California Penal Code 182.5 makes it a felony for an individual to participate in a criminal street gang, or to benefit from gang activity, and provides for 25 years to life imprisonment for violators. Prosecutors point to Tiny Doo’s “No Safety” album and say the lyrics show that he’s guilty of breaking that code — that he’s obviously in a gang and profiting from gang activity, they allege, CNNreported.
It does not matter, in practice, if “Tiny Doo” is within his legal rights or not. The simple fact that he has been charged with a crime has and will impact his future in negative ways. It will impact it in negative ways until the very day that he dies. The mere act of an arrest, then, is easily used to silence expression, or to penalize individuals where they have not broken any law. An arrest, in and of itself, is a form of punishment. As “Tiny Doo” himself said:
“I would love to continue to rap. But these people have you scared to do anything around here.”
“Tiny Doo” has been effectively intimidated and silenced. The illusion of the Second Amendment, which is the fact that it exists as a legal fiction on paper, may make some of you feel better. “But, surely, Tiny Doo is within his rights.” And thus the functional system of arrests-as-punishments is not critically examined. The dubiously titled “legal analyst” quoted in the article is an example of this attitude:
“The problem is you’re going to run straight head-on into the First Amendment. If they don’t have anything other than the album, this case I don’t think would ever stand up.”
This is all well-and-good. It puts the uncritical mind at ease. The mind that has no experience with the criminal justice system. But the fact is that, by the effect of the accusation, arrest and trial itself, the damage is done. It is done not only to “Tiny Doo,” but also to all who see the consequences and are afraid to express themselves as a result. The chilling effect at work.