A Rather Tenuous Grasp

File this one under yet another failure of supposed elites who turn out to know very little about the subjects they’re “professional experts” in.

St. Louis Police Claim It’s Their ‘First Amendment’ Rights Not To Protect Football Players Who Supported Protestors

Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Tue, Dec 2nd 2014 9:33am

It’s been pretty obvious that law enforcement in the St. Louis area has a rather tenuous grasp on the concept of the First Amendment. Obviously, they’ve done a fairly terrible job recognizing the right to “peaceably assemble” for quite some time, even having a court declare its “5 second rule” approach unconstitutional. They’ve also ignored the freedom of the press by repeatedly arresting journalists. And, remember, the local prosecutor has claimed that it was really all those people speaking out on social media who were to blame.

But it appears that the misunderstanding of the First Amendment has been taken to new, and even more ridiculous levels, following a brief show of support for the protestors by some players for the St. Louis Rams (the local NFL football franchise for you non-sportsball people). The Rams’ wide receivers decided to all put their hands up — the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture — in support of Michael Brown and the protestors. It’s a small, but meaningful gesture, showing they supported the protestors. And it shouldn’t have been taken as anything more than that.

Instead, the St. Louis County police decided to respond… by suggesting that, because of this, the police would no longer protect the Rams.

As many have noted, this certainly sounds like Roorda saying that it’s the police’s “First Amendment” rights to look the other way should any threats come to the team or the stadium.

Of course, that’s not how the First Amendment actually works. It’s quite the opposite. As Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post points out, the reality is exactly the opposite. The First Amendment protects the public from government officials (including the police) from taking actions based on expression of members of the public. If anything, Roorda’s implied threat violates the First Amendment, suggesting that the government will punish people for their expression.

Of course, the First Amendment now also protects the press digging into Jeff Roorda’s own background and reporting what they find. Like the time he was reprimanded for trying “to ‘cover’ for another police officer filing a report that contained false statements.” Or how he’s against body cameras because they “sometimes don’t reflect exactly what happened” and saying that “cameras have been bad for law enforcement” because “it causes second guessing by the courts and the media.” Roorda has also defended an officer who a surveillance video showed was assaulting a handcuffed suspect, claiming the officer was “only defending himself” and saying he was doing “as he’s trained to do.”

In fact, we actually wrote about that last story and posted the video.

As we noted at the time, Roorda then lied about what’s in the video. Roorda claimed that the officer was crouched down and the suspect started moving forward at him. But the video shows no such thing. Roorda further claimed that such videos should only be used when it helps the police view of things.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis County Police still seem to think that their First Amendment rights include pretending that the Rams apologized to them when they did not.

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