By Ryan S. Walters | @ryanswalters73
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech….” – First Amendment, U.S. Constitution
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” – Fourth Amendment, U.S. Constitution
There is a war on-going at Ole Miss, a war on Southern traditions, a war on freedom of speech, and now a war on the Fourth Amendment. To be truthful, what has transpired at the University of Mississippi in Oxford is a violation of the American spirit, the idea that people are born free and equal, that we are bestowed with God-given rights of life and liberty.
In Oxford, Mississippi, of all places, with its famous square and the home of William Faulkner, Jefferson’s notion of an “empire of liberty” came crashing down, as officials at Ole Miss continued their extensive offensive on tradition and history.
Over the last few weeks, as the college football season got into full swing, many concerned citizens have watched as spectators displaying official state flags at Ole Miss games have had their personal property seized by police in clear violation of the First Amendment. Others had signs and placards – some with state flag images and some without reference to the flag – confiscated as well.
Of course, many sports stadiums, including the one on the Ole Miss campus, have rules about large signs, flags on sticks, and umbrellas, and such regulations are issued out of safety concerns and to make sure everyone can see the game and have a more enjoyable experience. But aside from the naiveté of excuse makers on the totalitarian left, we all know what this is really about. Anyone with more than a thimble full of common sense can see a dangerous pattern.
But the Ole Miss policy is actually much worse, with a public university that engages in “content selection” by calling for the approval of banners and signs in their official stadium policies. And to approve some and not others is “content discrimination,” which has been going on at Ole Miss for more than 20 years.
Since the mid-1990s, and the start of the illustrious career of Coach Tommy Tuberville, Ole Miss has, slowly and methodically, began the process of dismantling Southern traditions at the school. Beginning with the infamous “stick ban,” which common sense-minded citizens knew was really about getting rid of the Confederate flag, to retiring “Colonel Reb,” to now banning the playing of “Dixie” by the band, we are seeing a Stalin-style purge of school history.
But it won’t stop there. Other symbols will soon be in the crosshairs of administration fascists. Let me go on record and predict that the team name “Rebels” and even the nickname “Ole Miss,” with its connection to the plantations in the Old South, will be the next to vanish.
Furthermore, the problem with the stadium policy is that it seems to be selectively enforced. Photographic and video evidence shows other visually impairing objects in the crowd at recent games, such as inflatable sharks and even large beach ball type inflatables that were actually handed out by University personnel at the game.
Since items other than state flags and placards stating “Let the Band Play Dixie” were not confiscated, this is a major First Amendment violation and supports with evidence the notion of a “content discrimination” policy. As Justice Abe Fortas wrote in Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Making matters much worse, a student at Ole Miss, junior engineering major Dylan Wood, was arrested at last week’s game for possessing a stick-less state flag. Under the guise of the flag being too large (it turns out by a scant three inches) and violating stadium policies, police officers, using foul language and threatening manners, attempted to confiscate Wood’s flag.
The officer can be seen and heard on video saying, “Gimme the flag!” Wood protested that it was within legal limits. The officer’s next words were “Bullshit!” He then gave Wood a choice: “Turn it over to me or leave with it.”
Officers then gabbed the young man by the arm, which is legally an act of detaining him, to escort him out because Wood says that he was leaving the stadium.
The officer then escorted Wood below the stadium where his flag was measured to see if it was in compliance with stadium rules.
Once the flag was measured and found to be three inches too large, one officer told Wood, “You can leave here never to return with that flag or be arrested.” After briefly arguing with the officer, he was told that his choice was “jail for disorderly conduct or go out with it.” In response to the officer’s instructions, Wood asked about being arrested for the state flag: “Officer, are you really going to arrest me for flying the state flag?” At that point the young man was arrested and handcuffed.
While handcuffed, the officers frisked him, and then found a flask of alcohol. So police ultimately charged him with public intoxication and possession of alcohol by a minor, since he is only 20 years old, and disorderly conduct, even though Wood was polite throughout the ordeal, referring to the officers as “sir” and saying he “respected” them, and never once used foul language like the arresting officers did.
Of course the Vitter administration, occupying the Ole Miss Ivory Tower of Babel, could quickly see the public relations disaster that might be ahead, put out the erroneous story that Wood was arrested, not for the flag, but for drunkenness.
But, understand, this is not legally accurate. He was detained, arrested, handcuffed and, presumably, on his way to jail before arresting officers ever discovered he had a flask or had consumed any alcohol. How they knew he was legally intoxicated, to be charged with such a crime, is not known. Having a flask does not mean one actually consumed any of its contents. Since no breathalyzer was used, clairvoyance is all one can speculate at this point.
So the real legal question is what was the original charge that placed him in cuffs to begin with? Failing to follow the instructions of a law enforcement officer? He was not charged with that and Ole Miss officials have not said anything about his original charge, nor should we expect them to.
Examining this situation from a legal point of view, Dylan Wood’s arrest was illegal. The moment the officer grabbed his arm, by definition, he was under arrest. What had he done at this point? He possessed an “illegal” flag.
The hostility of the arresting officer in regards to the flag, complete with use of profanity, demonstrates conclusively the school policy in regards to it. It’s about the flag and other items pertaining to Southern traditions and always has been.
So with this arrest, we have serious Fourth Amendment issues, to go along with the original First Amendment violations of “content selection.”
Sadly, most of our so-called legal “experts” get the Fourth Amendment completely wrong, not because they are ignorant of history and constitutional law, but because, as Jefferson warned us, the “natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
A simple reading of the text, with the understanding of its historical context, will show that no searches and seizures can be made without a warrant. Police officers have probable cause, but only to gain a legal warrant, not to make an arrest. The totalitarian left, and sadly some on the right, have stretched this legal protection beyond its historical scope and context.
But taking this situation further, it also entails what is known in constitutional law as the “exclusionary rule.” If a Fourth Amendment violation occurs, and a suspect is arrested unlawfully, any evidence gathered thereafter cannot be admitted in court. Or, as it is known in legal circles, such evidence would have to be excluded as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
Of this “exclusionary rule,” Justice Byron White wrote in 1989 that it was “designed to deter police misconduct,” the kind that was on full display at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford last Saturday. It keeps police officers from arresting someone on a flimsy, trumped up charge, like disorderly conduct, and using it as an excuse to conduct a search to find evidence of other, more serious crimes. And in most cases, the original feeble charge is dropped in favor of the more serious one.
So, in this case, since Dylan Wood was unlawfully arrested, evidence gained during his detention, such as his flask and supposed public intoxication, should be inadmissible in a court of law.
Regardless of one’s feelings about flags or symbols, what is at stake here is the continued protection of our liberty and freedoms that are being eroded every day. The rights of the people, protected by the Constitution, are not subject to the feelings of others, nor are they subject to the whims of university administrators or their political benefactors.
Ironically, we should remember that all of this began because the university was pushing to be more inclusive in regards to the feelings of others. But constitutional rights don’t end where feelings begin.
Our Founding Fathers created a Bill of Rights precisely to prevent the exact situation we saw in Oxford. Though it may seem trivial to some, those who are more concerned about a silly game than they are about human liberty, this goes to the heart of American liberty. We take a strong stand now, or face massive violations down the road, and at that point resistance may be futile.