All Laws are Backed by the Threat of Death

When somebody says, “There ought to be a law.” you should ask if they really want people to die for breaking that law. The fact that all laws are backed with the implicit threat of death is best illustrated by the recent rash of shootings committed by officers. Many of these shootings start because officers initiated contact over a petty offense:

There is still no comprehensive study to determine just how many cities pay their bills by indenturing the poor, but it is probably no coincidence that when you examine the recent rash of police killings, you find that the offenses they were initially stopped for were preposterously minor. Bland’s lane change signal, DuBose’s missing plate. Walter Scott had that busted taillight—which, we all later learned, is not even a crime in South Carolina. Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes. When Darren Wilson was called to look into a robbery, the reason he initially stopped Michael Brown was for walking in the street—in Ferguson, an illegal act according to Section 44-344 of the local code. Between 2011 and 2013, 95 percent of the perpetrators of this atrocity were African American, meaning that “walking while black” is not a punch line. It is a crime.

Failing to signal before a turn, having a nonfunctional taillight, and walking in the street should not be punishable by death. But when those acts are declared law they automatically elevate from minor nuisances to execution worthy acts. The Mother Jones article explains how turning police officers into revenue generators has exacerbated the problem of officer related violence. However, there is a more fundamental issue at hand. Interactions with police officers are never voluntary. One side, the officer, wields all of the power while the other side, the suspect, has no power whatsoever.

When a police officer turns on their attention whore lights you must get out of their way. If they’re turning on the lights because they’ve targeted you then you must pull over and, if you’re smart, place your hands on the top of the steering wheel. During the encounter you cannot drive away until you’re given permission to do so. You also cannot legally defend yourself in most cases if the officer escalates the situation to violence. If you fail to pull over, drive away, or defend yourself it is considered a crime and more men with guns will be sent to hunt you down. In other words, voluntarily disassociating with an officer who isn’t to your liking is a possible death sentence. Under such circumstances the officer has no motivation to treat you decently.