Last year, when I was visiting Michigan, I stopped on over at an antiwar protest they were having at the corner of Woodward and 9 Mile Road. They have a protest there every week, it turns out.
Well, things have heated up over there recently, since the Ferndale, Michigan police arrested a peaceful antiwar protester for doing nothing more than carrying a sign that mocked them. It read “Ferndale Cops Say: Donâ€™t Honk if You Want Bush Out”.
Here’s the story: Victor Kittila had a longstanding practice of coming to the protest with a sign that read “Honk if You Want Bush Out”. Well, so many people were passing by that wanted Bush out of office that the honking got to be sort of loud, so then the Ferndale Police Asked Kittila not to carry the sign any more.
Kittila, in his puckish way, decided to turn the censorship attempt by the Ferndale Police on its ear, and so began carrying a sign reading “Ferndale Cops Say: Donâ€™t Honk if You Want Bush Out”. That sign was in accordance with the Ferndale Police’s request, but it made the Ferndale Police Department look foolish. Police don’t like to look like fools.
The Ferndale Police didn’t crack down on Victor Kittila’s dissent at the next protest. Instead, the police waited until Kittila went for a walk with his family and friends to get some ice cream. They grabbed him off the sidewalk in front of his wife and 13 year-old daughter and arrested him for doing nothing more than carrying a protest sign. The police threatened to use a stun gun against Kittila.
The Ferndale Police say that it’s a crime against Michigan state law to use a car horn for anything but ensure the proper functioning of traffic. Well, if that’s so, then it’s the drivers down Woodward Avenue who are breaking the law, not Kittila. Besides, I know from personal experience that every year there’s a big parade of people driving their cars up and down Woodward Avenue. They call it cruising, and the drivers honk their horns an awful lot. Yet, I’ve never seen anyone get arrested at that time.
Besides, Victor Kittila was clearly carrying a sign informing drivers that the police had told them to stop honking their horns as a sign of protest against the war. What’s against the law about that? Is it against the law to inform people when the police try to engage in political censorship?
It’s now being reported by the Lansing State Journal that the Ferndale Police are claiming that antiwar protesters’ signs “disturbed drivers”. Well, so what? In America, it is not a crime to disturb people. When I drive down a road and see gaudy billboards, I’m disturbed by that, but that doesn’t mean that it’s illegal to put up billboards. In a country where there is freedom of speech, citizens have to learn to put up with being disturbed by what other people say. The Ferndale Police Department doesn’t seem to understand that.
As the people over at Imprison Bush have pointed out, George W. Bush has committed a whole bunch of crimes much more serious than anything Victor Kittila is accused of. Bush has sponsored torture. He’s held people prisoner without criminal charge or a recognition of habeas corpus rights. He’s had people kidnapped and transported across international borders. He’s started an illegal war. He’s used public money to fund illegal propaganda and to bribe journalists. He’s started a huge number of programs to spy against the American people in order to intimidate political dissent.
George W. Bush hasn’t been arrested. He hasn’t had to answer a single question under oath. Bush hasn’t even been investigated.
Victor Kittila has been arrested. He’s been accused of a crime. His wife had to pay $500 to get him out of jail. All because he carried a sign protesting against Bush’s crimes.
There’s an upside to this story. This week, in response to the arrest of Victor Kittila, hundreds of people gathered with Kittila at the corner of Woodward and 9 Mile Road to protest against Bush, to protest against the war, and to protest against Kittila’s arrest.
Was it loud? Oh, yes, it was loud. Cars were heard honking their horns from a mile away.