The Libertarian Party is always and forever against the many forms of oppression and disenfranchisement used against groups and individuals. As a result, one of our core positions is opposition to the War on Drugs and the ever expanding government overreach justified by it. The Libertarian Party of Massachusetts acknowledges that the repeated cycle of violence and oppression experienced by people of color in America is an especially prevalent example of government abuse. The protests of 2020 have shone a spot light onto some of the most egregious abuses of government power - related to the war on drugs and otherwise. This has led to a broader demand for police reform and law-enforcement accountability such as the push to end qualified immunity in its current form shielding police officers from personal responsibility for sometimes atrocious rights-violations.
Massachusetts has even passed a broad police reform bill. The Massachusetts bill includes some laudable measures such as for example de-escalation training and professional standards with independent oversight, limits to use of force and no-knock warrants, and minor limits on qualified immunity. Responsible police departments across the Commonwealth, however, have long been applying similar measures and the vast majority of police officers in Massachusetts already exceed the standards set by this bill. The new regulation also appears to increase the level of centralized control, which bears its own risk of overreach and the kind of bureaucratic unaccountability that is plaguing our government at every level. What we need is local decisions and local civilian oversight. The bill fails to address some of the key issues: it limits no-knock raids but does not abandon them, nor does it in any meaningful way address the war on drugs, and on the central question of qualified immunity it does not go beyond jet another 'commission' to kick the issue down the road. It simply does not go far enough.
Maybe the most important problem with the bill though is the refusal of the legislature to acknowledge that the issues are not with individual 'bad apples' among the police officers that need to be reigned in. It is the structure of our criminal justice system itself and the laws created by the legislatures - at both the state and federal level - as well as the seemingly endless list of regulations delegated to the executive, that are the problem. Abuse does not start with a police officer using excessive force, it starts with a militarized law-enforcement machine sent to persecute citizens for non-violent, victimless crimes, such as drug offenses.
It is time to stop scapegoating the police and realize that it is the laws they are tasked to enforce and the methods they are told to use that are the problem. We need to end the government's attempts to control what people put in their bodies, decriminalize or legalize drugs (without prohibitive taxation), and end the War on Drugs that has lead to mass incarceration and violence, but has utterly failed to address the problem it is supposed to correct.
It is refreshing to see John Oliver make many of these Libertarian points when he demands to stop doing drug raids. That would be a good next step for Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Libertarians welcome the police reform bill, but it’s just the first step. Government overreach is the underlying cause and needs to be addressed.
This Monday, the Massachusetts State Senate published a police reform and racial equity omnibus bill (Bill S.2800 / 191st General Court). Based on an initial review, the proposed bill includes legislative measures supported by the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts: Changes that would reasonably limit qualified immunity, certify police officers and improve their training, create a duty to intervene when witnessing other officers use of excessive force, prevent problem-officers from being promoted, offer more clarity for limits on use of force, improve handling of mental-health related situations, and at least suspend the government use of remote biometric surveillance technology such as facial recognition software. This is a positive development for the citizens of the Commonwealth.
However, this bill also has some important short-comings: While increasing the control on the acquisition of military grade equipment by the police, the bill appears to fall short of any significant roll back of the existing militarization of the law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts. Also it does not seem to include any measure to curtail the use of asset forfeiture or other ‘policing for profit’ practices that haunt the state. Another major gap is the apparent failure to address prosecutorial misconduct along with the policing issues - the two of them usually go hand-in-hand.
The vast majority of police officers already fulfill their duties beyond the standards established in this bill. And while it is important and long overdue to create a set of rules that incentivises these good officers instead of allowing the bad ones to thrive. And while this bill is generally an important step in the right direction, improving law enforcement accountability and training, it is only scratching the surface of the underlying problem of a broken criminal ‘justice’ system that has become much too intrusive into our lives, criminalizing everyday behavior.
Libertarians in Massachusetts think that we need to take this one step further and change not only how we are being policed, but also what is being policed: the best trained and most honorable police officers will fail to sustain justice, if we require them to enforce unjust laws. Calling the violence against citizens that we have witnessed over and over again just ‘police violence’ misses the underlying problem: it is ‘government violence’ created by laws we allow to be made and rooted in government overreach. The long-term solution to this problem is to remove the constant government intervention from people's everyday lives - as long as they are not violating the rights of others. This means first of all, abolishing laws that fabricate ‘victimless crimes’ - illegal acts that directly involve only the perpetrator or occur between consenting adults and ending the racist war on drugs.
To fix the system of governance in Massachusetts, we need local action and visibility for principles of Liberty in Massachusetts. Change will start locally. Join the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts. Volunteer in a campaign. Create a local group in your town. Reach out to the LAMA State Committee.
If you are in the 5th district, please sign here to get Walter Ziobro on the ballot.
Walter Ziobro is running for Congress in Massachusetts' 5th district and needs your help with signatures to get him on the ballot. The Libertarian Party of Massachusetts has decided to put our support behind his campaign.
Walter lives in Watertown with his wife and children, and works in Boston as an accountant for a small company. Walter is running as an unenrolled candidate under the generic "Liberty" label because that is the only way that he can get on the ballot now, as the current Covad-19 crisis has made petitioning very difficult. Walter needs you to sign his e-petiton. He needs at least 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot.
Walter is a long-time libertarian activist. He agrees with the positions of the Libertarian Party. He describes himself as a Millian liberal, and a Madisonian conservative. By that he means, he favors as much freedom for the individual as possible, and a constitutionally restrained minimal government. A few issues that he would like to advocate in his campaign are:
1. Adopt the Wyoming Rule to increase the size of the House of Representatives. The completion of the 2020 census makes this the best time to do this.
2. Encourage the development of Covid-19 tests and vaccines to speed the day that we can target carriers, and minimize the restrictions on our personal freedom.
3. Make police more accountable by abolishing qualified immunity, asset forfeiture, and no-knock warrants.
4. Encourage freer trade to improve the economies of all countries, keep people employed in their own countries, and minimize their need to emigrate.
5. Abolishing the personal income tax, as its filing requirments are a massive invasion of personal privacy.
You can follow Walter's campaign on Facebook. Please share his page.
Qualified immunity has got to go!
With the protests over the unjust death of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis police department, discussions of the actions needed for real, concrete criminal justice reform have finally become part of the national conversation.
Representative Justin Amash (L-MI) is introducing legislation to end qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that shelters government employees from the consequence of certain actions that turn out to be illegal. In recent years, this doctrine has been expanded to encompass more and more cases of police officers using disproportionate force and killing people they interact with.
This is also supported by a Resolution adopted by the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts in response the the murder of George Floyd, that calls for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to lead the necessary change by abandoning the war against drugs, to end police militarization, to take concrete steps towards re-establishing law-enforcement accountability, specifically by abolishing the concept of qualified immunity, and to remove the pretext for so much of the police violence by revoking laws that fabricate ‘victimless crimes’ - illegal acts that directly involve only the perpetrator or occur between consenting adults.
For more information on qualified immunity and the fight against it, please see: https://www.unlawfulshield.com/
We, as Libertarians, have always opposed the expansion of unjust police power, and condemn the political processes that use it. It is time to make our voices heard and work with all our hearts to ensure that we see comprehensive criminal reform enacted during our lifetimes. Representative Amash's bill is the first step (of many to come) in that direction.
Libertarian Representative Amash’s Bill to End Qualified Immunity already has the support of Massachusetts Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Jim McGovern, Joseph P. Kennedy III, and Lori Trahan. Let's make sure that the other 6 Massachusetts Reps join them.
How to help
The most important thing you can do is to contact your congressional Representative and urge them to support Representative Amash's Ending Qualified Immunity Act.
To find your Representative's contact information:
- Go to https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/MA#representatives
- Enter your zip code to find your Representative, if you don't know your congressional district
- To the the right of their picture will be a collection of links that will lead you to place where you can contact them
If you have Twitter, please tweet at your rep at the Twitter handle provided on in the Links section to the right.
If you are calling your Representative, always be sure to be courteous and professional. Be prepared to give this message either to a person, or (more likely) as a voicemail message.
Here is a sample message:
Hello, my name is <your name>. I am a resident of <town> in Representative <representative's name> district. I am calling today to request that Representative <representative's last name> support Representative Justin Amash's Ending Qualified Immunity Act.
Qualified Immunity is a legal tool that has been used by corrupt police officers to escape the consequences of their actions during times when they have clearly acted in an abusive or unjust manner.
In the wake of the protests in response to the death of George Floyd, the responsible and moral thing to do is to end qualified immunity as the first real step towards real, comprehensive criminal justice reform. Thank you.
If you are emailing, here is a template. Be sure to replace ALL of the things in < > with the correct person's name.
Subject: Please support the Ending Qualified Immunity Act
As I'm sure Representative <representative’s name> is abundantly aware, unrest and anger has spread across the nation in response to the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Congressman Justin Amash (L-MI), has introduced the Ending Qualified Immunity Act to Congress, which would end the Supreme Court's controversial decision to extend "qualified immunity" to police, protecting them from being sued or held liable for their actions in cases where they have violated a civilian's civil rights. I strongly encourage Representative <representative’s last name> to back the Ending Qualified Immunity Act and remove this gaping hole in police accountability, which will not only protect American citizens from explicit abuse by unjust police officers, but also help begin rebuilding confidence in America's law enforcement, here and abroad.
Don’t excuse reprehensible violence in the name of some ‘greater good’. And don’t let the violence perpetrated by a small minority become the defining narrative and drive division.
Yesterday we have seen the best and the worst of Boston: First a weekend of peaceful protests and solidarity against government overreach and police brutality: protests against the continued economic shutdown, that is destroying livelihoods, as well as protests against the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, and against the continued injustice it has become a symbol of. Later, we had to witness a night of violence, rioting and looting. People getting hurt and private property being destroyed, innocent business owners and their employees, who are already put under enormous pressure by the government-mandated lock-down, receiving another blow - all under the eyes of Police and National Guard.
It was predictable that rioters would use the earlier, peaceful protests as a pretext to wreak havoc. The anger over the injustice symbolized in the agonizing murder of George Floyd as well as the killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the penned-up emotions from months of lockdown, the desperation in the face of economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the flawed government response to it, have created the type of climate that is so often the trigger for rioting and sometimes used as a cheap excuse for this type of violence. And while riots and looting have been a common scene across the country accompanying the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we have to note that in Boston they are somewhat special: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other elected officials in the state have appeared to at least negligently encourage this kind of mob violence, while slandering peaceful protests that went against their agenda, or in some cases going so far as promising non-prosecution of violent offenders.
There really is nothing to justify the attacks we have observed last night in Boston or the often even worse violence that occurred all over the country. There is really no way one can justify for example a mob beating up an elderly store owner in broad daylight as seen in Rochester, NY. Everyone with an intact moral compass will be disgusted by these brutal assaults. Yet, we should not fall into the trap of allowing the violence perpetrated by a small minority to become the defining narrative. We can observe first hand the scramble by corporate media and the duopoly parties to own the defining narrative around the riots. And everyone can find something that confirms their preconceived views and biases: There is real anger that finds its outlet in rioting, there is real looting, I am sure there are just-for-fun rioters, it is likely that groups of different political ilk are trying to stoke the riots for political gain, there are just plain criminals who use it to even a score, and yes, it is plausible that even agent provocateurs are involved in some cases. So if we are honest, no one is going to get their clean story. The reality is, that any attempt to glorify anything here is going to be based in lies and end in fiasco.
What many people appear to be missing, is that this pattern is what keeps the same cycle of change-prevention alive. Rioting is false and just serves as a justification for expansion of government control, and making it the main narrative is the catalyst for that. The saddening and outrageous death of George Floyd in a city run by Democrats for generations, in a state run by a Democrat Governor, demonstrates that there is no real ‘lesser evil’ between the duopoly parties. In reality, rioting is merely a symptom. We have to address the underlying disease in our society, and that is government overreach. Stand up against violence, call out those who riot, don't let the rioting become the defining narrative. Don't let the symptom get in the way of treating the problem.
To paraphrase Libertarian Congressman Justin Amash: Let’s not confuse the protesters in Boston with the rioters in Boston. Two different groups with different agendas - one righteous and the other perverse.
The injustice that so many are feeling in different ways is caused by one problem: government overreach. People on either side of the traditional political divide are realizing that they are merely pawns in the establishment’s play for power. As Libertarians in Massachusetts, we have the opportunity to stand against that and lead by example guided by our principles of Self Ownership and Non-Aggression.
It is unacceptable, that property is being destroyed and innocents are being hurt. And the killing of black men must stop.
Tune into a conversation with Vermin Supreme on current issues at the Libertarian Nuts and Bolts show Episode #1 on Thursday, June 4 at 7 pm.
Black Lives Matter and government oppression must end.
While there are many forms of oppression and disenfranchisement against many groups and individuals, the cycle of violence and abuse experienced by the black community in America stands out. The wanton murder of George Floyd has become another symbol of that. It is time for change. And while there will be many different opinions on what a solution may look like, we can all agree that this kind of government brutality can no longer be tolerated. It is time for accountability.
Libertarians need to join in and help to identify the root causes while acknowledging the pain experienced by a group of people that has for too long been the preferred target for government abuse. Today is a day where we should all unite and stand with the black community and say "no more!"
As a Libertarian, I encourage all members of the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts and all liberty-loving residents of New England to show their support: If you can, join the peaceful protests today in Boston and show our flags in support of the victims of government oppression.
If you are considering going, please assess your personal risk from participating in a large protest in a major city, and take appropriate precautions.
You have probably seen the news or maybe even the horrifying video showing George Floyd's agonizing death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. The officers involved have now been fired and an investigation is underway, charges may be forthcoming.
The issue though is that these types of murders by cops have been going on *forever*, and are probably much less frequent now than before. They were just swept under a rug of police lies. People in the targeted communities have always known this.
But now that everyone on the street is a potential video reporter, we live in an age where we can sit in our comfortable suburban homes, open up our social media app, and watch a video of a man being sadistically murdered by a gang of cops just a few hours after it happens. We, too, now feel the rage, sorrow, and disgust that such knowledge imparts to any normal person.
We need to reassess our whole concept of police work, and the institutions that foster the culture we just witnessed.
Libertarians are the only ones who understand that any law we ask our police to enforce, no matter how minor the infraction, opens the door to this type of travesty.
It is time for change. We all are responsible for allowing the laws that create these situations, for allowing the government to become oppressive to the point of literally choke its citizens to death.
Our deepest condolences go out to George Floyd's family. We hope they are the last family to ever suffer a loss in this way.
Read more at Reason.com ...
Massachusetts needs to shift gears to enabling its citizens to be responsible voluntarily, to supporting private and local initiative, and to focusing resources on targeted protection of the vulnerable.
Today, after nearly two months of shutdown, Governor Baker announced the details of “Phase 1” of his plan to re-open Massachusetts. While there is some progress with this announcement, the detailed list leaves many questions open. And in areas where it is clear, it does not go far enough - by a long measure.
The changes announced today continue to put an undue burden on local businesses giving an advantage to large chains. It is not reasonable to allow large crowds into some stores, while limiting local shop owners that don’t have capabilities such as online-shop presence to only curbside pickup. At a minimum the state should have set clear safety requirements that are applied consistently for large and small businesses alike. The capacity limit of 25% for offices is overly restrictive, hitting smaller businesses harder than large corporations that can afford advanced digital infrastructure.
Another example of a key problem is the lack of a clear and expedient plan for opening child care services. Even if we accept that the school year is ending digitally, summer programs all over the state have been cancelled. This leaves families in a dire situation, even if businesses reopen. How can you go to work when you have to take care of your kids at home? Children are already paying a high price for the shutdown. It is time to let them out again.
The situation for preventive healthcare and non-COVID related issues continues to be murky at best. Worldwide, there is a growing concern over the health impact of care not given due to the forced shutdown of non-COVID related services. And while the Massachusetts plan is moving towards restoring services, a faster change is needed.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses a great risk, especially to those with an already weakened health. It was and continues to be important to ‘flatten the curve’ of exponential spread in order to avoid overwhelming the health care systems. At the same time we can not risk ‘flattening’ the economy or giving up our civil rights, because both can and will cause even greater harm in the long-term. All indications are that the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19 will be with us for the long-haul and we need to develop a sustainable way to deal with it. That can only work with voluntary compliance to well understood best practices.
Instead of central planning with a government-mandated shutdown that has further undermined civil liberties and worsened the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts should have enabled its citizens to be responsible voluntarily, should have supported private and local initiative, and should have focused resources on targeted protection of the vulnerable. It is time to shift gears and move in that direction.
One thing that the COVID-19 crisis has made clear, is that Massachusetts needs a change in its political landscape. Join the LIbertarian Party and help us bring about that change.
In a surprising move, Secretary of State Bill Galvin has allowed the signatures for the second phase of the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) ballot drive to be collected electronically. This drive is extremely important for the future of the Libertarian Party.
When Justin Amash announced his interest in becoming the Libertarian candidate for President, there was an immediate outcry from Democrats and Republicans alike, calling him a "spoiler" and claiming he would steal votes from their candidates. No matter whether Amash or any of our other worthy candidates is chosen at the Libertarian National Convention (now scheduled to begin online on May 22), this argument will eclipse all others, and our candidate will draw the wrath of the main stream. The widespread adoption of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) will eliminate this argument forever.
RCV has been used in several U.S. municipalities for many years, and was adopted statewide in Maine in 2016 and overwhelmingly in New York City in 2019. When Massachusetts passes RCV this November, it will trigger a cascade of success in other states. If timid liberty-minded voters are able to rank the lesser of two evils as a backup #2, worthy candidates will no longer consider the Libertarian Party a lost cause.
In order to earn RCV a place on the November 3, 2020 ballot, the people must submit a second round of 13,374 valid signatures by June 17. The campaign kicked off the signature drive on May 6th and we need thousands of MA voters to sign the RCV petition electronically from home.
As you may know, volunteers from Voter Choice for Massachusetts, the organization driving the RCV campaign, made history last fall when they submitted 111,000 certified signatures to the Secretary of the Commonwealth; the most ever by a Massachusetts ballot initiative campaign. The Libertarian Party of Massachusetts has supported RCV since 2019, and we are proud to be part of this historic effort to give more voice to voters.
We hope you will take a minute to sign the RCV petition right now by clicking here, and please share this URL with your friends and family (sign.voterchoice2020.org) on Facebook or via email. Nothing like this has ever been done before, but with your help we can make history together.
If you would like to get involved to help safely gather signatures from your friends and neighbors, the campaign has the tools and training to support you. Please sign up here, or contact Brian Bass, Organizing Director for the RCV campaign, at [email protected]
The Libertarian Party of Massachusetts (lpmass.org) adopted a resolution calling for the protection of Civil Rights during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and for an end to the Government-forced shutdown.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a serious crisis and is threatening lives, especially of those with a weakened immune response and of the elderly. In addition, the reaction to the crisis has created a significant economic problem, putting the livelihood and, in some cases, the lives of many more at risk. On top of these issues, people are dealing with the sheer human impact of uncertainty, fear, and the loss of the ability to move freely or even see family, as well as the loss of loved ones. For some this is leading to some level of mental health challenges. Government regulation in general and the government response to the crisis in specific has in multiple ways contributed to worsening the situation. It will take a tremendous effort to overcome this challenge.
Voluntary social distancing and stay-at-home recommendations for those who have that option, as well as closure of schools and cancellations of mass-events have probably been effective tools in slowing the further spread of COVID-19 and the resulting potential overload of the health care system.
However, the COVID-19 crisis has also led to another push for more executive power on every level of government. The fear of the pandemic has also paved the way for an unprecedented support for even blatantly unconstitutional measures. The lockdown and the practice of government officials making arbitrary decisions on ‘essential’ businesses - sometimes as in the example of firearms retailers driven by an ulterior political agenda -, or the attempt by the Department of Justice to allow unlimited detention are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The fining - and in some cases apparently arrest - of citizens for alleged violations of distancing or stay-at-home orders without a concrete risk to others, are an unacceptable government overreach - they are just more victimless ‘crimes’.
This is happening after the failure of government to address the problem before it became a crisis and even its direct contribution to the problem. Examples are government red tape preventing private initiative to develop appropriate testing capabilities, or the now rescinded guidance to not wear masks in public. Bureaucratic control and mismanagement has hampered progress, limited individual initiative, and caused suffering beyond the government apparatus. The many cases of medical workers being punished for taking initiative to mitigate the shortage of protective equipment are a saddening example of that. However, only the government is claiming a monopoly to actively prevent others from solving problems. And government measures of expanding reach and undermining civil rights in a crisis have a habit of sticking around and developing a life of its own. The fact that the Patriot Act was just renewed in Congress almost two decades after the horrific terrorist attack of September 11 can serve as a reminder of that.
Any infringements on individual rights need to have a solid reason. However, there is an increasing amount of data suggesting that voluntary social distancing, cancellation of mass events, and enabling the vulnerable to self-protect has been effective to slow the spread of COVID-19, while the government forced lockdown of the economy has likely contributed little beyond those effects - at tremendous cost. The Robert Koch Institute (roughly the German equivalent to the CDC) has pre-published a study that visualizes that clearly:
This shows that new infections dropped significantly after cancellation of mass events and social distancing recommendations 03/09, continued to fall after cross-state guidelines were agreed in Germany on 03/16, but that it leveled out even before the economic shutdown was put in place for Germany on 03/23. This study is likely suffering from the same challenges of incomplete data as most, and there are significant regional and local differences calling for local decision making based on the concrete situation in a specific area.
The public is well advised to be wary of the expanding government reach, surveillance, and erosion of civil rights, as well as the long-term impact of the unprecedented forced lock-down orders.
Many are taking a moralistic approach to the debate, citing the Pandemic of 1918 as an example to warn against relaxing successful measures too early. While that Pandemic indeed should serve as a warning, at the same time, the Great Depression and its contribution to the Rise of Fascism and World War II should also serve as a reminder that an extreme economic downturn has a very real human cost. And the effects of the full shutdown are already being compared to the Great Depression by economists, putting lives at risk in 2020 and beyond.
Individual responsibility is the basis of any successful effort to address this crisis. Libertarians support voluntary social distancing to ‘flatten the curve’ of the COVID-19 spread and mitigate its potential to overwhelm the healthcare infrastructure. The position of the Libertarian Party is that any response must be scientifically justified and not based on speculation; that the response must respect and protect civil liberties and balance its long-term effects.
Overall, the urgently needed improvement of the situation can best be achieved by removing bureaucratic hurdles and supporting local and private initiative in combination with a focused containment and protection strategy. Most importantly it must be focused on voluntary compliance with social distancing and self-isolation based on a positive test or on proven exposure to the infection.
The Libertarian Party of Massachusetts calls for an end to the government mandated shutdown of the economy and to the curtailing of civil liberties, as well as and the discriminatory treatment of businesses that might not be politically in favor. This should be replaced with a more efficient and just approach, that builds on voluntary social distancing, targeted isolation of the infected, as well as on enabling the vulnerable to self-protect. Key to that is broad availability of testing to the general population in order to identify the infected and the part of the population that has had previous exposure and, based on the current scientific consensus, is likely to have at least temporary immunity. This also implies the continued cancellation of mass events and mandatory government programs such as schools, or for example signature petition requirements for elections.