On Friday, after Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) concluded a town hall-style meeting at an old folks' home in Concord, New Hampshire, I asked him what he made of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests, which have included a noticeable contingency of Paul supporters. On Thursday night, for example, a group of young men assembled at Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan were wielding anti-Federal Reserve placards and promoting Paul's presidential campaign.
"If they were demonstrating peacefully," Paul told me, "and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed–I would say, good!"
I asked Paul if he was aware of the much-publicized incident from last weekend in which Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, a high-ranking official in the New York Police Department, was captured on video pepper-spraying nonviolent protesters without provocation.
"I hadn't heard that, since I have to admit I didn't keep up on all the details of it," Paul said, sounding concerned. "I didn't read the stories about it. But that means government doesn't like to be receiving any criticism at all. And my argument is, government should be in the open–the people's privacy ought to be protected. So I don't like it."
On a related note, during the town hall meeting, Paul was asked to react to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's recent assertion that his department has the ability to shoot down aircraft. "Yeah, I have concern about that," Paul said. "That's not exactly your friendly policeman on the block to go to when you're in trouble. The militarization of our police force–the SWAT teams and all–I think it's a bad sign."
"I do think that when the federal government gets involved," Paul continued, "and Homeland Security provides a lot of these weapons, and gives the weapons to them–I think it's all a dangerous trend."
"One thing though, that I also don't like, is if there's a drug bust, or the police come and they confiscate a boat or a plane–guess what? The police get to keep it. I mean, that is outrageous! What, do you think there would be a motivation then, for them to crack down and get a truck or a boat or a car? And then they get to use it?"
"So whether it's the Department of Homeland security subsidizing– the local police force should be local. It should not be federal. That's why I complained about the federal bureacracy of a hundred thousand carrying guns to enforce laws on us. So no. Too much militarism. Policing is fine and dandy, but we should try to maintain that in our community. Besides, the police, many of them are very very good–there's some corruption in the police forces–but you know, we're not safe because there's a policeman out here every night patrolling. That's not why you're safe here. You're usually safe, especially in New Hampshire, because people, no matter how rural and remote you are, they're going to think 'Huh, he might have a gun in there! I'm not going in there.' It's the Second Amendment and that perception that makes us safe."
"So we don't need the militiarization of our police forces. And when they talk about the ability to shoot down aircraft, it's pretty bad."