A Colorado man was walking through a shopping center at the Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado when he saw Dick Cheney shopping. He walked over to him and gave him a piece of his mind (but civilly) about the war in Iraq. Then he walked away. That was the beginning of his troubles. Some time later he walked back past the spot where he’d met Cheney when all of a sudden a Secret Service agent put the cuffs on him:
…Steven Howards, an environmental consultant who lives in Golden, Colo., says he stepped up to the vice president to speak his mind in a public place and found himself in handcuffs — in violation, the suit says, of the Constitution’s language about free speech and illegal search and seizure.
…Mr. Howards, 54…was taking his 8-year-old son to a piano lesson on June 16 at the Beaver Creek Resort about two hours west of Denver when he saw Mr. Cheney at an outdoor mall. Mr. Howards said he approached within two feet of Mr. Cheney and said in a calm voice, “I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible,” or as the lawsuit itself describes the encounter, “words to that effect.”
Mr. Howards said he then went on his way. About 10 minutes later, he said, he was walking back through the area when Agent Reichle handcuffed him and said he would be charged with assaulting the vice president. Local police officers, acting on information from the Secret Service, according to the suit, ultimately filed misdemeanor harassment charges that could have resulted in up to a year in jail.
It seems that Howards didn’t realize that Dick was an emperor who could only be approached by invitation. Seems that our elected officials don’t believe the American public has a right to approach them to speak their mind. If telling a politician to his face that he’s wrong constitutes criminal harassment then I’m not living in the country I thought I was living in. This should be called the Austro-Cheney empire and the vice president should be hailed by his subject as Emperor Dick. All hail!
Get the Secret Service’s justification for the charges against Howard:
…A spokesman for the Secret Service, Eric Zahren, as saying that Mr. Howards “wasn’t acting like other folks in the area,” and that he became “argumentative and combative” when agents tried to question him. Mr. Howards said Tuesday that he was never threatening and did not become upset until his arrest.
“This was not about anything I did — this is about what I said,” he said.
Sure Howards wasn’t “acting like other folks in the area,” they either didn’t have a clue who Cheney was or they didn’t want to experience the world of pain that was coming to Howards due to his sheer effrontery in thinking he should be allowed to petition a government official for redress of a grievance. Howards wasn’t acting like others because he was acting like a red-blooded American citizen executing his constitutional rights. I suppose Howards wouldn’t have gotten into as much trouble if, on seeing Cheney, he had approached on bended knee and begged his liege’s indulgence for a word.
I also like the justification provided for the arrest indicating that Howards became “argumentative and combative.” You would too if your constitutional rights were being trampled by a federal agent. If someone violates my rights do I shut up and take it or do I protest vigorously? I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t take something like that lying down.
The local District Attorney, though he threw the charges out, came out with some clunkers too:
A state judge dismissed the charge about three weeks later at the request of the Eagle County district attorney, Mark Hurlbert.
“It was our understanding that the vice president did not want to prosecute,” Mr. Hurlbert said in a telephone interview. “The original indication was that he had pushed the vice president. Later it looked to be that he had just spoken to him.”
Mr. Hurlbert said the initial information on the incident came from the Secret Service agents at Beaver Creek. A later communication from Mr. Cheney’s office or the Secret Service — Mr. Hurlbert said he did not remember which — said the government wanted to drop the matter.
So the Secret Service lied and said that Howards had pushed the VP. Does that tell you anything about how our Secret Service is serving the political needs of our heads of empire (er, State) rather than merely protecting them as they are constitutionally charged to do. Frankly, I love the fact that Howards is suing the Secret Service agent who arrested him. That many teach the man a thing or two about individual liberty in this country. That is, if the courts don’t buckle under the weight of the royal prerogative.
I love the comment “the government wanted to drop the matter.” I’ll bet they did. Wouldn’t look too good just before the Congressional elections for a guy taking his 8-year old to a piano lesson to end up in prison because he spoke to the VP for 30 seconds in a mall. I dearly wish Cheney had pressed charges. It would’ve made a lovely case with which to batter the Republicans about the head in the run up to November (though there are a few of those already making the rounds anyway).