Monday, February 04, 2008

Stripped Safe

Once upon a time, in Stark County, Ohio, a woman was assaulted by a family member, and was injured badly enough that her cousin called 911 for help. Help arrived. The police officer mistook the victim for the perpetrator, slammed her around a bit, and hauled her away to jail. For some mysterious reason, the patrol car video camera was not turned on during this arrest. The injured assault victim was then taken to a jail cell, where she was held down, at one point, by no less than seven individuals, who forcibly removed every shred of her clothing. They then left her naked in a jail cell for the next six hours. She was not allowed to use the telephone. She was not treated for the injuries which had prompted her cousin to call for help on her behalf in the first place.

It's not a surprise that it is against policy for a male deputy to strip search a female in custody, and in this case, men were not only present, but clearly participated in the removal of the woman's clothing. That seven individuals were simultaneously involved in the stripping of this 125 pound woman seem to suggest a certain eagerness on the part of those engaged in forcibly separating the woman from her clothes. I believe the quote from the Sherrif's office characterizing the incident was: "by the book." They simply declared that what had occurred was not, in fact, a strip search. It was something else, and that made it A-OK.

Alright, I find myself horrified by the footage, which the victim and her husband released, and now resides on YouTube. (See the C&L post with video, and also this.) I keep asking myself why I'm so horrified, given that our government does things in the name of security that horrify me daily.

I might be horrified because this incident seems to trace back to a taser happy police force that has killed nearly 300 people, 5 people last month alone. And, I suppose the tasing tide can be described as a predictable outcome in a society that allows a powerful politician who had been consuming alcohol to shoot someone in the face at dusk, wait until the next day before allowing the police to question him, later having the victim who was shot in the face and subsequently had a heart attack apologize publicly.
Gunshot wound at dusk
Smell of beer and wife not his
Fresh blood spills to earth
This, I think, is what happens when a society allows a man who tortured animals as a child and delights in sentencing people to death as an adult, to control the world's largest standing army. I do see a link between the war and occupation in Iraq and the way in which the woman in this case was "handled" by the Sherrif's Department.

That could be the reason I am so horrified, but I don't think it is. I think I am horrified because this case is so highly symbolic to me. When I watch what occurred on video, I feel this woman has been violated. And I feel that I have been violated. In fact, I have been violated. We all have been. By the present administration. Our rights and protections have been stripped away from us as this woman's clothes have been stripped from her, though I will argue with much less complaint; we gave up our rights and protections rather a bit more quietly.

The very people whom we count on to protect us did this to us, after we had been assaulted and were vulnerable--after 9/11. They have been stripping away our Individual rights; our right to Due Process; our First Amendment freedoms: Speech, the Press, Religion, Assembly and Association; our Fourth Amendment right to protection from illegal Search and Seizure; and our Sixth Amendment right to Counsel. And they took away these rights and protections, and continue to do so, "to keep us safe."

Guess what? That's the same argument the Sherrif's Office used to explain why they forcibly stripped the assault victim held in custody. Unable to call it a "strip search" because of the man hands involved, they said it wasn't a strip search. They said it was, "for her own safety." They did it to "protect her."

So the people who were supposed to protect her when she was hurt, turned on her, stripped her bare, and left her naked in a jail cell for her own safety.

That may be the reason I am so horrified. Because here, in the twilight of Democracy, that is what I feel the Bush administration is doing to us all.

Torn Liberty, originally uploaded by Mr. Guybrarian.

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