Commercial, vehicle ‘crimes’ on Castile’s rap sheet aren’t moral evils at all

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Diamond Reynolds meets with the press after her release from jail.

Diamond Reynolds meets with the press after police shot into her car, killed her boyfriend, Philando Castile, in cold blood and put her in jail without charge.

Immediately after police shoot down a citizen, departments and the press begin an effort to discredit the victim by exposing his criminal past, as if a rap sheet suggests that he merited his death in a hail of gunfire.

Philando Castile’s death, livestreamed on Facebook by his girlfriend, is less grievous after we learn about his supposed record.

By David Tulis / AM 1240 Hot News Talk Radio

Two days after his death, The Daily Mail in Great Britain publishes an overwrought well-illustrated account with a headline tells us that Mr. Castile “had been pulled over at least 31 times and hit with 63 traffic charges.”

Mr. Castile, a school cafeteria worker, had been found guilty of 43 charges and was under a tariff in the thousands of dollars payable to court systems in his Minnesota city and county. Most of the charges against Mr. Castile were in the quasi-criminal commercial jurisdiction in which modern states operate.

The so-called offenses including speeding, failure to wear seatbelt, driving after revocation, no proof of insurance, improper display of original plate, and parking violations.

Twenty-five cases involve officers from Ramsey County. He was slain by officers from the St. Anthony police department. Mr. Castile had no criminal record beyond these traffic violations.

The victim’s first encounter with police occurred at age 17. In February 2008 he was convicted of being a public nuisance for obstructing a public road with a vehicle. The report says he was hit with $278 in legal fees.

The Daily Mail Online story lists his encounters from the Minnesota public records.

Commercial government

Press coverage about the slaying of Mr. Castile and the Louisiana police shooting victim Alton “Big Boy” Sterling focuses on distinctions between blacks and whites, suggesting that the judicial system and police departments are racist.

Commercial government is racist in its results, but not in its intent. It feeds off of the people to maintain a legal, political and social hegemony over the citizenry. The state by its sweeping use of police imposes an administrative and commercial rule upon the people. Under constitutional government, the people are understood to be sovereign and the state the servant. But the modern state has followed its ontological imperative to expand and absorb every system and sector it cannot control. It has left behind these distinctions. It has built itself upon the ruins of these distinctions, which rear their ugly heads only among the occasional challenger whose legal dilemmas we explore.

This hegemony over the populace is reinforced by the way the St. Anthony police treated its second victim, Mr. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. She was arrested and jailed and her child, witness of the slaying, put into state custody. She was given no counseling in her grief, was kept in solitary confinement, was given nothing to eat or drink and no phone call for counsel or legal representation. The state and its agents are deeply impersonal and seem utterly dehumanized.

As Mr. Castile lay dying, police gave no attention to him, focusing their care on the shock felt by his killer, Officer Jeronimo Yanez.

Mr. Castile who was well-liked and a friendly man. He was not a criminal. His offenses were against the state’s commercial jurisdiction over the free use of the public right-of-way by travelers. Very few people who go from point A to point B by car are today travelers in the pure sense. But because they have involved themselves with the state in the exercise of their right of movement, they aren’t travelers strictly.

They are operators of motor vehicles. By application for a driver license, they bring themselves under the state’s jurisdiction and under the uniform commercial code.  They are no longer private people moving about privately, but public people in commerce, in public. They are contractually bound to obey the state’s rules. As licensees, they are subject to the state’s rules and its harassment.

Crime vs. infraction

Not that people who are private travelers have their rights respected. They would be even more subject to police harassment if they were free range motorists, such as Arthur J. Hirsch of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., or the Gnome of Strawberry Plains, Tenn. These are men who stand on constitutional principle and exercise their right to travel. Mr. Castile, like most of us, did not exercise that right, but applied to the state for the privilege of operating motor vehicle. Every operator of a motor vehicle, every licensee is subject to the state and its quasi-criminal, quasi-civil jurisdiction through the state’s commercial driver license code.

Tennessee’s Uniform Classified and Commercial Driver License Act of 1988 is commercial. Everyone of us in Tennessee who has a driver’s license has voluntarily entered into that scheme to become subject to the state’s jurisdiction and its rules starting at TCA 55-50-101. Heading into that system by despising God-given rights and taking on a privilege, we agree to carry Insurance on ourselves and to be operators of cars and trucks that are registered with the state through their VINs and subject to it.

There are ways of avoiding this scheme, as Mr. Hirsch of Lawrenceburg done diligently. These are legally defensible steps to be a private person, but are subject to lawless harassment of every kind. Mr. Hirsch was criminally convicted for exercising two constitutionally protected rights. The state and its agents are so used to everyone being in the commercial jurisdiction that they cannot accept a person’s acting privately, acting outside of commerce, not using the public right-of-way for profit, who is a mere traveler.

Mr. Castile’s offenses are not moral wrongs. He has not done any mala in se wrong (something evil in itself, like a murder or rape). He merely violated customs in commerce, or perpetrated mala prohibita offenses (paper crimes like driving on an expired license).

We defend Mr. Castile, then, as not the villain Minnesota authorities would have him to be in a court record. But as a man who, like many other commoners, run afoul of the state’s cash-harvesting machinery of intimidation and subjugation.

Source: Ryan Parry and Louise Boyle, “Black man whose shooting death by police was streamed live by his girlfriend had been pulled over AT LEAST 31 times and hit with 63 traffic charges,” Daily Mail Online, July 8, 2016. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3679678/Man-shooting-death-hand-cop-streamed-live-pulled-31-times-charged-63-times-officers-near-home.html

You may also enjoy these related essays about the right to travel by David Tulis and Roger Roots

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