“Knowing ignorance is strength; ignoring knowledge is sickness.”
Recently, I re-posted an article on Facebook that friend Will Pitt had shared. It concerns a bill that a republican congressman has proposed to define public protesting as “terrorism.” I was not surprised when some people I know (and several I do not know) commented that this was a necessary, even good, idea. They based their thinking upon the news reports of violent protests in several cities in America.
I am reminded of something that Rubin “Hurricane” Carter used to tell me: that minds with very little to compare, find very little to understand. And I do not mean that as an insult against those who believe that the proposed federal law is a necessary and good idea ….for no rational person could make the case that violence is necessary or good. Or to excuse rioting, looting, assault, or arson, as justifiable forms of free speech or public assembly.
Yet, quite literally, each and every state in our nation has laws against rioting, looting, assault, arson, and other acts associated with public violence. There has never been a single case where a defendant has successfully avoided conviction for arson by way of Amendment 1. No defense attorney would seek to exonerate his client for looting or assault by noting it was protected by the right to riot. That simply does not happen.
In order to mistake the congressman’s intentions for valid requires the synergism of ignorance and discomfort with the acts of violence associated with “protests.” That discomfort with the violence is, in and of itself, a positive thing. Take away the ignorance, and civilized people are on the same page. Understanding who this congressman is — who he fronts for, and what his true intentions are — in no way reduces the ability to agree upon the correct way to address the problems of violent lawlessness.
Let’s take a brief look at some modern examples of government officials attempting to thwart groups and/or individuals from exercising their Amendment 1 rights, for history provides us with valuable lessons. In the 1960s, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., helped to change the fabric of our society with nonviolent protests. Perhaps most famously in Birmingham, King led marches and organized boycotts; these resulted in “economic damage” to targeted businesses. Various corporate-government attempts were made to stop King’s marches and boycotts. Eventually, the corporate-government forces secured a federal court injunction, that denied King et al the right to march. The King effort continued.
As a result, King was charged with violating a court order in the case Walker v. City of Birmingham, 388 U.S. 307 (1967). In the years between when it started in April of 1963, to it being decided by the US Supreme Court in June of 1967, King would continue to lead non-violent protests. This included the August ‘63 March on Washington, where he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. It may seem hard to believe today, a half-century later, but at the time, many elected representatives considered that event “threatening.”
In late 1967, King began planning another protest in DC, which he called the “Poor People’s Campaign.” The plan was rooted in an earlier “poor people’s campaign” that took place in 1894, led by Jacob Coxey. While Coxey was jailed when he reached Washington, DC, in 1968, Senator Robert Byrd proposed that the federal government incarcerate King pre-emotively, to prevent him from exercising his Amendment 1 rights.
In the summer of 1968, protests outside the democratic national convention became violent. A federal investigation that followed concluded that the violence was the result of a “police riot,” and not caused by the protesters. However, others in the government decided to prosecute eight civil rights and anti-war leaders; this case was originally known as the Chicago Eight, and later as the Chicago Seven. All of the convictions that resulted were quickly overturned in federal court. Looking back today, it is clear that the intent of the prosecution was to harass and intimidate citizens.
In recent times, energy corporations have attempted to harass and intimidate citizens who oppose fracking and pipelines. The best example of this is friend Vera Scroggins in Pennsylvania. Vera is a wise and peaceful lady, and thus has been the target of the gas companies’ harassment and attempted intimidation. Their harassment has created financial hardship, but Vera has yet to be intimidated.
The congressman that introduced the latest proposed legislation is a lap dog for the energy corporations. His bill is aimed primarily at pro-environment citizens, specifically those who are standing with the Standing Rock Sioux, in opposition to the DAPL pipeline. But he is not the only poodle cuddling up on the energy industry’s lap. Nor are the republicans alone in their dependency on the industry’s dollars. The democratic party’s “leadership” is just as bad.
The people at Standing Rock — the Sioux Water Protectors and their supporters — are engaged in a 100% non-violent protest. Literally all of the growing violence there is being committed by the police and the mercenaries hired by the energy corporation. Yet, the opposition to the DAPL, and the grass roots support for the Sioux, continues to grow. This is why the congressman has proposed a bill to identify them as “terrorists.”