TSA Arrests Me for Using the Fourth Amendment as a Weapon (Tales from the Edge of a Revolution #2)
by T. P. Alexanders
Oct. 17, 2011
Albuquerque International Sunport Security Checkpoint:
I pass a camera crew filming the ticket counter. I stop and consider telling them what I am about to do, but decide against it. They probably won't care. Instead, I wheel my baggage to the security area.
I can feel my heart beat in my chest. I've never done anything like this. I've always said "Yes sir," even when I didn't agree. Even this simple act fills me with conflicting emotions.
New Mexico is far warmer than my native Pacific Northwest. I'm sweating by the time I reach the first inspection of my ID. I'm sure I already look like a terrorist. The TSA agent, perched on his stool, takes no notice. I look enough like my driver's license and I have a valid airline ticket. He black lights my ID and lets me pass with hardly a glance.
I've come here to moonlight from my real job. My daughter had an operation, and I had to come up with thousands in deductible. She's in college and, so far, I've managed to keep her from becoming a debt slave, like her mother. I took eight extra weekends of work in the Land of Enchantment to cover the cost. I'm lucky, I guess, I can do that. Others, with fewer job opportunities, have no choice but to go bankrupt.
My heart kicks it up another notch when I get to the conveyor belt. Shouldn't have had that coffee this morning but thank God I didn't eat anything, or I'd be hugging the trash can right now.
Come on, I tell myself, what are they going to do? Confiscate your toothpaste? Say something mean to you? So what. Relax. You can do this. You should do this. You have to do this.
I take off my shoes and strip my backpack of computer and the baggie of incidentals. I stand in line while my armpits grow embarrassingly moist and I feel my heart race. I think, Get a hold of yourself. You're being a drama queen.
When it is my turn, I decline to go through the monitor that scans under your clothes, as I always do. The TSA agent starts his spiel about how safe it is. I've done my research. His statements are questionable, but that is not why I am doing this. I start my own spiel.
"The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution reads: 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 warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, an particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
I'm speaking loud and clear so those around me can hear. Before I get to "unreasonable search" a man in an ill-fitting suit and a tie marches up to me. He tells me I was disrupting his operation. I have no idea what his position is. He stands in front of the metal detector--the first place they usually screen me. He tells me I am holding up the line. I drop my voice and tell him to go ahead and screen me. I'll take the pat down. But that's not what he wants. He wants me to shut up. I continue reading the Fourth Amendment.
He asks me to go with him to some undisclosed location to "talk". He indicates with his hand somewhere back toward ticketing, away from being screened. I decline. He tries to gently guide me with a hand on my elbow, like we're on a date, pushing me back up the line. I stand firm. I want to go forward, let them pat me down while I read the Fourth Amendment to my fellow citizens.
He asks me what airline I'm on. I have seen no badge or ID. I ask him if he has a warrant for the information. He looks at me dumbfounded. He sees the United boarding pass in my hand. He tells me he won't allow me to fly. I have no idea if he has that sort of authority.
I say as loudly and clearly as I can, "I am being told I can not fly for reading you the Fourth Amendment."
He says, "If you keep this up I'll call the police."
I say as loud as I can, "You are going to arrest me for reading the Constitution?"
"You are disrupting the screening process, and yes we will arrest you."
Again, I say I will be screened but not by the machine. They make no effort to walk me through the metal detector or find a female officer to frisk me. He tries again to walk me out of the area. I stand my ground and read the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise there of, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances."
The police do come, two of them. A young man and a grizzled officer with a road map of wrinkles lining his face. The young man stands in front of me and now I am terrified. They aren't just going to take my toothpaste. Why didn't I ask the camera crew to come--take the chance of getting the brush off? They might not do this, if there was a camera. Do I have the will to continue? I hear his voice asking for my name over the thudding of my heart in my ears. Do I have to give it to him? I'm not sure.
I look behind him to the startled mass of silent passengers. "If you have a cell phone camera, this would make good You Tube footage." It is an act of desperation, and I don't see anyone reach for their phone.
They jack hammer questions at me, name, where am I from, phone number, etc. I lose track, I can't tell which questions I am obligated to answer and which I'm not. I concentrate on the officer in front of me. I think I know what the police can and can't do. He asks me my name, again, and I ask "Do you have a warrant or am I under arrest?"
He sees the license and plane ticket still in my hand and tries to take them. I pull them back. "Do you have a warrant to remove those?" He lets them go.
Guy with a Tie tells the cops I won't be flying. The police try to push me out of the area. I stand my ground.
"You are giving up your Constitutional rights for something that only has a 1 in 25 million chance of happening. Fifty times less than death by lightening or being struck by an asteroid." I call to the herd of passengers. They stare at me dazed.
The cops push me with more aggression and tell me that if I don't quit, I will be arrested.
I yell, "Thomas Jefferson said, 'those who would give up their liberty for their security deserve neither.'"
They physically push me out of the security area. I try to dig in my heels and resist, but my stocking feet slide over the tile floor.
I shout, "When you allow the Bill of Rights to be violated, you deprive your children of the government your parents gave you. That is neither reasonable or responsible."
They stop pushing me at the end of the security check point and I regain my footing.
The old goat of a cop shoves me. "Get the hell out of here!" he yells, "Go on, stop causin' trouble."
I am in my stocking feet, with no cell phone, wallet or back pack. I stare at his snaring face and I can't. I just can't walk away. In for a penny, in for a pound. I sit down.
Instantly, my right hand is yanked behind my back and the cuffs are snapped on so tight they cut my skin. I grit my teeth, bite my tongue and let them have the left hand as well. He yanks the ID and boarding pass out of my hand. He pulls me up before he tells me to stand, but I scramble to my feet so I won't be resisting arrest. I walk where I am directed. At the first people I pass, I shout, "I am being arrested for reading the Constitution of the United States."
Old Goat lifts my hands up so high it hurts.