Friday, July 30, 2010

What's the deal with being so proud of getting arrested?

I think part of my confusion is being from DC: you pretty much have to TRY to get arrested protesting in DC and most of the people who do it are seriously getting in the way of people who are just trying to get to work and live their lives. And yes, for all the symbolic value you may see in it, public buildings are places where people work and do business and you are making their lives non-symbolically-quite-concretely-in-fact more difficult even if you're just "sitting in."* From everthing I have seen, most of the time DC cops are very cool with protesters if for no better reason than they've seen so many of them and dealing with protesters is really routine.

Example: I personally witnessed this conversation at a "Free Tibet" rally I attended in DC like ten years ago-

Protester who has just crossed a police line: FREE TIBET!
Cop: Get back across the line.
Protester: FREE TIBET!
Cop: Get back across the line.
Protester: FREE TIBET!
Cop: Somebody's going to have to free your ass if you don't get back across the line.
(Protester returns to other side of police line)

Ok, I understand that cops aren't always that reasonable with protesters, but I still don't see what's so great about getting arrested. I sympathize greatly with the protesters-of-color after the Oscar Grant verdict who percieved that they were leading a peaceful, reasonable, legal protest until the skinny white anarchists showed up and made it look like the black people were rioting again. Certainly "stores destroyed in the wake of Oscar Grant verdict" news stories didn't make those distinctions.

I get that people get arrested protesting with differing levels of justification for it. What I don't get is why we're all so proud of ourselves about it. It seems meaningless at best.

CC

*I probably won't get around to posting again anytime soon, so I will just note here that the "Let's 'sit in' at the U.S. Capitol and try to disrupt the work of the very people most likely to PASS legislation like ENDA, who need to work as fast as possible given how midterm elections are likely to go" concept makes no fucking sense to me either. You want to "sit in" at the Capitol? The Senate and House go into recess August 9. Do your symbolism then, when you will be less likely to be concretely getting in the way of what you are symbolically getting arrested to support.

28 comments:

Bill Baar said...

It looks easier then picking melons for a day. This whole campaign seems badly thought out to me. The people I know personally most vehement about illegal aliens, are African Americans. Trying to frame this whole issue as racist seems really off to me. The AZ law may be a bad law, but there is a real problem too, and laying on hot pavement in AZ while Sheriff Joe looks on seems a waste. Not even a bushel of melons to show from it.

Chalicechick said...

Of course, that one runs both ways. It's not like white immigrants don't think that we make the system for legal immigration so Byzantine that it discourages compliance.

Chalicechick said...

More to the point, the FBI and Federal Grand jury investigation aimed at the AZ police say more to me than the public approval of the law as far as racism goes.

IMHO, public approval of the law comes down to people thinking that if it weren't for illegal immigration:

1. violent crime would drop significantly in their communities

2. jobs that paid enough for people to support their families would be easier to get.

I get why people of any color would want to vote for something that would have those effects, however, I don't think either of those results would actually occur from a drop in illegal immigration or the law itself.

Ikkyu said...

The policy for immigration in the US for a very long time has been to make legal immigration very difficult while allowing the formation of an "underclass" of people who work for low wages in some cases bellow minimum wage and who workplaces can exploit without fear. Despite all the hardship many of these immigrant families have been living here for decades working very hard and paying taxes. I would understand putting in place a more intelligent immigration policy and comprehensive immigration reform with a path for legalization. But this law , for example, makes it a crime to drive in the same car with hard working people that have contributed to the wealth of Arizona for decades. And yes it is racist. If you want an explanation tel me how many illegal immigrants from Canada or Europe will be affected by this law.
Civil disobedience has a long tradition in the civil rights movement. I would suggest to Bill that claiming not to be racist while suggesting that people go pick melons, is RACIST.

Robin Edgar said...

*Ersatz* "civil disobedience" seems to be becoming something of a tradition in the U*U World. What happened in Phoenix was not genuine civil disobedience it was just a U*Us and other protesters deliberately, and quite calculatedly. . . getting themselves arrested on minor charges that have absolutely nothing to do with SB1070 in a cynical effort to garner media attenmtion.

That's it.

That's all. . .

Do U*Us *really* think that laws prohibiting blocking access to buildings and prohibiting disrupting traffic are unjust?

kimc said...

"Of course, that one runs both ways. It's not like white immigrants don't think that we make the system for legal immigration so Byzantine that it discourages compliance."
CC -- are you being literal or ironic here?

Chalicechick said...

Shrug. That's not so much my issue.

My understanding is that Thoreau didn't object to taxes themselves but that they were being used for the Mexican-American war. Similarly, Gandhi used similar protest tactics to the folks in Arizona to protest the British occupation of India. Those two are widely considered the creators and popularizers of civil disobedience.

Civil disobedience does not have to be about protesting the specific law you are breaking.

But the important part of being Civilly Disobedient is to do it knowing you will be punished and accepting the punishment. As long as they plead guilty, I have no beef with them using the term.

People who claim to be practicing "civil disobedience" but wuss out on the punishment are the ones misuing the term.

CC

ikkyu said...

I agree that civil disobedience needs to be well planned, for a worthy cause (At least in the eyes of who is doing it). ,and done by people who assume full responsibility for their actions.
If they are doing it that way why not be proud of it?
What is the alternative? Staying at home feeling superior to people who at least are trying to do something?
As a High School teacher I saw one of my best students who was excellent in Math and science have to go back to Mexico for a chance at college. He did everything right. He grew up in the US and he is more American in culture than Mexican. This country could have used him and thousands like him. (Ever heard of the Dream Act?) But instead of pasing the Dream Act the law that passes would make him a criminal. If that is not a call to action I don't know what is.

Robin Edgar said...

And you don't think that getting yourself arrested on very minor charges that have nothing to do with the law that you are protesting against doesn't constitute "wussing out" on the punishment CC? Or would that be wU*Ussing out on the punishment? U*Us who engage in this kind of ersatz "civil disobedience" know perfectly well that they will suffer little or no punishment for their "crime" or, more often. . . misdemeanor.

Chalicechick said...

Literal. I've known a British and an Australian immigrant who were both white and both found the process of legal immigration difficult and arduous beyond reason. And the Australian was married to an American.

Chalicechick said...

Robin- Actually, I think the opposite. I think that committing more serious crimes in the name of protesting would be even more stupid and would make the pro-immigration faction easy to demonize. Annoying people in the name of one's cause pretty much never leads to progress, more serious annoyance, even less so.

Ikkyu- I don't agree with the law, I just don't understand how getting arrested helps anything or is something to be proud of.

IMHO, the protesters will likely be fined. The fines will support the police departments they are trying to inconvenience. I'd say the money spent flying down to protest and paying for fines and bail would have been much better spent, say, setting up a legal defense fund to help those arrested under the law fight it in the courts.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

I wonder if the idea of getting arrested during a protest being a "badge of honor" is a relic of the Civil Rights era.

In those days, folks were not getting arrested for blocking buildings or sidewalks. They were arrested for trying to ride a bus or eat at a lunch counter while sitting next to someone of a different skin color. And those folks often refused to post bail, choosing to remain in jail.

The whole purpose of civil disobedience was showing how unjust -- even ridiculous -- a given law was by one's willingness to be arrested for violating it.

Such a willingness demonstrated commitment, so those who managed to get arrested for civil disobedience were often held in higher esteem by others in the movement. Picketing for voter rights was one thing, but actually going to jail for it? Wow, that's commitment!

That "badge of honor" mentality rolled over into other movements -- anti-war, environmental, GLBT rights, HIV/AIDS awareness, anti-abortion, and now the immigrant rights movement. Problem is that the tactics being used are stretching the moral intent behind civil disobedience. Instead of breaking the immoral law in question to expose how immoral it is, folks are breaking the law just to draw attention.

I can only imagine how different things would be if all of the energy being devoted to getting arrested was used to engage (and, hopefully, educate) more Arizona residents about SB1070.

Bill Baar said...

I think anyone from a NAFTA/CAFTA signatory nation ought to be able to work in the United States. I want the free movement of Capital, Goods, Services, and Labor. Anyone from a nation that's opened itself up like that ought to be free to come work here and vice versa. That idea never sits well with immigration activists...which makes me think there not so much about helping people work here in the United States and return home with a few bucks (which I think is the goal for many if not most) but something else... which I suspect is padding voter rolls.

On a related note, the Afghan War supplemental picked up 100 dem votes against. Gary Wills had a column a few days ago about Obama's lunch with the Historians last year where they warned him about becoming another LBJ because of the War... just thinking, but maybe Rahm and Axelrod would rather have the Dem Party left whooped up about immigration rather than the war? A Chicago political strategist not beyond that kind of cynical thinking... the UU blogs have lite up over Arz but not much about War.

Bill Baar said...

I wonder if the idea of getting arrested during a protest being a "badge of honor" is a relic of the Civil Rights era.

Most of today's public UU'sm is a relic of the Civil Rights era.

Robin Edgar said...

I never suggested that anyone should be "committing more serious crimes in the name of protesting" CC. I am simply saying that such ersatz aka shabby *manufactured* artificial "civil disobedience" is almost always a case of protesters deliberately breaking laws that have very minor consequences. *Real* civil disobedience in this particular case, that directly challenges the law in questuion, would be actual illegal immigrants turning themselves in to challenge the law in court. *That* kind of genuine civil disobedience could have quite serious repurcussions for those who had the courage to engage in it.

Thanks none-the-less for publicly suggesting that this ersatz U*U civil disobedience is "stupid". I couldn"t agree more. It never ceases to amaze me just how stupid some U*Us are.

Chalicechick said...

Didn't say they were stupid, just that I thought protesting was stupid, particularly this kind of it. But you're welcome.

Robin Edgar said...

You did not outright state that the U*U protesters were stupid CC, but the unwritten subtext of your assertion to the effect that -

"committing more serious crimes in the name of protesting would be even more stupid"

tacitly suggests aka clearly implies that committing less serious crimes and misdemeanors such as obstructing traffic and blocking entrance to government buidlings etc. etc. is *stupid*, albeit somewhat less stupid than "committing more serious crimes in the name of protesting."

N'est-ce pas CC?

BTW It seems that you failed to publish one of my earlier comments that pointed to a glaring example of a U*U "being so proud of getting arrested".

Was this just an oversight or did you deliberately suppress my comment because it publicly criticized a "less than humble" U*U seminarian? Personally I don't think that it was an "unreasonably insulting" comment so I look forward to seeing it posted later.

Chalicechick said...

Besides, an illegal immigrant who turned him or herself in would have no standing to challenge a law about whether the police have a right to demand someone's documents without probable cause.

That person wouldn't have been harmed by the law, so can't sue claiming that the law did unfair things to them.

(I wrote the last response from my phone and didn't want to type all that.)

Anyway, IMHO the best solution is to fund a really good legal defense for those who are arrested under the law, ideally an American citizen who happened to not have documentation on him that day, but waasn't doing anything illegal.

Chalicechick said...

Robin,

As for the other comment, like Ms. Kitty I'm uncomfortable with you calling her colleagues and potential colleagues out and insulting them while using their names. I'm trying to raise the level of discourse on the CB. You have again provided a link to this person's blog, your opinion of it is clear, I think your point has been made just as my point about protesting the capitol was made in the original post without using the name. In both cases, the name is easily findable when you click the link. That's enough, at least enough for the Chaliceblog.

And again, just because a person does something stupid doesn't mean they are stupid. We all do stupid things.

CC

PG said...

Anyway, IMHO the best solution is to fund a really good legal defense for those who are arrested under the law, ideally an American citizen who happened to not have documentation on him that day, but waasn't doing anything illegal.

I don't understand how that would work -- how would someone who is an American citizen be able to be arrested under the current form of the Arizona law if he was doing nothing illegal? It has to be a "lawful stop, detention or arrest" before the cop can ask for your papers. If you were doing nothing illegal, nor was there be reasonable suspicion to believe that you were, then the stop/detention/arrest is unlawful in the first place.

Robin Edgar said...

Good question PG,

Still, with some minor modifications, such as having these "civil disobedience" activists actually commit some minor crime or misdemenaor, CCs proposal is quite a good one and certainly closer to being *genuine* civil disobedience than the attention-seeking ersatz aka bogus U*U "civil disobedience" that went down in Phoeniz AZ last week. Come to think of it, the U*U activists who were arrested for obstructing traffic and blocking entrance to the jail etc. *could* have done what CC proposes but obviously *that* is asking a bit too much from them.

Interestingly enough a retired U*U minister made a similar "modest proposal" way back in April but apparently nobody at the UUA, or anywhere else in the U*U World, took her up on it.

Chalicechick said...

PG,

My impression is that "reasonable suspicion" is a loose enough concept that the day is not far off when a hispanic guy who is, say, looking in a jewelry store window as he waits for a bus is "reasonably suspected" of casing the place or a sexy young Hispanic woman waiting to cross the street to her favorite nightclub (and likely not carrying much in her evening bag) is "reasonably suspected" of being a hooker.

IMHO, a case like that, fought by the right attorneys, could show how innocent behaviors can become "reasonable suspicion" in the eye of the beholder and nicely illustrate the law's potential for unconstitutional abuses.

CC

Joel Monka said...

I think the day when those cases you describe may occur is farther off than you think, because Arizona law enforcement has to know they're operating under a microscope right now. I imagine they're warned about not starting any lawsuits at the start of each shift. Probably the only way your plan would work in the immediate future would be to get an undercover lawyer to troll for it, someone clever enough to tease the cop into a mistake without ever actually stepping into "reasonable grounds".

As to the effectiveness of our protests and arrests, I notice that the Wikipedia article on SB1070 has sections on protests, and on religious organizations and perspectives, and neither the UUA nor any minister thereof is mentioned.

Chalicechick said...

Arpaio's folks have been under investigation by the Feds off and on for years for their over-the-top tactics. My impression is that microscopes don't matter much to these folks.

CC

Cynthia Landrum said...

You ask a good question about pride, CC, and I've been mulling over it. My thoughts are somewhat long, so I'm putting them over at my own blog. Thank you for the provocative question.

Robin Edgar said...

I look forward to seeing your post Rev. Landrum. I am confident that it will be a very thoughtful one. I fully expect that we can have some more interesting discussion about the issue of misplaced U*U pride and the U*U proclivity to engage in ersatz "civil disobedience" for the purposes of ensuring media coverage of their protests.

Chalicechick said...

Comments that merely goad other commenters are off-topic. I'm kicking the last few comments, which are pretty much solely an argument between commenters and say nothing new about the topic at hand.

curlykidz said...

Come to think of it, the U*U activists who were arrested for obstructing traffic and blocking entrance to the jail etc. *could* have done what CC proposes but obviously *that* is asking a bit too much from them.

While I can't speak for everyone who was arrested, I know that a number of them were not carrying identification, and at least one who declined to provide any information about their nationality, and another that declined to post bond and will remain in jail until his court date. I wasn't arrested myself, but I live in AZ, and have not carried any identification on my person since the day the law went into effect.

The people I know personally most vehement about illegal aliens, are African Americans. Trying to frame this whole issue as racist seems really off to me.
African Americans are just as capable of prejudice as any other race. The people I personally know who are most prejudiced against Latinos,and have been for the entire time I've known them, are of African and African American descent. In any case, the opinions of either of our Black friends isn't really an indicator of whether or not the law is racist or whether Arpaio's application of the law is racist.

I think to say that those who were arrested are proud simply of having been arrested is not entirely accurate... there were a lot of things that happened during and in the weeks leading up to the protest that are commendable. I have more thoughts on the issue, so like Rev. Landrum, I think I'll flesh them out in more detail in my own blog. :)