When I first heard that our Congressman Andy Harris was bringing a young protester up on charges for recently video streaming an interview from his Salisbury office, I was shocked that Harris would go that far to prosecute. But I was not in the least surprised that Harris approved this approach. It is unapologetically cowardly.
Just as a quick primer background history about Harris and Marijuana laws, Harris tried to derail a recent DC Referendum where voters approved a ballot initiative to allow for the legal sale of Marijuana in the District. Harris has sorely angered many in DC, ( not even his jurisdiction) , and to say the least, he his not loved by either the MD Marijuana justice group, and the DC Marijuana justice group that attended the rally.
To be clear, I also have no love or affiliation with DCMJ or MDMJ, but I feel their civil rights as demonstrating citizens in a free country have been violated by our congressman ( pathetically) seeking “ sanctuary”’ from his own constituents. What could be more absurd or perverse! You can’t legally eliminate your political enemies by restricting access to government. As a public servant you must represent all sides.
When Harris’s office filed the current complaint that his office privacy had been violated , he employed an ancient ( an barely applicable) state statute that has regulated privacy in the State of Maryland to defend himself. This “wiretapping” statute is a term held over from the McCarthy Era. The use of this statute seems completely out of context to the event. The term , in an if itself, tends to incriminate the public nature of the event, as if covert evil was intended , which was not the case. Maryland’s “wiretapping” statute requires both parties must agree to be “tapped” to allow the covert information to go public. The protesters had no such agreement with the Harris office , thus the charges.
So we get to the big question, why wouldn’t an elected public official within his office expect to be in the public realm at all times? Isn’t personal privacy in a public state office an unreasonable expectation? Wasn’t this state business, and isn’t there a deliberate confusion attempting to confuse the differences between personal world and government business here? I think so.
In Maryland , the Open Meetings Act brought forth the idea that people deserve the right to see their government function. It blew open the “smoke filled “ lobbyist infested corridors of government and let the sunshine in. In many cities and towns there’s a requirement to videotape the town meetings and broadcast them publicly on a public channel to encourage open and transparent governance.
In the same way the MDMJ group felt they had a right to show others what was happening in the meeting with the Harris office. An attempt at making the meeting public is no crime. In this way , the Open Meetings act was more relevant a precedent to guide this public event than any questionable right to privacy our elected officials have conducting business in office.
What bothers me most about this is the lack of traditional protocol, 1) why didn’t Harris meet with the crowd as part of his responsibility to his constituents, 2) why didn’t Harris recognize that the MDMJ was only trying to bring others into the room with modern technology, and 3) why would Harris want to avenge a group perfectly within their rights to demonstrate, 4) Why did Harris used a completely outdated ( inapplicable) law to seek revenge on these perfectly peaceful protesters and claim personal sanctuary.
Most of all, this is a sets dangerous precedent that leaders are no longer bound to represent their constituents , can hide behind the wall of secrecy ( privacy) and continue to pretend to do public business in their own shuttered world of dark folly. A hearing for the MDMJ indictment is scheduled in Salisbury in March 22.