Flex Your Rights, the group that produced the popular "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" video, is at again. This time, the organization takes on the New York subway system, which has introduced random, suspicionless searches of people seeking to enter the city's publicly-owned subway system in the wake of the bombings in London's public transit system. While the group is careful to make clear it takes no position on the usefulness of the searches in preventing potential attacks, it is not about to let a terror scare erode the US Constitution.
First off, people are free to refuse to be searched, the group notes, citing the police directive saying people who refuse to be searched are free to leave the subway system, and that refusing a search "shall not constitute probable cause for an arrest or reasonable suspicion for a forcible stop." If they do agree to be searched, they do not have to answer any questions, including their names or nationalities. Neither do they have to produce identification.
In the event of arrest, the group counsels, do not resist. And don't run into the subway station after refusing a search, Flex Your Rights warns. "If you refuse to be searched and run into the station, you could be shot to death!" the groups emphasizes, noting the killing of an unarmed Brazilian by London police last week. If you think you have been abused, keep quiet, keep your eyes open, and report it to the proper authorities.
The group's advice to persons seeking to assert their constitutional rights seems non-controversial. But in these super-heated times, even advising people how to exercise their rights draws abusive responses, especially in the gate-keeper-free world of the blogosphere. "WE ARE AT WAR ASS HOLE [sic]. SCREW YOU AND THE ACLU," wrote one half-wit on the Flex Your Rights blog.
"You my friend, are bigger scum then the terrorists are," opined another concerned citizen. "You live in a free country where the sky is the limit and your [sic] not happy with anything."
But the best (or rather, worst) response came in the form of a voicemail message from a self-identified "angry New Yorker," the morning after the subway guide was released. The anonymous phone caller expressed his opposition to terrorism by saying that he hoped the terrorists would successfully perpetrate terrorism by dropping a bomb on Flex Your Rights staff's homes.
Most of the e-mails were not hate mail, of course. And a lot of people have visited the site since the section was unveiled -- web site hits quintupled, according to FYR executive director Steven Silverman.
In the meanwhile, the Flex Your Rights blog has moved on to report that police are confounded by apparent "police search fetishists" who have taken to offering their bags to police officers in the subways without being asked.