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November 2006
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Context for Kathryn Johnston

Radley has an outstanding (and horrifying — even though I’ve read about all those cases before, it still hurts) piece putting the Johnston story in perspective, with examples from other bad raids.

People like Maye and Johnston are supposed to show remarkable poise and judgment, despite the fact that armed men are breaking into their homes..
When police make mistakes, however, they’re nearly always forgiven. Because we’re supposed to understand how an officer in such a volatile situation might misjudge an everyday object for a gun, or shoot a completely innocent, unarmed man — all perfectly understandable, given the volatile, confrontational circumstances surrounding SWAT raids. Such deaths — while tragic — are mere collateral damage. We have to keep fighting the war on drugs. And we have to protect our police officers by allowing them to break down doors while people are sleeping. The deaths of a few innocent people are the price we pay for the privilege of having the government tell us what we are and aren’t allowed to put into our bodies.
It’s an abhorrent double standard.

Read the whole thing.
Now I know that some people around the web are chiding people like us for jumping on the story too quickly — that we don’t know all the facts yet, so how can we possibly claim that a tragedy occurred in the Katrhyn Johnston case?
It’s possible that she was a 92-year-old drug dealing kingpin (and they just didn’t happen to find anything at her place). Maybe she was letting her house be used by drug dealers. Maybe she had created an elaborate hidden identity during the decades she lived in that house. Who knows? I don’t. And I don’t care. Because it just doesn’t matter.
When the shooting happened is not when things went wrong. As Atlanta’s photodude says:

But I do know this. No violent crime had been committed or observed to obtain this warrant. There was no evidence of anyone in the home being held against their will. The circumstances seemed to contain no imminent danger … whatsoever.

And that’s the point that Radley has to keep repeating to the dimwitted apologists for our drug war. They just don’t seem to get the fact that it is the policy that is completely and insanely out of control. The calamitous policy that says that it is somehow appropriate to use military home invasion techniques for drug charges.
To use armed invasion as a sanctioned method to arrest someone for marijuana offenses is as insane as if we had police fire rocket propelled grenades at cars exceeding the speed limit.

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