Though the coronavirus pandemic in some ways does require an extreme response, sometimes it’s a little much. Like the father who was arrested for being outside and playing softball with his daughter or the men who were arrested for going to the home of their friend. Here are some of the most ridiculous and over-the-top reasons why some American citizens have either been arrested, cited or detained during this crisis.
Three men were arrested in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for supposedly violating the state’s stay-at-home order. The men’s crime? Visiting their friend within a private home. According to the report, the roommate called the police because the men wouldn’t leave. It’s an example of a stay-at-home order that is stressing roommate bonds to the breaking point. The men were charged with “failing to comply with a public health order.”
In another story from Colorado, this time in Brighton, a suburb of Denver, a father was detained in handcuffs in front of his daughter for playing softball in a mostly empty park. The police believed that the family was not following the proper social distancing guidelines since someone else was in the park, though they were far beyond the six feet of separation. The Brighton Police Department eventually apologized for the incident and announced that it would conduct an internal investigation over the incident.
At a Kentucky Easter Service, police officers went around the parking lot, writing down the license plate of every car and issuing notices to the parishioners inside. If the license plate was blocked, the officers wrote down the VIN number. There were even piles of nails dumped around the entrance to the church, though the origin of the nails is unknown. Rev. Jack Roberts says that he has no intention of halting in-person services. The police have not said what they’ll do with the information.
In Philadelphia, a man was hauled off a bus by several police officers for not wearing a mask. According to reports, a transportation employee asked the man to get off the bus since he didn’t have a mask—but he refused, and the police were called. The transit authority has now amended its policy to say that it “‘strongly encourages’ riders to wear face coverings and gloves, not requires it.” The man was not given a citation or arrested.
A doctor in Miami who is providing free coronavirus tests to the homeless was briefly detained and put into cuffs after being approached by an officer who suspected the physician of dumping trash. In actuality, the doctor was loading up the van with tents for the homeless. He was released without issue when his wife was able to provide his identification.
In Louisiana, authorities arrested a pastor, Tony Spell, after he refused to stop holding church services. An attorney for the pastor stated, “(churchgoers) would rather come to church and worship like free people than live like prisoners in their homes.” Authorities charged Spell with six misdemeanors.
This isn’t limited to the United States either. In Kenya, anyone not wearing a mask in public, even if it’s within their cars, will be arrested. Finding a mask may be a struggle for those that live in Nairobi’s slum Kibera, which is the largest in Africa.
While it is important for all Americans to follow government directions to avoid over-taxing our hospital system, at times it seems like commonsense and our liberties are being thrown out the door as some police departments struggle to address the situation. But this crisis does raise an interesting question: Does a pandemic trump our constitutional rights to free assembly? I think that most would agree that the answer is probably, no.
Photo by Logan Weaver