The TSA response to We Won’t Fly is: no, you sure won’t - you’ll be dragged out in handcuffs.
(Posted by Bryana Joy on November 5th, 2011)
Physician and novelist T.P. Alexanders wrote two weeks ago about her attempt to recite the Constitution during a TSA inspection at the International Airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. In fact, even Mrs. Alexanders, who was apparently expecting some kind of kerfuffle, was stunned by the resulting conflict.
Alexanders had planned ahead of time to fire off the Fourth Amendment when asked to undergo the TSA x-ray scanning process before being allowed to board the plane. It would seem that she felt the Constitution wasn’t being properly respected and hoped to draw attention to some key clauses in the Bill of Rights. Over at her website, she tells her story enthusiastically and eloquently:
When it is my turn, I decline to go through the monitor that scans under your clothes, as I always do. The TSA agent starts his spiel about how safe it is. I've done my research. His statements are questionable, but that is not why I am doing this. I start my own spiel.
"The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution reads: 'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, an particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.' "
I'm speaking loud and clear so those around me can hear. Before I get to "unreasonable search" a man in an ill-fitting suit and a tie marches up to me. He tells me I was disrupting his operation. I have no idea what his position is. He stands in front of the metal detector--the first place they usually screen me. He tells me I am holding up the line. I drop my voice and tell him to go ahead and screen me. I'll take the pat down. But that's not what he wants. He wants me to shut up. I continue reading the Fourth Amendment.
After being harassed multiple times by the official in question, Alexanders begins to recite the First Amendment:
I say as loudly and clearly as I can, "I am being told I cannot fly for reading you the Fourth Amendment."
He says, "If you keep this up I'll call the police."
I say as loud as I can, "You are going to arrest me for reading the Constitution?"
"You are disrupting the screening process, and yes we will arrest you."
Again, I say I will be screened but not by the machine. They make no effort to walk me through the metal detector or find a female officer to frisk me. He tries again to walk me out of the area. I stand my ground and read the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances."
She is interrupted by the arrival of the police, and led away in handcuffs, while being repeatedly told that she is “not under arrest.” Later she learns that she has been “arrested for disorderly conduct,” although she maintains that she was never informed of this.
I hear [the policeman] in the adjoining room tell someone, "We arrested her for disorderly conduct."
I yell, "That is the first time I've heard a charge." I do not add that there have been no Miranda rights or "You're under arrest." statement. In fact, they kept insisting while I was being marched through ticketing I was not under arrest--just cuffed and brutalized.
I highly recommend that you go ahead and read the full story. It’s lengthy, but it’s worth it.
At one point in her account of the conflict, Alexanders writes,
If I can't turn to a fellow citizen and say, “Hey, the TSA isn't obeying the Constitution. They're acting like this is a totalitarian state. What do you think?,” then it's because I live in a totalitarian state. I have acted on the side of democracy, so I can look the next generation in the face and say, “At least I tried.”
And this, I think, is the most crucial issue raised by the shocking confrontation that she writes of: if we are not free to suggest that we are not free, then we are not free. A state which truly respects liberty is willing to allow its citizens to claim that it does not respect liberty. That’s freedom of speech.
From what we are able to know, none of the other potential passengers who witnessed the arrest took action to support or encourage this woman. And folks, let’s be real – we shouldn’t expect them to have done so. Most people who are in line to board a plane just want to get on with their lives and their chaotic schedules, and in the event that they happen to witness someone else getting in trouble with law enforcement officials, few strangers are going to venture to oppose the uniforms.
Is this ethical? Probably not. But what I personally find most disturbing is that other passengers told Alexanders to “shut up” and that one internet personality, “Wendy,” who claims to have been present on the scene, left an embittered and profanity-laced comment on Alexanders’ personal website concerning the incident. The commenter wrote, among other things:
I am in awe after reading this. I am curious as to what inspired such a half-a**ed ignorant display of complete f********** as this. You seem to have a vague idea of what the constitution is and what it means. However, the next time before you waste a lot of other people’s time and harass good people who are just trying to do their jobs, I strongly suggest you take a good long look at the situation you intend on “protesting” in such a melodramatic way.
I would politely disagree with this critic, although she has refused to be polite, and posit that while she may not wish to be directly involved in such a clash with authorities, surely she need not respond so venomously to others who have displayed more guts. Even the most cowardly can offer silent respect for courageous people who show themselves willing to stand for justice and the rule of law.
If you’re not reading this in complete agreement, or if you harbor any doubts about the legitimacy of Alexanders’ claims, I request that you do a quick internet search for “TSA” and click on the “images” tab at the top of the page. You’ll be directed to pages of nude TSA scan images. Hopefully you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to respond to “Wendy” with the suggestion that she take a “good, long look at the situation.”
However, if, after thoroughly digging through these images, you remain unconvinced, I would further request that you do some comprehensive research regarding the “TSA pat-downs.” And no, I don’t mean reading the official TSA statement at tsa.gov. I mean really educating yourself by taking the time to listen to and read the accounts of the outraged victims of this invasive procedure.
The High Tide Journal can dig up stories, share insights, and ask questions, but, in the end, it is as the philosopher Blaise Pascal said:
People are usually more convinced by reasons they discover themselves than by those found by others.
This is why we want you to research, you to explore, you to educate yourself.
Alexanders closes with a compelling statement, and a dangling question that should live on in our minds:
I wonder, briefly, what Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson would say, if they knew it was a sign of terrorism to recite the Bill of Rights.
Think about it.
And do the truth a favor by tweeting/sharing/reposting. Also, hop on over to Alexanders’ website and leave her an encouraging and supportive comment, letting her know that you understand her outrage – or at least respect her stand.