|Ty Turner busted for handing out voter education info in Charlotte, NC.|
Last week local activist Ty Turner was in Marshall Park in Charlotte during a Labor Day event organized by Moral Mondays; the peaceful civil disobedience group leading the opposition to the draconian voter suppression laws passed by Republican state law makers.
Turner was placing voter education flyers on car windshields when he was confronted, arrested, handcuffed and taken away by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer David Tropeano - Alice Ollstein wrote an excellent summary of the incident on ThinkProgress.org.
Suppressing the right to vote and disenfranchising voters who tend to vote Democratic has been one of the top priorities of Republican North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.
Last year he signed a highly controversial voter suppression law placing the heaviest restrictions on North Carolina voters seen since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.
Which isn't that surprising considering 54 of the 170 state legislators in NC are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (the shadowy right-wing policy group that drafts legislation for Republican politicians to pass as laws) including the speaker Thom Tillis. Governor McCrory's legislative lobbyist is Fred Steen, the North Carolina ALEC chairman.
It's almost as if voter suppression in NC is having a "trickle down" effect, a governor who openly supports it, a body of legislators who draft laws to enforce it and now police who use their authority to arrest people who are passing out information intended to educate citizens? The 1st Amendment protects the right to free speech doesn't it?
Turner's arrest for trying to educate voters is clearly disturbing on a number of levels. But it's also particularly troubling given the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's tenuous relationship with many members of the local black community.
The last time the CMPD were mentioned on this on this blog was just over a year ago in the wake of the controversy surrounding the tragic death of 24-year-old African-American college student Jonathan Ferrell.
You may recall that Ferrell was unarmed and seeking help after surviving a car accident when he knocked on the door of a woman who mistook him for a burglar and called 911 in a panic. When the CMPD showed up, Ferrell ran towards them thinking help had arrived but he was fatally shot ten times by CMPD officer Randall Kerrick.
Turner's arrest not only calls into question the role of the police but the manner and circumstance of the arrest sends a pretty disturbing message. Take a look at the photo above. A black man handing out flyers with voter education info stopped and arrested by a white police officer?
Turner was also told by officer Tropeano to stop trying to film his encounter with the police, he wasn't told why he was being arrested and he was also taken to three other locations (including a parking lot) before finally being taken to the CMPD police station. (Turner claimed the officers knew the arrest was bogus and hesitated before taking him to the station.)
Sounds a lot like some of the egregious police overreach in Ferguson.
There's already a petition circulating online addressed to Charlotte mayor Dan Clodfelter, CMPD police chief Rodney Monroe, the city manager Ron Carlee and the members of the city council.
Take a few moments to click the link above add your name if you feel the same way I do about this disturbing case of abuse of police authority.
According to an interview conducted by ThinkProgress.org, after his release Turner said of the CMPD, "They said they would charge me for distributing literature."