Hope and Change: Police pull over man for anti-Obama sign
posted at 12:51 pm on February 19, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
In the good old days of America, one could express dissent without fear of arrest. In the fascistic regime of George Bush, though, having a bumper sticker that expressed opposition meant getting pulled over by the police and having the Secret Service search your house for signs of “hate”. Thank goodness the Thought Police days are over!
What’s that? That didn’t happen during the Bush administration? Actually, it happened last week:
Chip Harrison said he was driving to work when a police car followed him for several miles and then signaled for him to pull over.
”I pulled over, knowing I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Harrison said in a recent phone interview.
When the officer asked Harrison if he knew why he had been pulled over, Harrison said he did not.
”They said, ‘It’s because of the sign in your window,'” Harrison said.
”It’s not meant to be a threat, it’s a statement about abortion,” Harrison said.
What did the sign say? “Abort Obama, not the unborn.” The police officer took that as a threat of assassination instead of its obvious meaning, which was opposition to abortion and to Obama’s support for it. The report filed by the police officer prompted their Internal Investigations group to apologize and offer to return the sign. They told Harrison that they informed the Secret Service that no threat was involved, but that didn’t cut much ice with the Treasury. They sent a pair of agents to ask for a voluntary search of the premises and an interview to make sure Harrison didn’t belong to any hate groups.
What’s next — a Fairness Doctrine for bumper stickers?
Captain Steve McCool of the Oklahoma City PD agrees now that the actions violated Harrison’s First Amendment right to free political speech, but that it was “made right” in the end by returning his sign. Unfortunately, that’s not so. The OCPD made it clear that expressions of dissent, even an obviously political one in which Harrison engaged, will be closely scrutinized to see that it passes muster with law enforcement. For that matter, the Secret Service did the same by “requesting” that Harrison account for his thought processes for publishing his critique of Obama’s policies on abortion. That does damage to the First Amendment to everyone, not just Harrison.
So much for Hope and Change.
Update: Well, the Secret Service in fact did interrogate a man for his anti-Bush bumper stickers, in August 2001:
The Secret Service has questioned a middle Georgia man whose bumper stickers say “hell with Bush” and call the president a “two-faced murderer.”
And it’s not the first time 58-year-old Jesse Ethredge’s opinion of the commander in chief has landed him in trouble with authorities.
Ethredge’s truck features a cartoon child urinating on the word “Republicans.” The bumper stickers read: “Don’t U blame me,” “Thief, Liar, Two Faced Murderer Geo W. Bush” and “Hell with Bush and all damn Republicans.”
The Secret Service paid him a visit last week, asking what the stickers meant.
This one in 2004 seems more like a threat, though:
A 19-year-old man was paid a visit by two Secret Service agents after neighbors complained about an anti-President Bush sticker on his car.
The black-and-white, postcard-sized paper printed off a Web site and taped on Derek Kjar’s car had a cartoonish depiction of Bush’s head wearing a crown, with the words “King George — off with his head.”
“Off with his head” is a rather blatant call for decapitation, something much different than “Abort Obama”. Another incident, in which a person got a ticket for an allegedly obscene bumper sticker, did not result in a Secret Service visit, detention, or interrogation, and so is not applicable.