By Michael Kleen
Because of the corrupting influence of power, we rightly fear its concentration in the hands of a single individual, but what happens when many individuals, in the form of elected representatives, become corrupt and contemptuous of the law? Instead of one tyrant, we find many tyrants, and this is precisely the situation that one small Arizona town finds itself in today.
On the morning of July 11, residents of Quartzsite, Arizona awoke to find themselves in the midst of a bloodless coup. Sunday night, the five-member town council held a closed session in which they declared a state of emergency, ousted the mayor, and installed the chief of police as chief executive. These alarming actions are the latest in a growing controversy over a woman who was arrested for speaking out at a Quartzsite town council meeting the previous week.
On June 28, Jennifer Jones, publisher of the Desert Freedom Press, rose during the “call to the public” section of the meeting, in which members of the public are invited to speak. Jones began to address rules that had been recently introduced by the town council, at which time one councilmember, a Mr. Joe Winslow, ordered her to relinquish the microphone. When she refused, Police Sergeant Fabiola Garcia attempted to forcibly remove the microphone from Jones’ hands.
Quartzsite’s mayor, Ed Foster, who was elected in May 2010 on a platform of fighting corruption, protested the removal and even told the officers that they were violating the rules of order. This was not the first time the mayor and the town council had been at odds. Mr. Foster had recently uncovered a ghost payroll totaling around $250,000 a year, and suspected the town council members themselves were involved with the graft. The police officers ignored the mayor’s pleas to stop. Jennifer Jones, who was cited for disorderly conduct, suffered a torn ligament in her elbow.
video of the arrest garnered over 32,000 views on YouTube.
Now, the town council has taken extraordinary measures to protect itself from outside criticism, effectively installing a dictator in the form of Chief of Police Jeff Gilbert. Ironically, days earlier, (former) Mayor Foster told WND, “He’s just an insane person, that chief of police. He’s a Nazi… he’s completely out of control. He thinks he’s running the town.” For now, it seems, he is.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau once asked, “What right have the hundred who want to have a master to vote on behalf of the ten who do not?” And the answer is: None at all. The events in Quartzsite, Arizona demonstrate that elected bodies can be just as dangerous as unelected ones, where the abuse of power is concerned. The less of an opportunity for accumulating power that can be abused, the better, whether it be in the hands of a mayor, a town council, or a chief of police.
Michael Kleen is the Editor-in-Chief of Untimely Meditations, publisher of Black Oak Presents, and proprietor of Black Oak Media. He holds a M.A. in History and a M.S. in Education, and is the author of Statism and its Discontents, a collection of columns on the topics of Statism, liberty, and their conflict. His columns have appeared in a variety of publications and websites, including Strike-the-Root.