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Atlanta Should End Suspicionless Roadblocks

By Joe Williams

The following remarks were made by Mr. Williams regarding Suspicionless Roadblocks before the Public Safety/Legal Administration Committee Meeting of the City Council of Atlanta; on Tuesday, February 01, 2011, 3pm; City Hall, Committee Room 2.

I come before this safety committee in defense of my 4th Amendment Constitutional rights to promote abolishing Suspicionless roadblocks in the City of Atlanta.  With the recent announcement by Mayor Kasim Reed in relation to the Atlanta Eagle raid that “Officers may no longer detain people without “reasonable articulable suspicion,” meaning “the individual is involved in specific and identifiable criminal activity”.  “Police may no longer take or demand identification or require an individual to identify himself without reasonable suspicion the person is engaged in criminal conduct.”

This policy should absolutely apply to Suspicionless roadblocks.

Roadblocks operate with no individualized reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.  Seek to control and intimidate local communities as opposed to serve and protect them.  Raise revenue for expanding government programs through fines, citations & arrest. 

100% of all people passing through a checkpoint have no “reasonable articulable suspicion” of wrong doing as set forth in the Mayor’s new police policy.  Between 90 – 99% of those same people who pass through these checkpoints fail to be cited or arrested.    

Suspicionless roadblocks mandate that every innocent person passing through these checkpoints sacrifice their freedom.  That in the name of criminal activity, 1 bad apple justifies spoiling the whole barrel.  That freedom means nothing in comparison to safety.

There are many, many Americans who willingly sacrifice their freedom for such perceived safety.  I am not one of them.  Neighborhoods who ask for roadblocks send a message to the rest of us that in areas of crime, 4th Amendment Constitutional freedoms shall not apply.    

Eventually all roadblock arguments lead to Supreme Court decisions that allow for certain types of roadblocks in spite of the 4th Amendment.  One of those earliest decisions is United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, where Justice Powell, in his own words, permits & allows for the violation of the 4thAmendment and is demonstrated through the following 3 excerpts of his opinion: 

  1. “To require that such stops always be based on reasonable suspicion would be impractical…”
  2. “The Government of public interest in making such stops outweighs the constitutionality protected interest of the private citizen” 
  3. “We hold that stops and questioning at issue may be made in the absence of any individualized suspicion at reasonably located checkpoints.”

Said another way, it’s Constitutional to violate the Constitution.  Here we have a Supreme Court Justice, who swore an oath of office to defend the 4th amendment but sadly openly and freely demonstrates his blatant disregard for that Oath & the Constitution of the United States.

Fortunately, in spite of this decision most are not aware that roadblocks are illegal in 12 states.  There are some elected officials who will still defend the Constitution where most will put great effort into its circumvention.  Ultimately no one can make a legitimate argument that roadblocks represent a free society.  The more you rely on government for your safety & prosperity the less prosperous, safe & free you become.

In closing, to those citizens willing to sacrifice, and to those elected officials unwilling to defend Constitutional freedom I say this; 

“I would rather live in a high-risk society wrapped in freedom, than live as a slave in complete safety & security.”


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