The ‘sovereign citizen’ movement consists of people who have their own interpretation of their rights and obligations under the US constitution. Via Mark Frauenfelder, I came across this fascinating video of a woman who, at a traffic stop, challenges the right of a California police officer to detain her, saying that because she is a sovereign citizen, she can claim all the rights of citizenship without obeying any of its laws. The driver of the car apparently did not have a license, presumably because as a sovereign citizen, he does not need the state’s permission to drive.
The way the woman argues was interesting in that she seemed absolutely confident that she was exempt from following the laws. I was wondering what the woman sought to gain by demanding that he call in a superior officer. Did she really expect the sheriff to say that the police officer was wrong and she was right? And if the sheriff upheld the officer, as is certain to happen, would she demand to see an even higher officer? How high was she expecting to go? The governor of the state? The Supreme Court?
Whenever I see such videos, I always wonder if a black man or woman were to behave like this what might have happened. Most black people, especially men, are advised when dealing with the police at a traffic stop, to be polite, obey lawful orders, keep their hands visible at all times, and not make any sudden moves, all of which this woman felt free to ignore with impunity.
This particular officer seems very professional, calm and polite, but that may be because he did not feel under any threat. But given the tension between black men and the police, the situation could easily have escalated with the officer feeling that the aggression was a prelude to an attack on him, and responding pre-emptively with force.