Michigan Batman Arrested (Again) for Interfering with Police

This May 11, 2011 photo provided by the Petoskey, Mich., Department of Public Safety shows Mark Williams dressed as Batman at the Emmet County jail. (AP Photo/Petoskey Department of Public Safety via Petoskey News-Review)

Mark Williams isn’t waiting for Halloween to dress up and play superhero. The Petoskey, Mich. man recently showed up to an accident scene dressed as Batman, convinced he could help. The cops, however, were having none of it and arrested the superhero wannabe for obstructing and resisting police during an investigation.

On Sept. 29, Williams, 33, arrived at a crime scene he’d discovered by tuning in to a police scanner. So did state police, who tried to use a police dog to sniff out a suspect who’d fled the scene. Williams kept interfering and wouldn’t leave, so they arrested him.

Police confiscated his Batman outfit and gear and charged him with resisting and obstructing police in an investigation. After posting bond, he was released from jail and is due back in court Oct. 18, according to news reports.

 

Superheroes Don’t Take No for an Answer – Even from Police

Subscribe to a Lawyers.com Newsletter TodayWilliams has gotten into trouble in his Batman persona before. Last year, police reportedly found him in full Batman regalia on top of a building in Petoskey. He was carrying – oh, the usual Batman accessories, including a baton, a can of mace and a pair of gloves filled with sand. After pleading guilty to attempted resisting and obstructing a police officer, he got six months of probation and was told he could not wear his Batman outfit anymore.

Not only did he continue wearing his outfit, apparently, he also attracted a sidekick. The Petoskey Batgirl, as she calls herself on Facebook, claims to be Williams’ “Batgirl” and says she focuses on preventing domestic violence. She reported Williams’ arrest on Sept. 30 and said she was trying to help bail him out.

“The first time he was a arrested there was a psych eval done and the person giving it to him said there was absolutely nothing wrong with him and that he was one of the most sane people she had ever met,” said the Petoskey Batgirl of Williams in a post on Facebook.

 

Vigilantism Alive and Well in the Heartland

Vigilantes are part of America’s heritage – both ugly and pretty. From the KKK to the Boston Tea Party, you could say vigilantes have been a force to be reckoned with – and usually put down by the powers that be.

The vigilante Dexter, of the series by the same name on Showtime, is a serial killer – of serial killers and other criminals. Dexter evades the law; real-life imitators, not so much.

Professor Bruce Boyden

While vigilantes may not present an especially difficult case for the police – who generally arrest them – some legal scholars see them as part of a more complicated history. Analyzing another scholar who studied and wrote about rebels or “bandits,” a Marquette law professor recently wrote that “bandits can in some circumstances be seen as proto-revolutionaries fighting against landed interests or capital.”

In other words – people who take the law into their own hands, or who resist laws they find unjust, often end up as heroes.

“Actions outside of law, possibly even contrary to law, are part of a web of enforcement of the rules of a given society,” continued Bruce Boyden in a blog post on the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog, referring to the ideas of Eric Hobsbawm, a Marxist historian who died recently.

 

Batman as Signpost?

“[L]aws serve a number of different purposes; regulation is only one,” remarked Boyden. “Another is serving as a signifier of changes in the status of various groups. Some of the most heated debates over law have this quality, where the combatants believe that not only is the law bad policy, but that it is an insult to them if it is adopted or retained.”

He ended his post with the idea that vigilantes serve as signposts that something fundamental is breaking down in society.

Whether the Petoskey Batman will show up to another accident scene may not seem important to any major political debates, but it could – along with other superhero (or supervillain) impersonators doing violence to their communities – be a sign that more dangerous feelings of powerlessness and betrayal lurk beneath the impetus to “take a stand for what[’]s right,” as his Batgirl says.

 

What do you think of vigilantism? Share your opinion below.

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