A Pod Responds to Michael Graham
On May 5th, Michael Graham at The Federalist wondered if conservatives who failed to defend Freddie Gray had been replaced with progressive pod people. What happened to Gray was, in Graham’s view, an affront not only to the letter of the Constitution but also the original intent of America’s founders. Since conservatives present themselves as champions of the Constitution, they ought to also be champions of Freddie Gray, whose rights were violated by the police.
Graham claims that the Baltimore police chased Gray because he “looked at them.” In fact, Gray made eye contact with them and then decided to take off running in the opposite direction. It isn’t easy for any of us who aren’t police officers to put ourselves in their position, but if we try, we might understand why this would be grounds for detainment. I can certainly see it. Graham also believes that the weapon Gray was in possession of was legal. It was – under Maryland law (maybe). It was not legal under the Baltimore city code. If the weapon was in fact illegal, the arrest was perfectly legal. Even if the weapon was legal, if the police acted in good faith believing it was illegal, the arrest may still be legal.
Graham is incredulous that conservatives would defend the government. I would characterize my position as giving the police the benefit of the doubt until the facts are in.
One of the section headings of Graham’s piece reads “The Police Can’t Just Grab You.” Contrary to the repeated strawman assumption throughout the piece, no one denies that Freddie Gray had rights. But no one has immunity from detainment and arrest. Freddie Gray had the right to an attorney and to a fair trial. He didn’t have a right to run from the police without expecting to be detained.
It is an unfortunate truth of our time that any attempt to place responsibility for bad things that happen to a person on that person is characterized as “blaming the victim.” Whether Gray was a victim remains to be seen, and it seems doubtful. He ran from the police and, by some accounts, violently thrashed around in a fit of rage while detained. No one made him do that. I don’t know the extent to which he was in control of his behavior throughout the ordeal, and perhaps officers ought to be armed with tranquilizers instead of tasers in the future. But there is little doubt that Gray’s behavior contributed to his death.