A particularly disturbing development is underway at the Governor’s latest so-called “Town Hall Meetings.” Originally, these meetings were purportedly designed and operated by the Governor’s office to solicit citizen feedback as well as provide a genuine democratic venue for citizens. The problem is, and I’m not exaggerating here, the presence of the Secret Police.
Citizens have reported that plainclothes members of law enforcement have been photographing participants, demonstrators, etc. According to published reports, many of these ‘photographers’ have admitted to being members of law enforcement who were on the job.
Commentators have reported that this is “Nixonian” in scope, but to be honest, it’s much, much worse. What the governor is doing is basically entrapping citizens and engaging in a “bait and switch.” He’s marketing himself and his events as a democratic exercise, but instead they’re obviously being utilized to secretly gather information on citizens in the midst of exercising the very First Amendment rights they’ve been invited to express.
I’m not going to fault the governor for preferring some questions from participants over others; that’s only natural. But I must say that it’s rather bizarre that, aside from audience outbursts, none of the meetings have directly addressed the fact that the governor’s office is now at the center of state and federal probes for abuse of power and improper use of taxpayer funds. And more disturbing, of course, is that with the abuse of power allegations, we’ve moved beyond accusations as there is clear proof in the form of the documentation uncovered from Bridget Kelly and others.
But there is something deeper going on here, and it has to do with a clear contempt for the Constitution and the concept of citizenship itself. The idea to order state law enforcement – or whoever they are – to send such a chilling, autocratic message to citizens who are simply expressing ownership in the democratic system is antithetical to everything we believe in as a free people. Democracy by nature is messy and noisy; it’s not the equivalent to a high school assembly. These people are taxpaying adults and voters; they are not children or subjects to be ‘managed’ or ‘intimidated.’ Apparently we now have a Chief Executive who is so disdainful of the Bill of Rights, of the Right to Assemble and Petition, that he is transforming these meetings into a venue for the justifiably paranoid.
There is something that can be done about this immediately. The Legislature should quickly summon State Police executives and members of the Governor’s office to find out exactly why pictures are being taken and what criteria exist that determine who or what will be recorded. In fact, I would ask our elected representatives to immediately exercise this executive oversight to send a strong message to the governor that our rights and liberties are to be taken seriously.