Why was Joe Diaz Arrested?

I couldn’t stop reading this.

And so there I stood, in jail, naked, in between two other naked male strangers, with a 3rd male, a Law Enforcer named ‘Dog’, eyeing me over.  Just hours before I was presenting on Gadamer’s Truth and Method.  Now, I was made to put my arms by my side and stand up straight so that Dog could get a good look at me.  Dog took the liberty to comment on my body.  Us 3 inmates, while still naked, were then told to face the wall and squat

I too struggle with the question in his title. I imagine it was the intersection of his gender, his ethnicity, his youth, his small physical stature, and his downright temerity (that is, his insistence on proceeding as though rational adult citizens are equals who are responsive to moral contexts and social exchanges).  But of course, none of this is really explanatory.  Recommended reading.

(Posted on Leiter Reports, crediting Corey McGrath for the pointer.)

3 thoughts on “Why was Joe Diaz Arrested?

  1. Uh-oh – another video of a clash with the po-po, so you know I had to comment. It’s in my contract somewhere. Profbigk is not going to like it, which is probably the worst part for me. ;) But come on — on the proffered list of possible answers to “Why was Joe Diaz arrested”, the idea that he might have been committing the infraction with which he was charged didn’t even make the top 5? At least it has the advantage of being explanatory.

    I really don’t think anything in the video – which doesn’t show the whole incident – is going to contradict the charge of obstruction of justice. And although in order to get at a plausible view of the facts, one has to filter out a good bit of the autohagiographical narrative Diaz has overlaid on them, I ultimately think the underlying facts that peek through Diaz’ written account are not inconsistent with the charge either.

    The threshold for improperly interfering with peace officers is lower than many people think; I realize that. Especially true if they are carrying out an arrest or potential arrest; it’s never made clear what was going on with “Alice” when Diaz made his probably good-natured but ill-judged decision to insert himself gratuitously into the situation the officers were dealing with.

    Though I’m perfectly prepared to believe that Diaz is an all-around good fellow who did not realize he was breaking the law or at least coming close to it, the account of the arrest comes across as histrionic and self-righteous. There’s also an unattractive whiff of something resembling class contempt for the interlopers in his ivory tower.

    On the other hand, these faults are partially offset by Diaz’ astonishing ability to know what other people are thinking and why, though you’d think that modesty about such an ability might counsel against making it the chief basis for the entire narrative.

    (And what’s with the Queer Capitalization Conventions?)

    There are some glaring legal misstatements that detract from the account as well. For example, Diaz thinks that his friend was “asserting her constitutional rights” by defying the library security guard’s instruction not to film the event (the friend says so on the video as well). Possibly something they picked up from a “Know Your Rights” flyer or a “street medic” class. How is it that, three semesters into his degree program, it hasn’t come to Diaz’ attention that he’s been attending a private instution all this time? Say it ain’t so, Joe! On private property, the landowner – represented in this case by the security guard – gets to tell you when you can take video in the building. There are no constitutional rights against a private landowner.

    Where Diaz suggests that it was impossible for him to be resisting at the time the officer first directs him to stop resisting, the video doesn’t make that clear at all, and it’s very rarely true that a conscious person is in a position where they are absolutely incapable of resisting an arrest. Even just going limp (if it makes it more troublesome for you to be handcuffed), or not simply not complying with directions of what to do with your hands can sometimes constitute resisting arrest, and rightly so. Pace Diaz, he could have been pulling/leaning away from the officers and you wouldn’t necessarily see it if he were being held back. His hands are out of view, and he also could have been resisting putting them in a position where they could easily be cuffed (handcuffing being a manoeuvre that is reported by peace officers to be more difficult than it looks even on small people, unless they’re being very compliant).

    With regard to everything that happened following the arrest, it sounds like a very unpleasant – possibly excessively so – stay at the Hotel DeKalb. Unfortunately, Chapter the First of the Passion of St. Joe does not inspire a great deal of confidence in the objectivity of Chapter the Second, so … who knows. Also, it doesn’t bear on the propriety of the arrest.

  2. Posted for a reader:

    What I found so unnerving was that people seemed to think it was entirely reasonable for a person to be arrested because he didn’t show his ID to the University police. I could see–maybe–that you should not be allowed in the library if you weren’t able to prove you were student. Or maybe if they thought you were disrupting you should be told to leave the library.

    But arrested and sent to jail? How could *anyone* not regard that as an extreme overreaction? Have we gotten so used to submitting to authority? Shouldn’t arrest be reserved for cases where the person is regarded as having a committed a crime, they pose some sort of threat to the community or they might flee before the crime can be investigated? How can be a crime not to show your ID? Arrest deprives someone of their freedom (and also puts them in some danger of harm). By investing the police with the ability to arrest anyone for a trivial reason, we give them the power to intimidate all of us. It’s a power they should not have if we want to live in a free society.

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