When the Charleston City Police Department warned recently that alcohol was forbidden from any tailgating activities prior to the Dave Matthews Band concert on the Fourth of July at The Joe, many fans were not happy and justifiably so. Enjoying a cold beer is as all-American as grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. In fact, having the freedom to raise a bottle in celebration of our country’s most patriotic holiday is something both admirers and drinkers of Samuel Adams should be able to appreciate.
Few believe Charleston City Police Chief Greg Mullen’s decision to announce a crackdown on tailgating was entirely his own, and that such harassment was to take place at Joe Riley Stadium was as symbolic as it was unsurprising. Last month, organizers of the popular Art Walk downtown, where glasses of wine are enjoyed both in the galleries and on the sidewalk, were reminded by police that it was illegal to drink and stroll. Noting the absurdity of such meddling, architectural historian Robert P. Stockton wrote in The Post and Courier, “Charlestonians possibly invented the ‘dressing drink,’ imbibed while preparing to go out, and, perhaps, the ‘toter,’ as well — a drink carried to and from parties. What now? City police have begun checking aesthetes on the Art Walk for ‘toters.’ How un-Charlestonian.”
And how un-American. Targeting law-abiding citizens for relatively harmless and petty indiscretions is particularly offensive when considering the real crime that occurs without penalty on any given day. The late columnist Sam Francis recognized this is as a growing trend he liked to call “anarcho-tyranny.”
As Francis explained, “What we have in this country today, then, is both anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny — the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes; the criminalization of the law-abiding and innocent.”
Francis was right. In an America where Patriot Acts, airport interrogations, and mandatory seat belt laws are now considered justifiable intrusions into the lives of private citizens, our government cannot or will not deal with perhaps the most anarchic political, economic, social, and cultural phenomenon in the United States today — uncontrolled mass immigration. It would seem that securing our border might do more to stop potential terrorists than giving government the power to spy on its own citizens, and yet it hasn’t happened. It would seem that the countless unlicensed and uninsured illegal aliens on our highways would be of more concern to police than the soccer mom who forgot to wear her seatbelt. But how many horror stories have we heard, where illegal aliens cause highway accidents with little to no repercussions? Police officers have told me in private they are often instructed to look the other way. Too much paperwork. Too much trouble.
It’s absurd that our government, our police, and possibly our mayor would busy themselves with harassing private citizens enjoying the typical festivities that accompany a rock concert, or art aficionados taking part in a long-standing Charleston tradition, considering the very real dangers to the public that exist. Said Chief Mullen to the P&C of his department’s recent policies, “I think most people probably don’t like it, but some of these same folks want us to enforce those laws against other people… We can’t look the other way for one group. It puts our officers in a tough position. It’s not about… the art walk, it’s not about Dave Matthews. It’s about taking our responsibility seriously.”
With all due respect to Chief Mullen and any other police officer, who undoubtedly have to take orders at their job like the rest of us, if the primary responsibility of the police remains to “serve and protect,” then how is the public either served or protected by not only harassing citizens for no good reason — but consistently “looking the other way” for another group, namely non-citizens, whose mere presence on our highways presents a constant menace? In all seriousness, I believe a Dave Matthews fan caught with an open container along the Ashley River might suffer a stiffer penalty than an illegal alien driver who slammed into the same man’s car. Is this “taking your responsibility seriously?” Perhaps I should ask your boss.
It will be interesting to see how any future events go down at The Joe — where it will either be proved that law or no law, Charlestonians will still enjoy the simple liberties they always have, or it will be proved that the emperor will not be mocked — especially at his own stadium.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.