This past Saturday while I was enjoying my Ciroc Red Berry and cranberry juice, much like many of you, a prominent social activist was engaged in a 5-hour police standoff from his home in Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore police and SWAT surrounded Frank James MacArthur while he remained in his home live-tweeting and broadcasting his exchange with the police negotiator for the world to witness. Not much is known about the circumstances surrounding his arrest but here’s what we do know.
First, the reason for the police presence was apparently to serve a warrant for a missed parole violation court date, stemming from a gun possession charge in 2009. MacArthur claims there was no notification for the court date, rather that he found out from an anonymous tip he received from a listener somehow connected to the Baltimore Police Department.
Second, police Lieutenant and negotiator Jason Yerg, referenced tweets from MacArthur’s twitter account where he’d mentioned violence toward the police that were serving him the warrant, hence the need for SWAT assistance. To this MacArthur’s tone and method of conversation changed notably from that of one logical and articulate commentator, to being elusive, ambiguous and calling attention to his 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. MacArthur then went on to inform the lieutenant of a prior case where an attorney had attempted using MacArthur’s own tweets against him but received a thorough reprimanding from the presiding judge.
Finally, while remaining peaceful throughout the duration of the conversation, MacArthur intentionally timed his surrender to make live news coverage at 11pm to get as much media attention as possible, in addition to his own international feed, his purpose being to ensure he “had a chance at a fair judicial process once taken into custody”.
After listening to the near two hour exchange I have to say that the demeanor of both MacArthur, and the lieutenant who handled the situation, was that of two people who at least respected each other. I don’t know why I found this so surprising, maybe because of what we see in the movies, but I don’t think this is the norm either. At any rate, the internet and the power of social media was made evident, as many have reached out in support of Frank James MacArthur¸ and with concern for his safety. As I mentioned, not much is currently known about the surrounding circumstances, but something says this won’t be the last you hear of this. Hopefully this will provide enough background for our readers to take an interest as the story develops.