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Moms for Liberty Enlists Sheriffs in Criminal Pursuit of Freedom

November 5, 2022

Right-wing Moms for Liberty (M4L) (see here, also) is looking to enforce their version of liberty at the expense of the liberties of those with whom they disagree. The group, which originated in Florida, opposes mask mandates and what it considers as “woke” ideology, including Critical Race Theory, which seems to translate into banning books and shaping school curriculum into M4L’s preferred image.

To do so, the strategy of this “seriously-GOP-connected” group in pursuing book censorship is to enlist sheriffs with right-wing sympathies to try to bring criminal charges against librarians.

Fortunately, this tack has not worked– yet.

On November 04, 2022, Slate Magazine published an excellent article about M4L and its efforts to file charges for “criminal” books, “Angry Right-Wing Moms Are Trying to Have Librarians Arrested by ‘Constitutional Sheriffs.'” Below, I offer excerpts from the article, but the entire piece is well worth a read for understanding efforts branded as “liberty” but skirting ever closer to what occurs in fascist regimes.

In March, special counsel to the sheriff of Hamilton County, Tennessee, Coty Wamp, was campaigning for district attorney when she met with a group of parents calling themselves Moms for Liberty. Wamp said afterwards that she had facilitated a meeting between the “parents’ rights” group and the sheriff’s office because she thought law enforcement could help the group in its goal of banning books. “I think that there’s going to come a time with some of these books where it crosses a criminal line,” Wamp said. “It’s called contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” Wamp won that promotion to district attorney and was one of the earliest law enforcement figures to begin to establish a frightening new alliance between far-right sheriff’s offices and the radical right-wing parent’s group seeking to upend America’s educational system.

After Wamp’s meeting, she did not shy away from the possibility of filing charges for “criminal” books, although she later told Jezebel that she did not intend to suggest she was going to go about arresting librarians. Whatever her actual intentions, the alliance Wamp sought to foster is a dangerous one and one that is spreading.

Across the country, members of Mothers for Liberty, a far-right group focused on banning library books and whitewashing school curricula, have appealed to sheriffs as allies in these goals. Much like the partnerships between sheriffs and militia members, or sheriffs and election deniers, this alliance is another example of how sheriffs have become the arm of the law willing to enforce the radical agenda of the far-right. It also shows how determined groups like M4L are to be seen as having legal legitimacy—and how willing sheriffs are to provide it.

While M4L has been accused of various direct actions like harassing local school board officials with emails, calls, and threats, it has lately begun to approach county sheriffs as a way to legitimize its grievances and gain actual traction in criminal courts. Granted, it hasn’t been too successful yet. But these alliances suggest that should it not achieve its goals via democratic means, M4L is perfectly willing to find its own firepower.

One strategy has been to bring criminal complaints to sympathetic sheriffs, which become “sex crime” investigations, further spreading the QAnon-influenced anxieties that children are being recruited or brainwashed by sex predators presenting as progressives. In the spring, Jennifer Pippin, who is an M4L chapter chair, filed a criminal complaint against a school library in Indian River County, Florida, for failing to remove dozens of books flagged by the members as inappropriate. …

The six-week investigation resulted in a 74-page report, which concluded that “no crime occurred.” Whether patently unconstitutional charges are ultimately filed in cases like these, though, is not the issue. The chilling effect of the threat is.

Other sheriffs—especially those in Florida, where M4L began and has garnered support from Gov. Ron DeSantis—have conducted similar investigations into so-called dirty books, and while no criminal charges have resulted thus far, they indicate that going to the sheriff is an accepted strategy. 

Approaching a sheriff to investigate of the appropriateness of reading material in school libraries– and having the sheriff actually do so– is becoming “an accepted strategy.”

A sheriff investigating a librarian for some sort of crime related to the presence of books on the library shelves.

Shall we succumb to fear and purge the shelves of anything that could offend the anybodies with the power to summon the book sheriffs?

“Liberty,” huh?

America is walking a dangerous line with this foolishness:

Finally, sheriffs are a natural extension of the M4L ideology. In a recent survey published by the Marshall Project, a significant number of sheriffs (as well as citizens) said that they fear the loss of the “traditional American way of life” enough to justify violence. This easily translates into helping M4L ban Toni Morrison from school libraries or trying to police how teachers talk about their partners. As of now, the only thing stopping these sheriffs has been the limits of criminal laws and courts. Given the state and national political and legal landscapes, the question is quickly becoming: How much longer will those limits hold?

Please read the entire Slate article.

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From → Censorship

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