Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Let me see your papers!"

Yesterday when I arrived at the place where my husband works to pick him up I was met with this scene.

Five state troopers. Blue lights flashing everywhere. Four at the entrance on the left-hand side of the road and one on the right-hand side. The one on the right was gone by the time I took these photos. There were about 8 cars pulled over on the right side of the road and about that many more pulled off inside of the entrance to the plant making navigation tricky and creating a traffic jam. I wonder if they asked the plant owner if it was alright to block the entrance/exit to the plant?

I pulled into the turn lane and stopped because I wasn't sure if they were checking people going into the plant or not. I sat there a few minutes but no trooper came over to the car or waved me on. I finally decided to turn in. I figured if they had plans to demand my papers then they could come in and get me. Why make it easy on them?

As I sat and waited on my husband to come out I wondered if they had plans to check the workers about to get off for insurance as they left the plant. People at this plant work for very low wages and the vast majority of them work for health insurance coverage, like my husband, and take home very little every week. They can't afford car insurance. It simply isn't in their budgets. Now, some asshole is bound to say, "Well, they shouldn't be driving then." But that is a simpleton's view of the situation. If they aren't able to drive then they aren't able to work and if they aren't able to work then they wind up on the taxpayers tab. Which would you rather them do?

A few people came out of the plant, saw the nasty scene of intimidation that awaited them and went back in to warn others. My husband said the news spread like wildfire and that people were scared. These people work hard all week for next to nothing and when they get off work after a nine hour day the last thing they want to deal with is the Nazi paper checkers.

I wondered why the state troopers weren't sitting outside the entrance to Stillwaters checking papers and it hit me that the people in Stillwaters would 1)Never put up with that kind of harassment and intimidation and 2) The people who live at Stillwaters have enough money to afford insurance so the troopers would be unable to make money off of them. Instead they staked out a place where poor people who can't afford insurance work. Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

When people started to leave there was a huge traffic jam because the troopers were checking workers as they left. Pretty soon it became evident that doing so was creating a traffic hazard and they began to let workers leave without demanding their papers. I know there were a lot of people who breathed a huge sigh of relief.

What has happened to us in America that we allow this kind of harassment and extortion of the working poor? When did it become OK for police to demand our papers? This isn't Russia or East's America....but I no longer recognize it.

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Anonymous said...

You couldn't be more correct Loretta. This week in Alabama has really proved that. I have hardly left my house this week because of the Nazi set ups they have all across this state. But now this....absolutely RIDICULOUS!!!

Anonymous said...

The crime should be damaging someones vehicle or injuring them and the not being able to pay for the damage. I had one of my mailboxes hit yesterday. The Hispanic woman driving the car was able to pull back on the road and took off like a bat out of Hell. My mailboxes get knocked down often and I have never seen a penny for damage. Once a drunk hit my culvert and broke my concrete driveway. We found a piece of his Ford truck and were able to track him down. I have no problem with insurance. The problem is with the insurance companies and the monopoly the government has created for them. Dairy farmers should be so lucky. The government could require everyone to drink a quart of milk a day. If the government requires liability insurane then the government should make sure that it is affordable to
all drivers. I am usually not big on welfare or give away programs but most people are just trying to get back and forth to work. Poor folks need help in this country. We spend billions studying the sex habits of South American insects while our people suffer. They dont need some Barney with a gun writing them a ticket for X number of dollars that they dont have. We need a real solution to this growing problem.
Chip Nall (no known relation to Loretta)

Unknown said...

The people in your state should rise up and shoot those assholes and hire a new police force, one that understands the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

What complete pricks. I hope there's a letter to the editor in the works. Maybe even get some journalist to look into whether or not this type of situation is widespread. It sounds like they were targeting poor people who can't afford insurance so they could make money of them, ruining their lives notwithstanding.

Randi Bates said...

Loretta, what happens if you are at fault in an accident? I can understand that you are willing to accept the risk for your own vehicle and occupants, but if you are at fault why should someone else have to be responsible for your actions? This is not a flame, I'm genuinely curious.

Loretta Nall said...


If you are at fault in an accident and you do not have insurance then you stand to lose anything and everything you own. It's a huge risk...but one that poor people who have to decide between essentials like electricity,water and food have to make every month.

The next question I guess would be....what if they don't own anything? It is reasonable to assume that poor people own very little and the sale of whatever they do own would not meet the immense financial burden of lawsuits and medical what happens?

Poor people who cannot pay go to jail eventually. It still costs you, the taxpayer. Probably more in the end.

That isn't really a solution to the problem any way you look at it...but it is a sad reality.

I don't understand how people can be required to have something when they cannot afford to pay for it. Would the state rather I feed my kids or buy auto insurance? Would the state rather I pay my necessary for survival bills or buy auto insurance? It is an unfunded government mandate that really is impossible to squeeze out of a $773 a month budget that has to accomodate two kids, two adults, gasoline, food, co-pays for doctor visits, prescription medication, electricity, water and phone. Where are poor people suppossed to get it?

Where are they suppossed to get the $439 fine for not having insurance? If they had $439 just laying around they would have likely had insurance for a full year so as to avoid encounters with the police and courts.

I don't know what the end all solution to the problem is for the insurance mandate...I do know that harassing poor people who simply do not have the money to afford insurance, like what happened yesterday, is not the way to go about it.

Let me say that I do not at all mind Troopers taking on speeders and tail-gaters. I can think of very little I like less than someone who rides my ass so close that I can taste the metal of their fender. I often ask....where is a cop when you need one? when someone is riding me. I am also not a speeder or reckless driver in any way. Not that I don't wool-gather once in a while and hit 70 ion a 65...but as a general rule I follow the posted speed limits. I will also call 911 in a minute on an obvious drunk driver. But to have the police sit outside a plant where people work for low wages and check them for auto-insurance as they leave work is beyond the pale.

Loretta Nall said...


I hope some inquisitive Alabama journalist will look into whether this has happened anywhere else in the state. I heard from an activist friend of mine that a great deal of racial profiling (of the black/hispanic nature) happened in Tarrant City and that the citizens are thinking of filing suit.

I will see what I can find out from some of the workers here about whether they had troopers demand their papers and what kind of fines were received.

The whole thing is a combination of highway robbery in its finest form (state sanctioned) and a flexing of the police state muscle.

I also find it interesting that this whole concept was instituted AFTER the recent report that insurance coverage rates have not changed at all since the mandatory insurance laws were passed. Can’t help but think the insurance companies, who in no small part control Alabama government, are behind this.


Tanya said...

The US needs universal health insurance. That would help so many poor people out. It's a damn shame that the working poor has to put up with this kind of treatment.

RogueWriter said...

This really pisses me off, Loretta.

I thought this program was to "Take Back our Highways" from speeders and others who have dangerous driving behavior.

I don't know what kind of place your husband works at. But I agree that the troopers knew better than to be outside Still Waters doing the same thing ... or Wynlakes in Montgomery... or Greystone in Birmingham... or Gorham's Bluff in Jackson County ... or any of the other similar places.

Here's an idea for them - while traffic is already jammed up and slow moving after a home game for Auburn or Alabama, why don't they check insurance on the alumni that attend those games?

If the state expects poor people to have liability insurance, they should help fund it - something similar to the flood insurance program.