There are 65 days until Jan. 20, 2009.
Oft-arrested peace activist looks at the legal system
By: Exhibit A
November 12, 2008
PROFESSION: Peace activist
ACHIEVEMENTS: Member of several groups, including Baltimore Nonviolence Center, Baltimore Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore and the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
When and where were you first arrested during a protest?
My first act of civil resistance took place at the White House in 1984 in protest against homelessness. I have been arrested more than 70 times in peace and justice protests.
When were you first arrested for protesting outside the National Security Agency at
I first risked arrest at the NSA on July 4, 1996. My first arrest there occurred on October 12, 2001 during a high alert. Four of us managed to walk past a security checkpoint and get to a parking lot. Two of us held signs condemning the work of the NSA and the other two poured blood on the ground. We were charged with conspiracy, destruction of government property and trespass. We were never prosecuted.
Did news that the
Not at all, as through several sources we knew we were being watched. What was surprising, though, was to find out I was placed on a terrorist/drug running watch list.
What effect does spying have on groups?
There are at least two detrimental effects. First, people will be fearful of getting involved in dissent for fear of being watched. Second, group members will become suspicious of new people.
Do you practice nonviolence protest because of its effectiveness?
While we try to be effective, we act because of an injustice. Any serious change comes about after a long period of time, so it is difficult to judge the effectiveness of a particular strategy. Nevertheless, there is a long historical record of the failure of violent actions to promote positive change.
Has being arrested been a part of your strategy in protesting?
We never try to get arrested. We dissent, because of a perceived injustice. In the course of the protest, we will place ourselves in situations where the police may arrest us.
How might the response of authorities toward dissent have changed in recent years?
There has been a sea change in the last eight years. We call this the criminalization of dissent. It could be dated to the passage of the Patriot Act. All one has to do is look at what happened with police repression at the Republican National Convention. As someone engaged in challenging the government, our rights to dissent are frequently ignored by the police and once in court, judges are finding us guilty despite the lack of evidence.
Is the judicial system an effective means of protecting the right to dissent?
In our country, based on my experience in numerous courtrooms on the East Coast, the justice system is deeply flawed. For example, we live in a capitalist society, and a person of wealth will do much better in court than a person of modest means. Nevertheless, the judicial system is a part of the government which must be challenged as much as the executive. I have three of my convictions currently on appeal. And a conviction for a Pentagon protest was overturned on appeal in May 2007.
© ExhibitA News |
© ExhibitA News |
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs