Friday, April 14, 2006

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney

There is quite a brouhaha brewing on Capitol Hill between Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga. and the U.S. Capitol Police.

The Atlanta suburbs representative, who happens to be African American, entered a House building March 29 without her identifying lapel pin visible, was challenged by a U.S. Capitol Police officer whom she ignored, and failed to stop for him. The officer reached out and touched her then she wielded upon him striking the officer while holding a cell phone.

When identified she was released. Now the pundits are having a field day. Members of her own party and in particular members of the Congressional Black Caucus seem to have stood mute.

The argument goes something like this: for security reasons the officer stopped McKinney because he didn’t recognize her and she hit him for touching her.

McKinney supporters have claimed the case is one of racial profiling.

The argument goes further, that security trumps all in this post 9-11 era.

Capitol police referred the case to the U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein for possible prosecution. Wainstein convened a grand jury.

However, no one: police, attorneys, press or pundits and especially congress seem to have bothered to go to the controlling document, the Constitution. It says in article one, section six, referring to all senators and representatives, “They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same....“

McKinney has posted this section on her congressional website but no one else seems to have taken note.

The officer’s touching of McKinney takes this case out of the realm of having been a breach of the peace because she, as is any citizen, permitted to defend herself from an unlawful touching.

In this case, the white officer, whose name has not been disclosed, is in a no win position. He is in one of the most difficult positions any officer might face -- he must know his boss -- all 535 senators and representatives. Unfortunately, the officer can never be right in this case. The fact that he was struck falls back on his lack of training and knowledge. He was unprepared to do his job.

Her actions were not criminal and because she represents such a minority of congress, being a black woman, the continued criticism leveled at her does seem to verify the charge of racial profiling.

Another reason the officer can not be right is it is her house and he, as a congressional servant, makes a big mistake in allowing this matter to go any further. He need not apologize for doing his job but as soon as he was made aware of her identity, he constitutionally must grant her the privilege.

The U.S. Attorney needs to quickly refuse to prosecute. To persue this case, is to cross the line of the separation of powers and it gives the appearance of being politically motivated, if only to cause embarrassment for a politician who is neither of the majority party or a staunch supporter of this administration.

Outgoing Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer is backing his officer by sending the case to the U.S. Attorney. No doubt his job has been difficult because it is in such a politically charged atmosphere that possibly his frustration has overtaken his better judgment and knowledge of the law. As for the officer, he and any others that don’t know all members of congress on sight need a refresher-training course.

Fistfights should be relegated back to the House floor where they have traditionally occurred. One does not have to like or agree with what she did. One might find that she was, at a minimum, rude and inconsiderate of her own employees, who had a duty and responsibility to secure the House building in challenging unknown or unrecognized persons. However, constitutionally privileged from arrest, she therefore cannot be prosecuted in this case.

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