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Rights and Liberties This Week: Citizen Arrests

Enjoy shopping after Thanksgiving? Wal-Mart posted a record $1.43 billion in sales at its U.S. stores on Nov. 29, breaking the giant retailer's previous one-day record of $1.25 billion set in 2001. All of the shoppers who used credit or debit cards to help the store set its new one-day sales record can rest assured that their purchases were captured by the retailer's sophisticated information technology system, a Press Action story reports.

Speaking of shopping, it’s a good thing that Winona Ryder, just sentenced to probation and community service for stealing over 5,000 worth of clothing and jewelry, didn’t have two prior theft convictions. Under California’s Three Strikes law, she could have ended up like Gary Ewing, who was sentenced to 25 years-to-life for stealing three golf clubs priced at $399 each, or like Leandro Andrade, who had two earlier convictions for burglary and was sentenced to 50-years-to-life sentence for stealing $153 worth of videotapes from two different Kmart stores.

In other arrests, an amateur photographer was picked up by the Denver police and interrogated for three hours because he attempted to take a photo of an area where Dick Cheney lived. The photographer, Mike Maginnis, said he was called "a threat to national security," a "raghead collaborator" and a "dirty pinko faggot", and told he would be arrested under the USA PATRIOT ACT, before finally being released--without being charged with a crime and without his camera. I feel safer now, don’t you?

And Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested in May and accused of meeting with Al-Queda operatives, may see a lawyer for the first time, a judge ruled this week. Up until this point, Jose Padilla, declared an "an enemy combatant" by the government, has been forbidden from meeting with attorneys. However, the judge also ruled that, once a citizen has been definitely classified as an enemy combatant, he or she can be held without charges and without legal representation, for as long as the government declares necessary.

Unlike Maginnis, most Americans may not yet be feeling the effects of the New-and-Improved-Ultra-Mega-Now-We’re -Really-Secure Homeland Security Act, but those who generally feel the brunt of increased government and police presence are feeling it even more. Marcelo Ballve of Pacific News Service reports on how immigrant day laborers are dealing with increasingly hostile streets.

Finally, police officer Eduardo Delacruz , in a rare case of obeying a higher law, was suspended without pay and is facing possible dismissal because he stood up for homeless people against a new New York City intensified harassment policy. Delacruz is accused of refusing to arrest 44-year-old Stephen Neil, a homeless man who was trying to stay warm sleeping in a parking garage. In these times, doesn’t this small act of independent thinking and refusing to follow orders qualify as good news?

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