When Petty Tyranny Threatens Everyone’s Liberty

Small powers threaten big liberties in Virginia and South Carolina.

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By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Sometimes a small person possessed of a little bit of authority misuses it and gives everyone concerned a big black eye.

Several weeks ago, in an exchange posted on You Tube, a police officer working for the Fairfax County, Va., public schools threatened to arrest a person holding a sign expressing a sentiment with which the officer apparently did not agree. According to witnesses, when the demonstrator challenged the officer's command by saying "This used to be America," the officer replied, "It ain't no more, okay?"

Bad grammar aside—and one might have reason to expect better from someone working for a public school system—the officer's actions appear to be more in the nature of petty tyranny than a legitimate effort to protect people or property. It would be silly, except that a person's liberty was threatened.

This problem is not confined to the public sector. Corporate America suffers from it as well.

Just the other day a Gaffney, S.C., Bank of America official removed a cluster of flags that had been put down on the right-of-way in front of her branch on the grounds that some customers might react negatively to them. The flags had been placed there to honor Marine Lance Cpl. Chris Fowlkes, who died Sept. 10 from injuries received in Afghanistan, and whose funeral procession was scheduled to travel past the bank on the way to the funeral home.

According to the Spartanburg, S.C., Herald Journal, local resident Brenda Earls put flags on her street, York Drive, where Fowlkes' grandparents, Ruth and John Fowlkes, live and along the sidewalk of several businesses on Floyd Baker Boulevard, including Bank of America. But, Earls said, Bank of America branch manager Brandy Tate removed the flags from the right-of -way out of fear of "offending a customer" and in accordance with company policy.

Tate, it must be assumed, does not know the values of the community in which she lives.

Once the kafuffle started over Tate's seizure of the flags, Bank of America's corporate communications office issued an apology stating the removal of the flags resulted form "a breakdown in communications." And there were flags back in place as the hearse bringing Fowlkes body on its final journey passed by. But the decision has cost Bank of America something—as well it should.

The Cherokee County, S.C., Council voted Monday to close its accounts with the bank. "I feel we should take a stand and deposit the money in other banks as deemed appropriate by the county administration and treasurer," said Councilman Quay Little.

Thanks to folks like Councilman Little we can see there is some common sense left in America—but not, apparently at Bank of America, or at least one of its branches.

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