When Willie Hampton led 150 chanting janitors into the Ameritech building downtown Oct. 4, police grabbed him off a table, handcuffed him and jailed him for eight hours. Police told him they were investigating charging him with “inciting a riot,” a felony. A month later, incident was still under investigation and the charges were still under consideration.
American Civil Liberties Union Director Kary Moss said Hampton’s actions were “classic First Amendment speech. We have a very noble history of people from Margaret Sanger to César Chavez doing exactly what this man did, which is standing up and speaking to people when their rights are being trampled upon. To call that incitement to riot makes a travesty of the First Amendment.
“From the OAS demonstrations on (the June 4 actions against the Organization of American States in which police preemptively arrested young organizers before the demonstrations took place), we became concerned that the police are drastically undertrained. My guess is that many of them were born after Ronald Reagan became president and are completely ignorant of the whole history of demonstrations. They need to be trained better that people have the right to speak out.”Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.