*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
One of the things delineating a police state, martial law and brutal dictatorships from a free society is the concept of due process. Due process is that part of a nation’s laws that requires it to respect all legal rights owed to a person; whether they are a citizen or not. The concept behind due process is protecting citizens from government harm without following the exact course of the law. In America, both the Fifth, Fourth and 14th Amendments contain due process protections and it is fundamentally what prevents the government and all its related agencies from summarily judging, imprisoning and executing citizens without benefit of the law.
For several years there were murmurings among conspiracy theorists warning that it would not be too long before the United States’ government would begin using weaponized drones to kill American citizens if they were “suspected” of committing a crime. The complaint was not that criminal activity was being addressed, not at all, but that the government would violate American citizens’ due process rights and unilaterally become judge, jury, and executioner in one quick act; not unlike many victims of police shootings that have made the news over the past few years.
After Thursday, the so-called conspiracy nuts warning the government would use weaponized drones to summarily execute American citizens without due process deserve an apology from many, many Americans. In what is an odd turn of events, the Dallas Army Veteran alleged to have ambushed police officers in retaliation for due process violations committed by police executing African Americans was summarily executed with a weaponized drone on American soil; a violation of due process laws.
No-one knows if the shooter would have ended the standoff by surrendering, going out in a hail of gunfire, or taking his own life because a decision was made to execute him with a weaponized drone without an arrest, charges of murder, or a trial by his peers. Now, many people will say it was a fluid situation that could only have one outcome, but Dallas police made sure no-one will, or can possibly ever know. It is true that the shooter was still armed and dangerous, but he was duly surrounded by law enforcement, outgunned, and holed-up with no possible path of egress; it was by any definition a “standoff” that ended with a weaponized drone executing an alleged “suspect.”
Now of course many Americans will say the police had no alternative but to end the standoff by executing the ‘alleged’ shooter, but if that is the case it is unique in recent times. Law enforcement is often able to end a standoff with armed ‘suspects’ peaceably and there are at least three very high-profile cases that prove the point.
For example, in November 2015 a white gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic where he killed one police officer and two civilians, and injured five other police officers and four civilians. After the shooter ‘holed-up’ in a safe place, a subsequent standoff lasted five hours because like the suspected shooter in Dallas, the Planned Parenthood suspect “would not cooperate” with police negotiators and surrender peacefully. The unwillingness to cooperate with police led law enforcement to deploy armored vehicles to prompt the attacker to finally end the standoff instead of summarily executing him. The white man was arrested, charged with murder, and is waiting to face his day in court. The confessed murderer received his Constitutional “due process” rights according to America’s rule of law instead of being tried, judged and executed by law enforcement with a weaponized drone; most likely because the shooter is a white man who killed one officer and Planned Parenthood employees.
In 2015, a white Confederate seeking to spark a ‘race war’ brutally carried out his plan and slaughtered nine African Americans in their place of worship. Instead of summarily executing the admitted white supremacist when they had him cornered, law enforcement officials were able to arrest and charge him with nine counts of murder. The confessed killer is awaiting trial. Dylan Roof was afforded his Constitutional due process right(s) despite being armed and dangerous and one cannot help but surmise it is because he is white and murdered African Americans.
In 2014, a heavily armed militia group lead by Nevada Mormon Cliven Bundy trained their firearms, including sniper rifles, on state, county, and federal law enforcement officials in another armed standoff that exposed law enforcement’s ability to exercise patience, restraint and negotiation skills; they eventually allowed the seditious group to “go in peace” and escape charges, arrest or a trial.
A similar incident occurred about a year later with similar results, and except for a Bundy group member being killed drawing his sidearm on police officers, all of the group were peacefully arrested, charged, and are awaiting trial. Law enforcement officials did not execute the seditious group, either at the federal facility they commandeered and occupied in a lengthy standoff or as they were attempting to flee. Besides the Bundy clan being praised by Republican politicians and conservative personalities for being real American patriots and heroes, the Bundy clan certainly received their Constitutional “due process rights” and much more that is not protected by the Constitution; because they are white.
In one sense, it seems apropos that law enforcement would deny the Army Veteran his due process rights simply because he was African American. It is, after all, seemingly normal for African Americans, no matter their age, to be summarily executed without the benefit of due process rights; in most of the recent cases there was no criminal activity involved and there were certainly no weaponized drones utilized.
It is true that no-one ever wants law enforcement officers to be harmed, particularly those of us who have several family members sworn to protect and serve, but in the Dallas case, like the Bundy and Planned Parenthood standoff, police could have let the standoff play out and wait for a different outcome that would have allowed the “process” to work as conceived. The police certainly had the upper hand and by all accounts they enjoyed every tactical advantage imaginable.
The tragedy of the Dallas horror is that no-one will ever know exactly what may have transpired if law enforcement had exercised the same restraint as those in Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina and Colorado. All were incidents that allowed the ‘alleged’ suspects to realize their constitutionally-guaranteed due process rights. What is troubling, besides summarily executing an “alleged” shooter, is that the Dallas police department, hailed as progressive, made use of a weaponized drone to kill an American citizen on American soil; that is not the kind of progress that instills confidence that America’s due process laws will last much longer.
Although it is not the first time an African American was denied their due process rights, it is the first time conspiracy theorists were absolutely right in warning that eventually the government would use drones to kill Americans on American soil without the benefit of due process. That fact should terrify Americans as much as not being afforded due process rights. As noted above, the only thing separating a tyrannical police state from a free society is due process protections, and losing it is something that too many African Americans, including innocent young African Americans, have already experienced firsthand.