Protecting Ourselves From Government Abuse During COVID-19 Pandemic
Riot police stand guard on Portland Street in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, China, on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. A protest against a Hong Kong government plan to use a new and unoccupied public housing estate as a possible coronavirus quarantine facility turned violent as demonstrators set fires and destroyed some property. Photographer: Kyle Lam/Bloomberg

Protecting Ourselves From Government Abuse During COVID-19 Pandemic

It is difficult amid the chaos and unpredictability surrounding our Country’s new COVID-19 reality to think about what life will look like when this crisis subsides.  Yet it is during the most difficult of challenges when nations decide if they will surrender their fundamental values in exchange for the promise of security. 

Whether our leaders argue that drastic times call for drastic measures, the ends justify the means, or promise that everything will go back to normal after the crisis abates – it is imperative that there are voices questioning, “what will our Republic look like after the storm passes?”

Afterall, as reasonable or necessary as some measures appear to a fearful populace, many in our ruling class want to make sure to not  let a good crisis go to waste.

The New York Times recently highlighted several chilling examples of major constitutional and human rights violations being adopted in democratic nations with lightning speed and little resistance:

  • Right to Privacy – Infringement Through Draconian Surveillance: In Israel the Prime Minister has authorized tracking citizens through cellphone data they developed for counterterrorism efforts. They are tracing citizens’ every movements and can even throw people in prison for up to six months for defying isolation orders.
  • Right to Access the Ballot Box: Fair and free elections are a cornerstone of any democratic republic.  The “interim President” of Bolivia has suspended their presidential election, unilaterally seizing a longer term and denying citizens a basic right to choose their leader.  Hungary’s Prime Minister has legislation drafted that is likely to be passed which among many infringements also includes the ability for him to suspend all elections and referendums.  How his government ever peacefully wrest this power away from him again is left unanswered in the legislative package.
  • Freedom of the Press and Speech:  Several countries are violating basic free speech rights and persecuting journalists that publish “dissenting” or “false” information contrary to the government.  Hungary again is an offender, allowing the public prosecutor to imprison people for up to five years for disseminating what they consider false information. 
  • Right to Assembly: Our friends overseas in Great Britain sprinted out legislation that allows their ministries to ban pubic gatherings with little oversight as well as potentially detain and isolate people indefinitely.  In the United States, democrats pushed hard to include language in the COVID-19 relief package that would force non-profits and charitable organizations to disclose their donors, a practice that has been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme court in NAACP VS Alabama.
  • Right to a Speedy Trial and Habeas Corpus: Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu has shut down courts supposedly in the name of public health.  It also conveniently serves his own interests as he was scheduled to stand trial for corruption charges.  The United States’ Department of Justice has tried similarly dangerous tactics, requesting Congress give them the authority to indefinitely detain someone during an emergency as well as suspend court proceedings pre and post arrest and trial.

These infringements are hitting close to home in Arizona.  Shortly after the crisis began, several mayors unilaterally declared a state of emergency without notifying Governor Ducey or their fellow council members. Some used these powers to close businesses and limit hours, often with no consideration with how disruptive it would be for employers to comply with a patchwork of restrictions varying city to city.  

Even after Governor Ducey wisely stepped in and established a uniform policy for the entire state, Coral Evans of Flagstaff has willfully and publicly defied state law.  She has unilaterally closed city salons and similar services in obvious defiance of the Governor’s Executive Order which preempts cities from employing more restrictive orders than outlined by his administration.

The bottom line is that citizens need to keep a close eye on the trade-offs government officials will be asking us to make.  The fearmongering being stoked by some politicians should be looked upon with suspicion, especially when their solutions involve long term power grabs, endless bailouts or indefinite shutdown orders. As scary as Coronavirus may be, ceding our rights and freedoms to a permanent police state is a much bigger threat.