Feb. 25, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • Hartford • 10:00 AM EST
The Stamford Advocate editorial board showed courage on Saturday, February 17 with this gem. Unfortunately, they don't post all their editorials online, so I typed this one in.
As he tries to extricate himself from dubious charges in which police say he threatened the governor, Kenneth Krayeske can at least console himself that he's won some new friends in high places.
Whether they'll be able to help him much is doubtful, but their involvement signals how important Mr. Krayeske's situation is to all of us, and why it bears scrutiny. At stake could be our ability to speak out against public figures without fear of reproach, a bedrock value of our society that came under attack last month in Hartford.
Mr. Krayeske is the political activist who was arrested and thrown in jail after he approached the inaugural parade route of M. Jodi Rell and attempted to take pictures of her as she celebrated her recent election as Connecticut's governor. He claims he was working as a freelance photographer at the time.
Police apparently were on the lookout for Mr. Krayeske, who had been placed on a specious list of people who posed so-called threats to the governor. Why? Back in 2004, he had been arrested on charges of obstructing free passage at the launch of a nuclear submarine in Groton, and prior to parade day had used his blog to urge people to protest the governor's ball.
If that's cause for inclusion on a watch list, then we are all threatened. So agrees the Society of Professional Journalists. Despite the fact that Mr. Krayeske can be considered a journalist only by the loosest of definitions, the national organization this week issued a public call for Hartford police to drop charges against him. It has not yet been determined whether SPJ will provide Mr. Krayeske legal assistance.
According to Hartford police, Mr. Krayeske was charged with breach of peace and interfering with police after he reportedly tried to pull away from officers who stopped him when he stepped off the curb at the parade site. Whether police overreacted or not will be a matter for the courts to decide, but it seems Mr. Krayeske's appearance on a watch list directly affected how he was treated that day - starting with bail that was set at $75,000, which one lawmaker has called "ridiculous" in proportion to the charges. Mr. Krayeske was in custody for 12 hours, until after the governor's ball had ended.
"Something extraordinary happened in the Krayeske situation where, by all accounts, it appears bail was used to deprive (him) of his liberty long enough to get past the governor's ball," says state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford.
Americans who don't feel a chill down their spine from that should seek out a copy of the Constitution right away. In response to the incident, Mr. McDonald has co-sponsored a bill that would define the difference between dissenidents and people who are actual threats.
"The problem here is there was nothing about Ken Krayeske's history that would lead one to believe he's an actual, physical threat to the governor," said state Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, Mr. McDonald's partner in the initiative.
The bill would also limit surveillance on dissidents, make reminders of constitutional rights part of security briefings and create a legislative oversight committee to regularly review procedures. All reasonable provisions.
Police have a difficult job when it comes to events like a parade. Potential targets are out in the open and crowds can provide cover for all kinds of wrongdoers, including the worst kind. That's a good argument for threats and appropriate action to be better defined.
Most importantly, people need to know they can picket City Hall without their name going in a file that makes them a target for law enforcement. They need to know they can call out a politician they believe has done wrong - or whom they just don't like - without fear that they will be placed on a watch list. And it should go without saying that in the United States of America no one ever should be detained for political purposes. If that is indeed what happened here, a stronger response that a public statement and a proposed bill is in order.
But in the meantime, as Mr. Krayeske awaits his fate, the bill is a good start. It could provide better protection for all involved in similar incidents in the future, which, ultimately, is everyone.