filed a complaint against me, nor has it banned me from its grounds, despite the officer's report that it was going to take action. I emphasize disturbing because I spent four hours in jail. I have here the letter of that request.
3. There is no mention of language in the two brochures, Massachusetts Forests and Parks and Walden Pond State Reservation, distributed to visitors. Indeed, the park attendant wished to show me the contrary. I have here the brochures that are handed to visitors. Moreover, there is no mention of language on the posted rules signs. The signs only mention: no pets, no flotation devices, no fires, and no alcohol. One must conclude that, at the state reservation, the use of language, no matter what kind, is much less significant than the items posted. Does using a flotation device constitute a criminal misdemeanor; if not, why mention less significant rules? Besides, aren't the fishermen using flotation devices, and why aren't they being pursued by the park attendant or state police?
4. Even more importantly, the Prosecutor was quite ready and willing to drop all charges if I paid court expenses of $100. Needless to say, I refused the prosecutor's offer because a certain number of issues need to be addressed, including the towing of my automobile, freedom of speech and police practices.
5. Finally, I tried in vain to file a complaint with the court bailiff here at the courthouse against a police officer present during my incarceration. My charge was that said officer had engaged in the very same linguistic usage, that is, “offensive and assaultive language,” that had landed me behind bars. The police officer confronted me when I was requesting my right to make a phone call, which by the way was never granted, and hollered: “YOU WOULDN'T EVEN BE IN HERE IF YOU HADN'T OPENED YOUR FUCKING TRAP!” His statement is recorded on the video camera placed by the cell I occupied.
The bailiff informed me he would not hold a hearing for my complaint because the officer did commit a crime. He also mentioned, to my surprise, that the officer had a right to free speech. Am I to assume that officers have greater rights to free speech than common citizens? In any case, these five reasons lead me to believe that my behavior was not a criminal offense. I would like to mention also that if the arresting officer had simply informed me that my car would be towed if I continued speaking, I would have shut my trap. Instead, the officer remained silent and refused to give me any information or answer any questions I posed. He did not even attempt to discharge what was essentially an instance of making something out of nothing. Any emphatic language subjectively deemed as offensive and assaultive was not used against the officer. I would not be so bold to do such a thing given what I've been reading in the newspapers more and more regarding police corruption. Indeed, I underscore I obeyed his every command.
His refusal to communicate simply exacerbated my anger. And I was angry by the fact that the officer had pursued and pulled me over for having had a simple non-violent dispute with a park attendant.
Clearly, there are two quite different physical areas where the alleged offense took place. The first occurred at Walden Pond State Reservation in front of a park attendant. No other citizens were present, which is why the necessity prerequisite for arrest under the statute was absent. Clearly, a simple argument does not constitute 'riotous commotion' or 'public nuisance.' I emphasize the officer never should have pursued me. It was illegal for him to do so.
The second area of alleged offense took place in a large open parking lot where the officer arrested me. Although the arresting officer states in his report that witnesses were “visibly upset,” apparently they were not sufficiently upset to depose complaints and come forward.
I am not aware of any people that were sufficiently close by and sufficiently interested in what was going on between myself and the officer. One elderly woman did however drive up in her car, but I was already in cuffs and in the squad car with the window rolled up. She talked with the officer, but nothing at all to do with me. Just small talk. No, contrary to the officer's statement, there were no “visibly upset” people. And if in fact there were they simply could have walked off to get on with their business. This was not a closed parking lot, but rather one in a wide open space. Besides, are people so weak-bellied today as to demand that those who might upset them be incarcerated in jails without blanket, mattress or toilet paper, as I was? Because of the absence of witnesses, it is my contention the officer fabricated this to create a case against me. In other words, he did have to justify his arrest.
In brief, then, an argument took place between myself and a park attendant in the total absence of witnesses. And no argument took place between myself and the arresting police officer. Indeed, I obeyed his every command and the officer does not mention any particular argument in his report. He does use the vague terms argumentative and confrontational. Yet I underscore I obeyed the officer's every command. Rather than argumentative and confrontational, which are not violations of the statute, I was inquisitive and compliant.
Freedom of Speech
Interestingly, with regards freedom of speech, any words I may have used were not obscene, nor offensive, nor assaultive, but rather emphatic, that is, used to emphasize points, not to assault or offend. Besides, such terms must inevitably be subjective. As far as I am aware there is no list of illegal words. In other words, obscene for me might not be obscene for somebody else. Subjectivity in the law always results in abuse of the law, and not necessarily by the citizenry.
If a citizen is to spend 4 hours in jail, as I was forced to do, for linguistic charges, such charges should be clearly defined and stipulated by the state, and disseminated to the public. I contend that the state has failed to do this at Walden Pond State Reservation. Since only the vague term “obscene language” is listed in Title 304 (Division of Forests and Parks), I'm left wondering whether “offensive and assaultive” language is not even prohibited. If it is, then I must ask offensive to whom? Assaultive to whom? My language was certainly not assaultive, but emphatic. There is an evident difference between the two terms “assaultive” and “emphatic.” I have yet to be informed of the precise words that offended and assaulted the park attendant. Thus it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to even defend myself regarding the principal area of alleged offense.
Moreover, any words I used are words quite current on television, in public schools, and all over America, including in the public domains of the White House and police stations. Moreover, jurisprudence has clearly defined the statute that mere use of language, obscene or whatever, does not constitute a crime. Allow me to evoke several of those cases, one of which goes back to 1850 and stands today.
1. Thus, in Com. V. Smith (1850) “it is no offense against the law to utter loud cries and exclamations in the public streets...”
2. In U.S. v. Pasqualino, D. Mass., 1991, 768 F Supp 13, it was determined that it was unlawful to arrest under the disorderly conduct law a man who was, “yelling, screaming, swearing and generally causing a disturbance but, though the yelling was undoubtedly loud enough to attract the attention of other guests in hotel, it did not rise to level of 'riotous commotion' or 'public nuisance.'” In the absence of the public, there can evidently be no “riotous commotion” or “public nuisance,” necessary prerequisites to legal arrests made under the statute.
3. In Com. V. LePore (1996) 666 N.E.2d 152, 40 Mass. App. Ct 543, “conduct must disturb through acts other than speech; neither a provocative nor a foul mouth transgresses statute.” Nothing in the officer's report indicates that I was doing anything but speaking. Also, a person is deemed disorderly if, “with purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm, or recklessly creating risk thereof... by act which serves no legitimate purpose of actor.” Again any language I used was used with purpose and I emphasize here POLITICAL free expression.
4. In Com v. Johnson (1994) Mass. App.Ct. 336, “mere use of obscenities in public does not make out crime of disorderly conduct.”
Next, I would like to underscore that my argument with the park attendant was a political argument. Indeed, I expressed my anger at the state, at the corruption I witnessed at Fitchburg State College, at the inaccessibility of public documents to the public, at the legalization of nepotism in 1986, rampant cronyism, patronage and corruption in other aspects of public business which I will not mention here. That was my argument, not really even with the park attendant. It was with the rules, the corruption of the rules. In Com. V. Jarrett (1971) , “mere making of statements or expression of views or opinions, no matter how unpopular, or views with which persons present do not agree is not punishable as disturbance of the peace.”
Finally, it is my contention that I was arbitrarily arrested because I suspect the arresting police officer, considering his age, was not ignorant of the law he has sworn to uphold. I must ask: Why the officer never once asked me to stop using whatever words he was allegedly offended and assaulted by? Well, because of the statute, I suppose that would have been illegal on his part. My only answer is that it was his intent to arrest me, guilty of wrongdoing or not. It was his intent to arrest me because of my unkempt appearance, unshaven face, use of strong language, expression of anger and political views, and general lack of docility and subservience.
In fact, last month, I was walking down Harrington Avenue right behind my home where I walk everyday. A squad car approached me and stopped me and asked me questions. The officers said that somebody complained that they did not like my appearance. They also said that further down the road an officer working over time at a private construction site had said that I turned around when I saw him and walked the other way. I was detained for thirty minutes and felt like a criminal as neighbor's passed wondering what I had done. In any event, the only thing the officer responded to was my question about Thoreau, and that response was: “I don't believe in civil disobedience.” Yet because of civil disobedience blacks in America are free today. Without it they would not be free. Clearly, he and I differ tremendously regarding political views. It is my assertion that the officer arrested me because of my politics, manner of speaking, and physical appearance.
“Irate and Confrontational,” “Argumentative/Irrational”
-Relative to the police report, “irate” is not an offense per se. Citizens are not arrested for expressing anger. Or are they? Well, I was. However, legally they should not be arrested in accord with the disorderly conduct statute and jurisprudence above mentioned. The very word should not be in the report because it is not an offense. Just like noting “unshaven” should not be in a report.
-The terms listed in the police report, for which I was arrested, “irate and confrontational, argumentative and irrational,” are all highly subjective terms, thus very much open to the unfortunate arbitrary and capricious determination of police officers. Nevertheless, they fall quite short of the necessary “riotous commotion' or 'public nuisance” mandated by U.S. v. Pasqualino, especially since the public was not even present. Again, where are the alleged “visibly upset” witnesses as stipulated in the police report? Does “confrontational, argumentative and irrational” mean asking four or five times why I was being arrested? Do the terms mean expressing anger for being arrested for having had a nonviolent argument with a public park attendant? Do they mean obeying every command of the police officer and not at all resisting arrest? Was that irrational behavior? Obeying and not resisting?
I have been informed by the ACLU that in 95% of cases, where there are no witnesses, judges side with the police because the police supposedly have no reason to lie. I'd thus like to remind the court of the recent spate of corruption and lying in the ranks of the nation's police officers, as highlighted in a number of newspaper articles. Need I mention the Boston Globe's spotlight series on police testilying, the disbanding of the entire police force in Spencer, Massachusetts, as well as the heinous behavior of police officers at the Suffolk County prison, and Los Angeles, where it is purported that 100s of arrests and convictions may have to be overturned.
Equality under the Law vs. Arbitrary and Capricious Police Harassment
Senator Ted Kennedy once stated: “Do we operate under a system of equal justice under law? Or is there one system for the average citizen and another for the high and mighty?” I'd like to add to that query: Or are there two systems for the average citizen, one for the respectable appearing and sounding, while the other for the nonconformist in demeanor and voice? Clearly, I was being treated differently by the arresting police officer, than he would have treated other citizens. He did not have to arrest me. He should not have arrested me. I was threat to nobody. My license and registration were in order. He should have talked with me and answered my questions, instead of remaining silent, impassive, aloof, and apathetic. Not once did he mention the Walden Pond incident. He didn't have to put those cuffs on so tightly that the circulation in my hands was arrested. He could have given me toilet paper, a blanket considering how wet I was from my swim, and one phone call when I was in jail. The officer did not like me which was why he decided to punish me by proxy with his silence, tight cuffs, incarceration, and impoundment of my car.
-Again, the officer did not like me because of my appearance, my untied sneakers, unshaven face, long hair, dripping wet teeshirt and bathing suit.
-The officer did not like me because of my level of education, as indicated by my discourse, questioning mind, mention of Thoreau, and use of a tape recorder to note my thoughts.
Regarding the taping, the officer stated that taping was a 5 yr. felony. Could that actually be true? I sure hope not. Besides, I was not taping the officer and told the officer I was not taping him. I am a writer and habitually use my recorder to record my thoughts. He asked me to stop. I stopped, but then resumed a few minutes later out of habit to tape the sequential events leading to my astonishing arrest, so that I would not forget them. He told me to stop again, and I stopped taping. He told me to hand over the recorder, and I handed over the recorder. Is that “irrational” behavior?
What the officer successfully did was further shatter my confidence in American democracy and definitely increase my FEAR, not respect, of the police force. I have virtually been in a state of emotional shock since my arrest and incarceration.
Infringement of Basic Citizen Rights
-I was kept in a cell with the impression that I would be spending 24 hours there, wet and cold without a blanket, without a mattress, cruel and unusual punishment, especially for a simple misdemeanor charge and for somebody who has absolutely no police record.
-I was refused the right to make one phone call. I assume now that right is only a myth propagated by television.
-I was refused the right to toilet paper. All of my requests should be recorded on the jail room video camera.
Finally, I love the freedoms given to us by the American Constitution. However, I detest and am wholly disgusted by how the system makes it so difficult for those freedoms to prevail. The System, police officers, etc., crush citizens into unchallenging and unquestioning automatons of obedience, yet democracy can only function if citizens are willing to question and challenge. The citizenry is purposefully kept ignorant and indifferent, regarding the most common and basic rights. Even the Chief Justice Commission of Massachusetts agrees regarding these things. “Negative perceptions stem not only from real problems but also from widespread lack of understanding about the justice system. Public attitude surveys reveal hostility, cynicism, and apathy towards the courts.”
No such basic rights document exists at the Concord Courthouse or town hall. Such rights are not taught in our public schools. Indeed, I still do not know what to do legally when a police officer pulls me over, especially in an unmarked car. A tow truck driver told me I have the right not to open my door and to demand that an official police car be present. I do not know if this is true. Because of my arrest I am no longer sure if I am permitted to argue with a public servant, park attendant or whomever. Despite, the jurisprudence mentioned, because of my arrest, I am not sure about the use of words and decibel levels that may or may not constitute “assaultive and confrontational” in the eyes of a police officer. I do not know legally if I have a right to be warm in a jail cell. I am truly left wondering today, if my only right as a citizen is the right to remain silent, as underscored by the police officer who hollered into my cell: “YOU WOULDN'T EVEN BE IN HERE IF YOU HAD KEPT YOUR FUCKING TRAP SHUT!”
Would it not be just if the court orders the state to repay the $95 towing charge with interest and compensation for the emotional damages incurred during my entire ordeal, as well as the many hours (15 hours) of research I've had to effect in an effort to try to uncover what rights citizens of the Commonwealth possess and prepare my case, which I underscore never even should have been a case.
Objection your honor, the officer is a witness not a lawyer or advocate. He's here to present evidence only not to practice law by arguing which evidence is more believable, or how this court should apply the law to the facts. Objection, Your Honor, no evidence was presented on that point. (If prosecutor introduces something else in closing statement) Summarize why you should be found not guilty (don't read it, less than 15 sentences)
Your Honor, I believe it's my right to make a brief final statement. I'll be well-organized and quick, but I do want to briefly explain why I'm not guilty. Allow me to quickly summarize the evidence. The officer's testimony failed to show that there were any “visibly upset” witnesses, without which there could not have possibly been “riotous commotion” or “public nuisance,” prerequisite points for the disorderly conduct statute to be violated. Furthermore, my own testimony shows that I did not use “offensive and assaultive language,” which does not even constitute a criminal offense. My language emphasized my anger. Moreover, I was not “argumentative and confrontational,” but rather inquisitive and quite compliant. For these reasons, Your Honor, there is certainly a reasonable doubt as to whether I committed any offense, and I therefore ask that you find me not guilty.
Prosecution's Rebuttal Statement (rare)
The Verdict -either announces his verdict or takes the case “under advisement” (notified by mail) -appeal must be made from 5 to 30 days after judge's verdict, visit court house once a week, ask if verdict -talk to the court clerk if you wish to request a fine reduction How to object. 1. Officer reading from notes before 'laying the proper evidentiary foundation' (he must first state he can't remember details; 2. He recorded them shortly after violation; 3. Needs them to refresh memory Objection, Your Honor. The witness is clearly reading from notes which are hearsay and should be excluded from the trial. If judge doesn't direct officer to let me read notes I may politely ask the judge Wait until judge asks you to return notes, object on hearsay, and request officer to testify on his independent recollection. 2. Judge coaches officer “Objection, your Honor, with all due respect, it appears as if the court is helping the officer to testify by asking leading questions. I again ask the court to instruct the witness to simply testify from memory or lay a proper foundation for use of this material. In closing argument, claim that officer has a poor memory for events and can not really contradict evidence that I present. 3. Assuming facts not in evidence. Object, your H, this testimony assumes facts the officer hasn't testified to. There is no evidence before this court as to h... I move his testimony not be considered. 4. Hearsay evidence (the officer did not personally observe) If prosecutor says, “and what did the park attendant tell you officer” “Objection, Your Honor, the question calls for hearsay.” If officer quickly answers. “Objection, Your Honor, that's hearsay which I move be eliminated from the record.” Prosecutor can subpoena witnesses People who unintentionally engage in illegal conduct may be morally innocent; this is known as making a "mistake of fact." Someone who breaks the law because he or she honestly misperceive reality lacks "mens rea" and should not be charged with or convicted of a crime. Under great personal stress, being 51 and unable to find employment. Questions for Selecting Jury Members 1. Any police officers in your family? 2. Are you close friends with any police officers? 3. Do you think officers ever lie when giving testimony? 4. Do you know what civil disobedience is or means? Do you believe in it? Do you believe in free speech? 5. Do you think that a person should be incarcerated for swearing in public even if the law says that swearing in public is not a criminal offense? 6. Do you think Senator John McCain should be jailed for criticizing members of Congress? 7. What is your education? Do you dislike educated people? 8. Have you ever been arrested?
If I should sell my forenoons and afternoons to society, neglecting my peculiar calling, there would be nothing left worth living for. I trust that I shall never thus sell my birthright for a mess of pottage…
—Henry David Thoreau, A Writer's Journal
As a resident of Concord, Massachusetts, I suppose I am somewhat of a modern-day Thoreau, quite different from the neighbors and residents. No, I am not that actor playing Thoreau at comfy Thoreau Society get-togethers. Well, Thoreau was not an actor either. “Cold and hunger seem more friendly to my nature than those methods which men have adopted and advise to ward them off,” he'd written. “If it were not that I desire to do something here,—accomplish some work,—I should certainly prefer to suffer and die rather than be at the pains to get a living by the modes men propose.”
Like Thoreau, I walk a lot, while others grind away at 9 to 5s-I'm unemployed, essentially blacklisted because I blew the whistle on corruption, though in vain, at one of the state colleges. Like Thoreau, I'm well educated, though didn't attend Harvard. My doctorate from the Université de Nantes in France, though, has gotten me nowhere but in trouble. And like Thoreau, I also spent a few hours in a Concord jail cell, though in the morning and afternoon, not overnight, and not for tax evasion. I was arrested for uttering the word FUCK in the context of the state, as in “Fuck Massachusetts and Fuck its system of cronies and patronage!” during a nonviolent dispute with a park attendant at Walden Pond State Reservation. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, my exclamation was not a violation of the state's disorderly conduct statute for which I was cuffed, booked, and incarcerated.
I suppose members of the Thoreau Society would not wish to consider me a modern-day Thoreau because, well, I am not a member of their, or anybody else's, literary circle and especially because I protested one fine afternoon against the Society during its 150th Anniversary “Civil Disobedience” celebration held in front of the First Parish Church and the grandson of Gandhi. My protest was simple enough: THOREAU WAS AN ACTIVIST, NOT A SOCIETY, NOR SHOP. The C-SPAN cameraman did not like that placard when placed between his camera and Mahatma, junior. The Thoreau Society had managed to implant a tasteless souvenir shop at Walden Pond.
Like Thoreau, I too have written and published protest essays on injustice and distributed pamphlets as a pamphleteer. On that rare occasion when I succeed in making the editor of the Concord Journal comprehend that his newspaper tends to quell the voice of dissidence, a few of those essays have appeared there. I am also a weekly columnist for Maincampus.com. My column, “Blacklisted Professor,” is generally a remonstration against rampant corruption in academe.
My thoughts on Concord would probably be quite incomprehensible for most Concordians, as I suppose the thoughts of Thoreau and Emerson were during their time. I suppose I differ from those neighbors because I not only believe in the writings of those writers, but also try to put them into practice. Like Thoreau, I too am quite alienated from my fellow Concordians, who seem to be quite preoccupied with their shiny SUVs, remodeling of their mansions, black tie chuckle parties, book signings by well known safe writers and poet laureates, Thoreau Society get-togethers, and children's soccer games. It is a pity that many of them are so proud of Thoreau and Emerson, yet so unwilling to take that giant step of true comprehension and live Thoreau and Emerson. How easy and safe it is to simply join the Thoreau Society and look at Thoreau and Emerson through the display case in the public library. If anything, Thoreau Society members and citizens of Concord insult Emerson and Thoreau with their very adulation. Neither of those two writers would have wanted adulation, but rather true comprehension.
Finally, my realization today, while walking, thudding upon the snow covered path around the famous pond, gazing out at the three or four ice fishermen dispersed upon the center of the ice cap, is that the true center of Concord, perhaps representative of America's true center, is not Walden Pond, nor the town's Main Street where the bookstore, and children's luxury clothing and cappuccino boutiques, but rather that silent monstrosity where Route 2 files into the great, chaotic rotary to announce the great Middlesex Correctional Institution with its massive concrete walls and machine-gun turrets.
This is the center, where the daily influx of prisoners, and in and out flow of weightlifting guards. It is the Concord that does not even exist for most Concordians, yet its grounds are certainly more impressive than Main Street's boutiques. It is the shame and silence of Concord. It is the living testimony of the failure of the state, of the failure of capitalism and, most of all, of the failure of public education. You will not find mention of the prison in the Chamber of Commerce brochures, diverse pamphlets distributed by the many Concord realtors, nor in those distributed by Walden Pond State Reservation. The core of Concord is that prison, as well as the eternal indifference of Concordians to the nation's first principles, founding fathers and, of course, the real Thoreau and Emerson.
For some interesting articles about speech concerns, see free-speech articles and the First Amendment Center.