Decriminalize Dissent

September 18, 2015 - storage organizer

September 17 outlines a fourth anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, that desirous a new era of American dissidents and a tellurian call of criticism conflicting mercantile inequality.

Stirred by a Arab Spring, a occupiers rallied an intergenerational, multiracial, cross-class bloc conflicting a energy of a wealthiest 1 percent, behind a ensign of “We are a 99 percent.” Their summary struck a chord with millions fed adult with a trickle-down economics that had unsuccessful to broach on a guarantee of prosperity, and a top-down politics that had unsuccessful to live adult to a guarantee of democracy.

Yet, from Lower Manhattan to Ferguson, Missouri, and from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter, such pacifist movements continue to be met with paramilitary plan and military-grade weaponry meant to say “law and order” during any cost. Targeted for arrest, attack and detention, immature activists have been alike with criminals, dissidents with domestic terrorists.

This equation has not done us any safer. In fact, there is a flourishing physique of justification that such plan lead to some-more violence, not less, in a streets. A stirring investigate of 192 Occupy protests by researchers during a University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for Data Science finds that criticism attack tends to be annoyed by assertive military plan — not a other approach around. By contrast, when military mount down, protests tend to persist, though with reduce rates of detain and a reduce occurrence of violence.

The latest information lend faith to a practice of a Occupy protests, that are documented in a new book by one of a authors that traces a transformation from pregnancy to repression. As participants in that movement, we have seen firsthand a inclination of attack to breed some-more violence. We have also witnessed a tellurian cost of this violence.

In a tumble of 2011, we were a integrate of twenty-something connoisseur students who found ourselves drawn to Zuccotti Park, afterwards famous as Liberty Square. Both of us participated in a function from a start, one of us as a tyro and labor organizer, a other as a sociologist and citizen journalist. Among other lessons, we were taught by a NYPD a hang-up of handcuffs, peppers mist and batons.

For dual months, a occupiers hold a block in a face of daily savagery and thousands of arrests. Similar occupations rose adult conflicting a nation and faced identical insurgency from authorities. In a process, a occupiers sought to take a quarrel to a financial institutions obliged for a mercantile crisis, branch it into a domestic predicament for a “1 percent.”

On Nov 15, a Wall Street function came to an sudden and aroused end, as demonstration military descended on a park in a passed of night, dull adult a residents and announced a downtown Financial District a “frozen zone.” Similar crackdowns occurred elsewhere, from Oakland, California, to Tampa, Florida, with operational support from a Department of Homeland Security.

On a night of Mar 17, 2012, we returned to Liberty Square to applaud a six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. As military encircled a park, an officer seized one of us, Cecily, from behind, snatched her retrograde by a breast and slammed her face-first into a concrete; when her bend incidentally struck her assailant, officers kicked and kick her into a array of seizures. She remained handcuffed, her conduct regularly distinguished a ground.

The other author, Michael, protested as military incited divided paramedics and a press. He demanded his right to request a military activity, though was regularly rebuffed. One officer finished a sell with a poke of a nightstick, as if to expostulate a indicate home. Other citizen reporters would join a 73 arrested that night for constitutionally stable activity.

While in custody, Cecily’s hands and feet were cuffed to a sanatorium bed and during one indicate she was pressed into a storage supply closet during Bellevue Hospital; she had been blank for several hours when a hacktivist organisation Anonymous called courtesy to her case. She was eventually charged with second-degree transgression assault, and her bail primarily set during $20,000. Though she had no rapist record, prosecutors described her as “dangerous” and cited her “relationship” with “terroristic” groups.

Though a Internet echoed with calls for aroused retribution, a authors remained committed to a plan of pacifist polite disobedience. But no matter how intentionally pacifist they might be, protesters are customarily expel as violent, from a newsroom to a courtroom. And protesters tend to be put on hearing prolonged before they even have their day in court.

In Cecily’s case, a presiding decider admitted her shame from a get-go. Witness after declare testified to her nonviolence, and striking photographs testified to a attack of her assailant — including a five-fingered hash on her right breast. Yet a district profession indicted her of entertainment a passionate assault, while a decider disallowed any and all justification of military savagery in Zuccotti Park.

On May 5, 2014, Cecily was found guilty and remanded though bail to Rikers Island Correctional Facility. Two weeks later, she returned for sentencing in a private, armored lorry to face adult to 7 years in prison. When a jury held word of her sentencing, 9 of 12 jurors petitioned for her evident release. Instead, she spent 58 days behind bars.

As a felon, she can't vote, teach, offer on a jury or run for office. She can't transport though permission; her pass has been revoked and she is on a Department of Homeland Security watch list. For a subsequent 5 years, she will be compulsory to news to probation. The detriment of a pursuit or a home could land her in a jail cell. Her box is tentative appeal, though in a eventuality that she refuses a defence bargain, she could face another 6 years and 9 months in prison.

Cecily’s box is one of a many gross of a some-more than 7,000 arrests that were documented during a crackdown on a Occupy movement. That crackdown suggested to a ubiquitous open what communities of tone in this nation and others have prolonged known: Policing is increasingly tangible by a proof of “law and order” during any cost — even during a responsibility of open safety, polite autocracy and a really sequence it purports to protect. Ultimately, it is all of us who will compensate a price.

Some of those on a receiving finish of batons and rubber bullets have turn increasingly doubtful of a prerequisite of nonviolence. While their position might be untenable, a causes are intelligible. The existence is that people tend to act in a receptive conform when they are postulated a right to openly assemble. When they are deprived of their inherent rights and a simple clarity of security, fear takes over and hotter heads prevail.

The policing of criticism is carrying a conflicting outcome of a one intended. The time has come for a inaugurated officials to decriminalize gainsay — no matter how disruptive, mischievous or radical it might seem. A approved multitude final zero less.

This essay creatively seemed on Al Jazeera.

Cecily McMillan is a amicable probity organizer and jail rights advocate. Her discourse The Emancipation of Cecily McMillan is stirring from Nation Books.

Michael Gould-Wartofsky is a author of The Occupiers: The Making of a 99 Percent Movement and a doctoral claimant in sociology during New York University.

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