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Fighting Back Against Police Abuse: Restoring the Right to Resist

February 13, 2012
William Norman Grigg, Republic Magazine

Americans on the receiving end of police abuse are often smugly told, “You might beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride” — as if they had no right to resist when they are victims of a criminal assault by people in government-issued costumes. Bystanders who witness episodes of that kind are often told that the propriety of a police beat-down is a matter “for the courts to decide” — even when an obviously innocent person has already been left battered and bloody by an attack that constitutes summary punishment for what police often call “contempt of cop.”

In fact, the right to resist criminal violence by agents of state coercion — including unlawful arrest — is a common law right recognized for centuries in both Anglo-Saxon and American judicial precedents.

“The weight of authoritative precedent supports a right to repel an unlawful arrest with force…. This was the rule at common law,” observed the Alaska State Supreme Court in its ruling in the 1969 case Terry Glenn Miller v. State of Alaska.“It was based on the proposition that everyone should be privileged to use reasonable force to prevent an unlawful invasion of his physical integrity and personal liberty.” While that court argued that the common law right to resist should be abandoned, they candidly acknowledged that it was a central part of our legal heritage.

And now… the rest of the story. …..

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