Ted Cruz on Ferguson: Reporters should never be detained for doing their jobs

A terse statement with an important implied acknowledgment, namely, that those two reporters really were detained for no reason better than that they were doing their jobs. And if you doubt that, watch the clip below of how the cops treated a camera crew from Al Jazeera America. The crew isn’t interfering with anyone; their apparent crime is recording police activity at a moment when the police don’t want evidence preserved of how they’re behaving. Result: A faceful of tear gas for reporters and their lighting equipment dismantled.

And yet some voters would defend even this, which is why Cruz’s statement is so gently and carefully worded.

Together, we should all mourn the loss of life in Ferguson, Missouri and work to keep our communities safe and free. Police officers risk their lives every day to keep us safe, and any time a young man loses his life in a confrontation with law enforcement, it is tragic.

All of our prayers are with the citizens of Ferguson, that the violence will subside and peace will be restored. Reporters should never be detained — a free press is too important — simply for doing their jobs. Civil liberties must be protected, but violence is not the answer. Once the unrest is brought to an end, we should examine carefully what happened to ensure that justice is served.

Where’s Rand Paul in all this? His office said this morning that he’d weigh in today but he missed an obvious chance to jump out in front of it. He’s spent the last year trying to sell black voters on the virtues of libertarianism and now he’s got a jackpot example of government gone too far — police crackdowns, media suppression, and a federal government that’s disengaged now after shoveling endless federal dollars at local PDs to arm up. He might not win any votes for having spoken up sooner, but then I’ve never thought the point of Rand’s outreach to blacks was to win votes; it’s to inoculate him later from the inevitable attacks that he’s some sort of neo-confederate for questioning the 1964 Civil Rights Act and working for his dad after those racist newsletters were published. Showing up in Ferguson yesterday or the day before, if only to cool both sides down by bringing a hot political spotlight to what’s happening, would have helped with that. But maybe Paul too thinks he can only go so far in criticizing the cops before it starts to bite him in a Republican primary. Dave Weigel’s right that the consensus conservative view on all this is momentarily uncertain.

I’ll leave you with this, from Kevin Williamson, since Paul’s unlikely to say it himself:

The behavior of the Ferguson and St. Louis County police in this matter is illuminating. They are ridiculously militarized suburban police dressed up like characters from Starship Troopers and pointing rifles at people from atop armored vehicles, i.e. the worst sort of mall ninjas. They are arresting people for making videos of them at work in public places, which people are legally entitled to do, a habit they share with many other police departments. Protecting life, liberty, and property — which is the job of the police — does not require scooping people up for making phone videos; in fact, it requires not scooping people up for making phone videos.

These confrontations are a reminder of the eternal question: Who? Whom? Who is to protect and serve whom here? Is government our servant or our master?

A police department habitually conducting its business in secrecy and arresting people for documenting its public actions is more of a threat to liberty and property than those nine looters are.

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