Recently 26-year-old US Marine veteran and Virginia resident Brandon Raub, who served his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, was arrested by local authorities working in concert with federal agents for what they deemed were threatening posts on Facebook.
In a telephone interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Raub said, “I’m currently in John Randolph in the psychiatric ward being held against my will. They were concerned about me calling for the arrest of government officials.” He added, “I really love America, and I think that idea that you can be detained and sent somewhere without due process and a lawyer… is crazy.”
The 1st Amendment to the US Constitution says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In his post on Facebook titled “The Truth,” Raub states that:
“America has lost itself. We have lost who we truly are. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is the land of Thomas Jefferson. This is the land of Benjamin Franklin. This is the land of Fredrick Douglas. This is the land of Smedley Butler. This is the land John F. Kennedy. This is the land of Martin Luther King.”
There is more to it than that, but there is nothing threatening in “The Truth.” Authorities claim they were not spying on Raub, but received complaints about other comments he made including this 8/13 comment on Facebook: “Sharpen up my axe; I’m here to sever heads.” These are lyrics from the band Swollen Members and its song, “Bring Me Down.”
Raub said his comments were misinterpreted and taken out of context, but in a hearing held at John Randolph Medical Center, he was sentenced for up to 30 days’ further confinement in a Virginia psychiatric ward. Authorities claim a provision in Virginia called State Code §37.2-808 Emergency custody gives them the power to arrest and detain Raub. This code permits detention of a person in a mental institution on a medic’s recommendation without presenting any charges against them.
The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated, has come to Raub’s defense. In a statement from the Rutherford Institute, President John W. Whitehead said:
“For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon. This should be a wake-up call to Americans that the police state is here. Brandon Raub is no different from the majority of Americans who use their private Facebook pages to post a variety of content, ranging from song lyrics and political hyperbole to trash talking their neighbors, friends and government leaders.”
And as Brandon Raub nevertheless finds himself detained without charges for comments he made on Facebook, public reaction indicates a growing number of commentators agree with Whitehead’s assessment that these events are more characteristic of a rigid, excessive police state than an orderly, open society with due process and the guarantee of free speech. While news of Brandon Raub’s detention spread to mainstream news media, burgeoning public outcry has crossed party lines and included critical attention from both “right” and “left,” as well as from libertarians, business and finance news media like Business Insider, and even the foreign press.