Rhode Island’s Democrat governor Gina Raimondo has closed the state’s borders and established a draconian set of repressive regulations that would have made Adolph Hitler proud. Now, armed military police man roadblocks at all interstate and major highways leading to into, and out of, the state. Armed National Guard soldiers and State Police officers search door-to-door looking for non-Rhode Island people. Local police drive through residential neighborhoods looking for out-of-state license plates. Armed National Guard soldiers are stationed at the T.F. Green airport, Amtrak train stations and at bus stops. The maximum penalty for not complying: a fine of $500 and 90 days in prison. (Prison time for disobeying a quarantine when actual felons are released by the thousands? What insanity!)
And three golfers from Massachusetts, where all outdoor recreation has been banned, were arrested when they crossed the border to play on a Rhode Island course that was unrestricted for Rhod Islanders. Everyone who drives into the state is ordered to stop and submit to an interrogation. But Raimondo has an especially severe restriction on New Yorkers, since many have tried to avoid the New York outbreak by fleeing to other states. Raimondo’s order says any person coming into Rhode Island from another state for a non-work related purpose—especially from New York—must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days.
Issued March 28, the order repealed a previous emergency declaration that targeted only travelers from New York State. Anyone who doesn’t self-quarantine as ordered will face a fine, and for subsequent offenses could warrant large fines on top of prison time. Soldiers are relaying motorists’ and other non-residents’ contact information to the state’s health department. Health department workers are calling those people to check on their well-being and if necessary to keep track of any contacts they have had.
The lock down has had some truly bizarre, and quite frankly, frightening effects. It has turned ordinary citizens into spies and informants for the government. It is turned duffers who wanted nothing more than to play golf on an open-to-the public course into criminals.
One week after Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker ordered all outdoor recreational areas to be closedclosed, including golf courses and the rifle range where I shoot, Richmond, R.I. police bagged three golfers from Massachusetts on misdemeanor charges. Police said the three duffers went to elaborate lengths to hide their identities as out-of-towners so they could get in a round of golf at the Meadow Brook Golf Course in town.
Gregory Corbett, 51, Tyler Pietrzyk, 22, and Nye Cameron, 22, were apprehended at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant, where police say the men changed cars to drive to the club in a vehicle with Rhode Island license plates, the Attleboro (Mass) Sun Chronicle reported.
Employees at the McDonald’s ratted them out and called the cops.
Cops issued the three men summonses for violating the quarantine when they drove back from the golf course to their vehicles at the McDonald’s in the vehicle with the Rhode Island plates, the paper reported.
“It’s not the most heinous offense, but the reality is that we’re living in a whole different world this month, and it’s important we all follow the rules to keep one another safe,” Police Chief Elwood Johnson said.
The restrictions, however, are not without critics. The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union blasted the new rules, objecting to the collection of motorists’ contact information in particular.
“While the Governor may have the power to suspend some state laws and regulations to address this medical emergency, she cannot suspend the Constitution,” Rhode Island ACLU executive director Steven Brown said in a statement. “Under the Fourth Amendment, having a New York state license plate simply does not, and cannot, constitute ‘probable cause’ to allow police to stop a car and interrogate the driver, no matter how laudable the goal of the stop may be.
“The ACLU remains very concerned about the enormous breadth of the governor’s latest directive and its focus on out-of-staters at a time when the state acknowledges that half of Rhode Islanders themselves are not following social distancing rules,” Brown said. “A two-week quarantine solely for the ‘offense’ of coming from out of state, and with no opportunity to contest this demand, is deeply troubling.
“In addition,” Brown said, “targeting out-of-staters like this can only promote a divisive ‘us vs. them’ mentality that encourages vilification of others. We fully appreciate that the state is dealing with an emergency crisis that requires emergency actions, but it should not be at the unwarranted expense of our civil rights.”
Raimondo rebuffed the objections, pointing out that laws change during a state of an emergency, and added that she’s receiving federal guidance from the Trump Administration and legal advice from her administration as she makes these decisions.
“It’s the law,” she said. “We are serious about this.”