Denver Post Staff Columnist
Deborah Davis doesn’t consider herself a hero. Certainly not a modern-day champion of the Constitution. Yet, in her own way, she might be a little of both.
Two months ago, this 50-year-old mother of four was reading a book while riding to work on RTD’s Route 100. When the bus rolled up to the gates of the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, a guard climbed on and demanded Davis, as well as everyone else on board, produce identification.
Perhaps it was that inherent American distaste for producing papers on demand, but Davis, who had gone through this drill before, decided to pass.
“I told him that I did have identification, but I wasn’t going to show it to him,” Davis explains. “I knew that I wasn’t required by law to show ID and that’s why I decided I wasn’t going to. The whole thing seemed to be more about compliance than security.”
According to Davis, the guard proceeded to call on federal cops, who then dragged Davis off a public bus, handcuffed her, shoved her into the back seat of a police car and drove off to a police station within the Federal Center.
While I was unable to reach anyone at the Department of Homeland Security on Friday to comment on Davis’ case, the offense/incident report corroborates her basic story.
Though, it should be noted that, according to the arresting officer, Davis became “argumentative” before she “was physically removed from the bus and placed under arrest.”
Good for her.
Davis – whose middle son is risking his life in Iraq while the federal government is demanding papers from and arresting his middle-aged mom – is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 9 and could face up to 60 days in jail.
Gail Johnson, a volunteer ACLU lawyer who practices at a prominent Colorado criminal defense firm, will defend Davis without charge. She expects the government to arraign Davis on two federal criminal misdemeanors, if not more.
The first states that citizens must “when requested, display Government or other identifying credentials to Federal police officers or other authorized individuals.” The second says that citizens must comply with “the lawful direction of Federal police officers and other authorized individuals.”
As Johnson sees it, there are numerous problems with the charges and she plans to fight them “vigorously.”
“She was a passenger on a public bus,” explains Johnson, who believes this case is about the fundamental right to travel. “She got on the bus outside of the federal area and she wanted to get off the bus outside the federal area. It’s not her fault buses run along this route.”
Legal issues notwithstanding, you have to wonder what ever happened to common sense? What exactly were the guards, who merely glanced at the IDs, doing? Is there a “no-bus rider” terrorist list in Lakewood? And if there is, how would the guards be able to differentiate between real and fake IDs?
And no, we needn’t be absolutists about freedom. There are potentially a whole host of justifiable reasons for enhanced security.
In this instance, however, the Federal Center houses the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Geological Survey and a section of the National Archives.
Not exactly Dick Cheney’s super-secret underground bunker.
If safety at the center was a question of national security, why have a public bus route running through the facility in the first place?
“I’m just a regular, normal, everyday person,” Davis says. “There is nothing really far out about me. I have been laid off. I pay my taxes. I have my problems. I am no different than anyone else. It just didn’t seem right.”
Ah, but here she’s wrong.
She’s not like anyone else. So let’s hope more Americans act like Deb Davis, not another partisan hack acting the victim, but an average American who questions government intrusion into our private and public lives for freedom’s sake.
David Harsanyi’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 303-820-1255 or email@example.com .