Don't Be Mad at United — Be Mad At Law Enforcement Who Enforced Corporate Policy Over Constitutional Law

Written by John Danger Kelly

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 24 hours — you are probably aware of a video that is creating shock and anger throughout social media and on news blogs that shows an unidentified man who is seen being brutally manhandled by TSA officers, who pulled him from his airline seat and dragged him down the aisle.

Immediately following the video's release, Twitter activists demanded users to #BoycottUnited and encourage airline passengers to travel with alternative airlines as a way to hurt United's bottom line. Reddit fought back in the only way it knows how, by telling users to upvote a picture of the Nazi Flag in order to tie the words "UNITED" with a large swastika so that United's Google Image results will look like a 1930's rally (or like Comcast's search results. Way to go Reddit, you're helping!)

Social media isn't the only who sounded-off. News websites and publications from the Huffington Post to the LA Times to Quartz to CNN all covered the incident as well as the public backlash that United is now experiencing. LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik couldn't overstate just how bad this was for airline company saying "United no doubt will expend thousands of words explaining or apologizing for this incident in coming hours, days and weeks. It won’t help. The video is just too raw."

United understandably deserves this backlash. But what about the police and law enforcement? The pilot didn't bust that doctor's lip, a man with a badge did.  Did this man commit a crime? Or was he merely in violation of United policy?

To begin with the facts, United's overbooking policy falls completely within the law, which allows air carriers to overbook flights — that is, sell more tickets than they have seats for. That’s plainly a situation that benefits the airlines almost exclusively, because it tends to ensure that every seat will be filled even at the cost of leaving some passengers behind.  This loophole is regularly used by every major airline industry and if airline doesn't regularly overbook flights, then their profit margins are going to look minuscule next to their competitors.

United Airlines was acting in completely within the law when it involuntarily choose passengers at random to boot off of the flight. They do this daily without problem, where the mix-up happened was when they let all the passengers board the flight before they realized they didn't have enough seats for the airline employees to sit.

The police, however, are not standing on as solid of legal ground. From the video provided, they clearly violated the passenger's 4th amendment "right to be secure in their persons" and obviously decided to side with United Airlines over the constitutional rights granted to each citizen.  No where in U.S. law does it say that you are you allowed to detain someone who has committed no crime, use excessive force if necessary, because a company wanted an easy solution to a mistake it made. Even if it did, that law would be in violation of the Constitution and dramatically change the relationship between the citizenry and the police.

Unfortunately, for America - the police have never been on the side of the individual when corporate interests are at risk. And no they don't give a shit what the law says.

In North Dakota, the police spent millions defending an oil pipeline from peaceful water protectors even when the drilling company, Energy Transfer Partners, was in violation of federal law by continuing construction after the Army Corps of Engineers and the Obama administration blocked their permit in December. Rather than arresting the companies executives who were clearly violating a direct order from the Executive branch, they paid a small fine - which they are currently in the process of appealing.

While the oil pipeline continued to receive state-of-the art 24/7 police protection and surveillance, those opposing the pipeline received a much colder reception from those sworn to "Protect and Serve."

Police seized and destroyed property without a warrant regularly, put those arrested in dog cages while they waited to be brought to Bismark for processing, and used violent police tactics that caused the United Nations to strongly condemn the North Dakota police for “the inhuman and degrading conditions” those who were arrested faced in detention and went further to suggest these actions were in violation of the Geneva convention.

This is not a rare occurrence. Law enforcement has not only sided with corporations regularly, but as seen with yesterday's violent United flight, they are willing to violently break the law to do it.

We cannot stand for this and we cannot let police actions go without vocal condemnation.  Yes, corporations need to be regulated and the broken policy that allows airlines to overbook flights at the cost of the consumer needs to be changed. But this problem is minor compared to the Constitutional violations that were committed by law enforcement in order to enforce corporate policy.

The police are the ones who threw this doctor to the ground and dragged him off the airplane. United was merely trying to make money by overbooking flights and hedging their bets - which is what we should expect them to do, they're a business that makes money off of checked bag fees and hidden fees.  Police are expected to uphold the law and protect us from danger; instead they became the goons who protected corporate America from a peaceful customer who said "no."

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