Rutgers Lecturer Forcibly Sent For Psych Evaluation By NYPD For Some Tweets About The Election

from the reprogramming-in-effect dept

As you may have noticed, a lot of people have opinions on the election that just happened. And, many people are using social media to express those opinions, for good or for bad. Some people are excited, some people are angry. And no matter which side you fall on, you should recognize that expressing opinions on social media is protected (and should be encouraged as part of a healthy political process involving public discussion and debate). Kevin Allred, a lecturer at Rutgers University, is definitely on the side of folks who aren’t happy with the results of the election. And, like many, he’s been tweeting about his opinions on the matter. Having read through <a href=” target=”_blank”>his Twitter feed, it doesn’t seem all that out of the ordinary from stuff that I’ve seen from others. In fact, I’d argue that it actually seems fairly tame.

Either way, last night he Tweeted that the NYPD had come to his house because the police at Rutgers believed he was “a threat” based on some of his tweets. There were two tweets in particular. One was about burning a flag in protest and the other was a rhetorical question about the 2nd Amendment.

To be clear: flag burning is perfectly legal and protected expression, as per the US Supreme Court. But here, Allred wasn’t even burning a flag. He was talking about burning a flag, which is, obviously, also protected expression. Ditto on the random rhetorical on the 2nd Amendment. No matter what you think of Allred’s position on the election, flag burning OR the 2nd Amendment, you should recognize that the 1st Amendment protects that expression. Update: It also appears that Allred deleted the original tweet on the second point which was certainly noticeably different than the way he describes it above. It wasn’t just a question in the nature stated, but rather a more direct question of what would happen when he went out and started to shoot white people. That’s still protected speech, but at least there’s slightly more of an explanation for why law enforcement wanted to go visit him. But it’s still not necessarily a reason to detain him.

The Rutgers police and NYPD apparently disagreed. They forced him to go to a psychiatric hospital to be evaluated.

Allred blames Trump for this — and while we’ve made it clear that we’ve got lots of concerns about Trump’s views on free speech, Trump isn’t exactly directing police to pick up people for various tweets. But the whole situation is extremely disturbing nonetheless. It’s frightening how little law enforcement seems to recognize or care about the First Amendment.

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Comments on “Rutgers Lecturer Forcibly Sent For Psych Evaluation By NYPD For Some Tweets About The Election”

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Vidiot (profile) says:

How exactly does that “forced me” thing work? Extrajudicial, as in no court order? Rutgers campus security forces are known locally as self-important paramilitary wannabees, but thanks to some unfortunate legislation, Kampus Kops at all NJ state-affiliated colleges are vested with powers that parallel the NJ State Police. Often, that amounts to alcohol raids that result in 20-year-olds facing felony charges instead of warnings; but this is a surreal next level. (Dare we use the Gestapo word?)

Nathan F (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Having worked 10 years at a psych hospital what most likely happened was an Order of Protective Custody was written up. If someone feels that a person is a danger to themselves or others you can go to the police and swear out an OPC and the police will go pick up said person and bring them to a hospital for a psych eval. At that point the doctors have to do an eval, and if they feel that yes this person needs to be in the hospital then the doctors write out a Physicians Emergency Custody order. This is where it stopped for this guy, and they apparently let him go. If the psych doctors think that further custody or treatment is needed the PEC is written up along with their evaluation and then another qualified expert (in Louisiana it was the Parish (County) Corner.. no I have no idea why the Corner of all people had that final sign off..) reviews the OPC, PEC, and Eval and then gives a yeah or nay on you staying with the white coaters for a while.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Police State behaving as well as their controls allow

Either the Rutgers police need a court ordered smackdown, or they need their own psychological evaluation. Of course the First Amendment has been under attack for a while now, even via the police, and hopes that a new administration will ameliorate such attacks seems like ‘pie in the sky’ hopefulness. Not very likely.

Ming the Merciless had a better attitude toward his minions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Two things

OK, two things. First, this article says “Either way, last night he Tweeted that the NYPD had come to his house because the police at Rutgers believed he was ‘a threat’ based on some of his tweets.” But his tweet says “NYPD just came to my house bc Rutgers Police told them i’m a threat based on political statements i’ve made on campus and on twitter.” We perhaps know what he said on Twitter, but we don’t know what he said on campus.

Second, is there any source for this besides the person in question? All the links in the article just go to his tweets (except the one to Wikipedia indicating that flag burning is legal.) It seems to me that he’s not exactly a neutral source. How do we know this happened? How do we know there’s not something else going on?

If it IS true, then it’s unacceptable, and someone needs to be held accountable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I don't get it

Boy I bet you are the most baddass person anywhere. Standing up to authority like that.

but try to put yourself in this person’s shoes. Police have power and a very strong ability to intimidate tons of folks. Depending how the approached him and what they said they could easily have manipulated/intimidated him into doing what they wanted. Lots of folks don’t have the training and even those who do may completely forget it the second they are in an intense situation like this.
Not everyone is some badass anti-authoritarian like you who knows every legal requirement for arrest. He may have genuinely thought he had no choice but to comply.

Agammamon says:

Re: I don't get it

You generally have a choice – voluntarily commit or get involuntarily committed.

With the first you can check yourself out at any time and there’s no permanent legal stigma.

With the second you’re there until the doctors decide to let you go and you can (in some places) lose your rights to firearms (though since this guy is so anti-gun I don’t think that would matter much to him).

If you don’t come along quietly they’ll just get an order to have you committed.

Groaker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I don't get it

Unlikely to be the direct result of Mental Health Industry recommendations, but rather abuse of existing law just as the Soviets used to back in the “good old days.”

The NYPD has even taken to using this technique on its own members when they insist that the orders of Federal Judges be followed.

It is certainly an arrest within the meaning of the word. Force, or the threat of force was used to move a man from one location to another. The police better hope it was an arrest, otherwise it would be unlawful imprisonment if the man was kept for less than 24 hours, kidnapping if longer.

MDT (profile) says:

Original tweet was :

That’s a bit different than how he later paraphrased it. It’s still protected speech, but it’s a lot more dicey than he’s playing now. Either way though, without something more to go on, the cops had no probable cause just based on tweets. They would have had to have some witnesses saying he said something else in person from the campus. Would not surprise me if they did though. I’m amazed at how ‘eye witnesses’ hear and see what they want, not what was actually said or done.

The most likely chain of events is he said something inflamatory, someone else heard what they thought was a threat, repeated it in more dramatic (and dangerous) words to the cops, the cops then decided that they didn’t like his tone in tweets and went with it, despite the eye witness likely having mis-remembered what was said (I have two uncles who were cops, they said the only thing more unreliable than an eye witness was a con man).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That tweet, which appears to have been deleted, said “will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting atrandom while people or no…?”

He also apparently tweeted “if I see any Trump bumper stickers on the road today, my brakes will go out and I’ll run you off the road.”

So how many tweets like that can someone make before someone reasonably becomes concerned?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I find it curious that I see tweets far more threatening that this — that is, very clear, overt death threats directed at individuals — every day. The people making them are doing so publicly. They’re using their real names. They’re immediately identifiable via trivial searches (and matching up the photos found with their Twitter account). And yet nothing is done — not by Twitter, not by police.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ehhh… The one about the second ammendment is just wild hypothetical boasting, with the intent of making a political statement. The other one is actually the more concerning of the two, but it’s still clearly someone venting anger through violent fantasies. Neither statement is a direct threat, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. Both of those statements are, of course, quite offensive and divisive, but since when was that grounds to put someone through a “voluntary” psych eval?

Lisboeta (profile) says:

Re: Re: Inflammatory 101

Kevin Allred is one of those SJW bandwagon nutjobs. He’s a self-described queer feminist who, despite being white himself, believes ‘There are no good white people … only less bad white people’. He works in Rutger’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department, teaching a course which uses Beyoncé’s career as a way to explore American race, gender and sexual politics. So he probably does merit a psych. evaluation (just not on account of his idiotic tweets).

Groaker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Inflammatory 101

Doesn’t matter what he believes. The issue is whether or not his tweets violated the law. To do so:

They would have had to have been believable.
The immediacy of the stirrings of emotion would have provoked a reasonable person to instantaneous violence.

And likely other conditions. A tweet is not going to fall into that category.

But then who cares about the Constitution until their rights are violated.

Anonymous Coward says:


Just switch some of those words for their opposite and this would be BIG news!

“will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting at random black people or no?”
“if I see any Hillary bumper stickers on the road today, my brakes will go out and i’ll run you off the road”

Voila! Now it’s hate speech! Quick! Call the media over-reaction squads!

Agammamon says:

While I don’t agree with the NYPD’s response, the tweets listed in this article are not the only ones he made.

*Those* tweets are likely why he ended up in custody.

‘If I see any Trump bumper stickers on the road today, my brakes will go out and I’ll run you off the road.’

‘Will the 2nd Amendment be as cool when I buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no . . . ?’

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