Commentary: Black Lives Matter and Civil Disobedience

Disrupting

Earlier this week a group of protesters blocked the Bay Bridge in a Black Lives Matter protest. It generated a lot of discussion here, including people questioning whether a group of protesters have the right to block traffic and disrupt people’s commutes.

Yesterday, I saw someone had forwarded, presumably, a tweet that said, “This pisses me off… MLK would not shut down traffic.” This is of course absurd, MLK had done that and far more to disrupt the everyday lives of people and inconvenience everyone in order to make the point about injustice.

My view of disobedience is that it does not fall within the realm of rights. Rather, its very appearance and effectiveness is because it is an illegal act, an act that in order to have meaning must end in the arrest of the participants in order to show the injustice of the law itself.

Martin Luther King, Jr.,  said, “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

The key, however, is that the individual does not have the right to break the law and must accept willingly the punishment of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community.

Henry David Thoreau wrote in his essay on civil disobedience, “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth–certainly the machine will wear out… but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

As I was reading that quote, I suddenly realized that the problems with the protests were not that they inconvenienced people. Thoreau writes, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

People need to be inconvenienced, in my view, or else they never can recognize the injustices of the world that they attempt to ignore in their lives. Instead, the problem is that the protesters blocking the Bay Bridge were not protesting traffic laws. There is a disconnect between the act itself and the protest that the people are standing up against.

On Monday, Davis MLK Day keynote speaker Natasha Minsker laid out this problem. She noted that today, when we engage in civil disobedience today, we march through the streets, we refuse to move, and the police may arrest us for the failure to disperse because we are blocking the street.

“That’s not what was happening in the civil rights movement,” she explained. “Rosa Parks was arrested for being a black person sitting in a place reserved for white people. Our criminal laws made it a crime to be black in places of white privilege.”

The Black Lives Matter movement has done some very important things in our political discourse. From Ferguson through the present, they have brought to the nation’s attention the need for police reform. No longer are unarmed black men gunned down by police without serious pushback.

As we pointed out on Monday, Hillary Clinton in the last debate was not afraid to make the comment, “There needs to be a concerted effort to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system. And, that requires a very clear agenda for retraining police officers, looking at ways to end racial profiling, finding more ways to really bring the disparities that stalk our country into high relief.”

She would add, “So, we have a very serious problem that we can no longer ignore.”

These are words that you would not have expected to hear from Hillary Clinton, who has made a career out of playing things safe. Black Lives Matter has carved out a safe space for people like Ms. Clinton to speak out for injustice.

But this doesn’t go far enough. Instead of blocking traffic, Black Lives Matter has the ability to lead a revolution that would take down the system.

Bail reform is an issue we are going to focus on this year. In fact, it will be the subject of our annual dinner.

Natasha Minsker said on Monday that “it begins with bail.” She said, “If a person is arrested, then they can post money bail and then get out.” A wealthy white person can bail out of jail if arrested. They will go home, keep their job, they will remain with their family, hire an attorney and “get a better outcome.”

Someone who is in jail and can’t afford bail will stay in jail “and that person loses their job, loses their home, sometimes loses their family and they are under enormous pressure to take a deal and get out as soon as they can and try to restore what they can in their lives.”

She explained, “The entire criminal justice system is based on economic inequality from the very start.”

She said the scale of this problem is huge, enormous and overwhelming. “To achieve racial justice in this country we must fundamentally transform our criminal justice system.”

We don’t do that by blocking traffic. You want to change the bail system, demand that every single case has a bail hearing. That will bog down the system and force reform far quicker than blocking traffic.

You believe that blacks have been subjected to injustice in the criminal justice system, then take every single case to trial instead of copping pleas. That will force prosecutors to change how they charge each case.

If you want to change the system, stop protesting traffic laws and actually get in there and change the system.

The key, however, is not to simply disrupt traffic, which can draw attention to one’s cause, but not attack the instruments of injustice. Instead, we must attack the system itself at the points where it is most vulnerable.

Force the system to come to a halt due to its own weight, at the points where the system is most vulnerable and also the place where it is most unjust. “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth–certainly the machine will wear out,” Thoreau said.

The Black Lives Matter movement, to be truly effective, needs to target these very parts of the system in order to bring about change.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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62 Comments

  1. Sam

    “The key, however, is that the individual does not have the right to break the law and must accept willingly the punishment of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community.”

    Tell that to the “Black Friday 14” who shut down BART on Black Friday. They were released on bail. Then protested the charges and the requirement to pay restitution to BART until both were dropped. Not six weeks later the same group does the same thing again.

    1. Barack Palin

      I’ll bet that this is all okay in David’s mind because it’s a cause that he aligns with.  Now if the NRA or the Tea Party had done the same thing I’m sure it would be a whole different narrative.

        1. Sam

          I didn’t miss it, I just wish that whatever crime they choose to commit they are willing to do the time for. Also, they are not going to change their tactics if there is never going to be a punishment. Demanding a bail hearing and not taking a plea deal are not going to get you on the news.

        2. Davis Progressive

          demanding a bail hearing, i took as a more general strategy for countering the inequities of the system.  they may not get you in the news, but they start attacking the core of the system.  right now, the system only works because of plea bargains and acquiescence from defense attorneys.  if they attacked the core of the system, it might force changes.  the criminal justice system couldn’t handle all the trial requests if everyone stopped making plea agreements.  then the prosecutors would have to choose which cases to try because they would only be able to accommodate the most serious cases.  no one wants to talk about this of course.  it’s much better to block roads and whine about protesters.

        1. Frankly

          These ranchers have caused no harm to any other individual with their protest.  The buildings they have been occupied were not being used.

          However, those terrorists on the bridge caused copious harm to others.

          1. Don Shor

            This occupation is not cost-free. Schools closed, students not in class, teachers on paid leave. BLM office closed, employees on paid leave. Additional security for Burns, Oregon due to threats made by occupiers. Cost of FBI presence. Cost of lost tourism by birders, hunters, etc., who use the refuge.
            There has been a range of estimates of the overall cost of this occupation, but it is certainly thousands of dollars a day. This is not harmless, it is not without costs to others, and it can’t go on forever. The federal government has been very restrained, which is admirable, but that is only because this is in an out-of-the-way location in the off season. That doesn’t mean that other people wouldn’t be using the wilderness area right now if they could, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t adversely affecting the lives of those in the area.
            The people who live there are sick of it and want them to go.

        2. zaqzaq

          Tia,

          Will they get the “Black Lives Matter” treatment in Alameda county where the charges were dropped?  If not are the powers deciding which political protest to prosecute?  Is that a problem?  I personally believe both groups should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

        3. Davis Progressive

          zz – if you strike them down you make them more powerful than you could image.  i don’t understand why blm protesters are lobbying to not be prosecuted, they need to be prosecuted if they want to take down the system.

        4. Eric Gelber

           I personally believe both groups should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

          Fair enough, zaqzaq. So what is the penalty for armed sedition?
           

  2. Frankly

    This type of civil disobedience is a construct of the disappointing spoiled and drug-addled offspring of the greatest generation that then went on to generate spoiled and confused offspring of their own that do the same.

    And then the techniques got picked up by other groups afflicted with a victim mentality.

    Civil disobedience has a place in our American system as a necessary counter to the challenge of tyranny.  Go back to the Boston Tea Party.

    But this type of crap from the Black Lives Matter “movement” should not be tolerated.  The “protesters” should all be arrested and jailed for theft.  Theft of time, and the money impacts from that loss of time, for all those people that could not get to their destinations as a result of the “protesters” illegal actions.  Think about all those people that work on an hourly basis that were stuck on the bridge.  Why is it fair that these protesters cause them such financial pain?  What did these people have to do with slavery and the crappy and failed liberal policies that have decimated the black community over the last several decades since Democrat FDR invented the now trillion dollar government entitlement system and modern Democrats became controlled by the teachers union with a vested interest to block true education reform that would actually help the black comminity?

    These “protesters” could have easily just assembled at the capital and got all the new media coverage they needed.  But they didn’t do that because it wasn’t “thuggish” enough to meet their cultural and/or social standards of behavior.

    Disgusting.

    And here is one lack consideration.  Does this type of thing really help?  Not at all.  With every one of these type of thuggish “protests”, there is less and less empathy and support for their so called cause.

        1. Tia Will

          No, the ranchers are opposing tyranny.”

          No this is a protest over the right to use land that belongs to all, namely federal land, to enhance the interests of a few.

        2. Frankly

          And they are not hurting any other citizens with their actions, unlike the spoiled brat crybullies that shut down a major traffic artery in one of the busiest traffic areas in the US.

          1. Don Shor

            [moderator]

            spoiled brat crybullies

            I am going to finally request that you stop the repeated use of terms that are discouraged in the Vanguard comments policy.
            Please review the policy here: http://www.davisvanguard.org/about-us/comment-policy/
            In particular:

            Generic Insults. Pejorative references to any general class of people are strongly discouraged. The Editorial Board asks commenters to understand that general insults discourage the participation of others. They contribute to a negative tone and strongly suggest disrespect for the views of others. In some cases, general insults oversimplify the positions of others, which is detrimental to informed and respectful debate. General insults that are provocative are especially discouraged.

        3. Biddlin

          Is your supply of BS endless or what?

           Dwight Hammond, Jr., and his son, Steven Hammond set arson fires over the course of almost two decades. On two occasions, in 2001 and 2006, the Hammonds set fires that endangered wildland firefighters, forcing them to take evasive action when their safety was compromised. In one case they conscripted a 13-year old to help ignite a fire who was too successful. He found himself surrounded by flames and fearing for his life. A group of three hunters, whose location was known to the Hammonds, were also threatened by one of the fires and had to hurriedly evacuate the area without having time to pack up the equipment at their campsite. The Hammonds also had several previous run-ins with the legal system that until now have not been general knowledge.  Dwight and Steven Hammond were arrested and spent two nights in custody.

          Brief timeline:

          Aug. 5, 1994-Federal employees of the Malheur National Wildlife refuge were attempting to build a fence on refuge property to keep the Hammonds’ cattle from trespassing on federal land. (There is some dispute about this exact date, but court records show that it occurred on August 5, 1994.)

          “On the day the fence was to be built, the crew and refuge officials arrived to find Hammond had parked his Caterpillar scraper squarely on the boundary line and disabled it, removing the battery and draining fuel lines. When a tow truck arrived to move it, Dwight Hammond showed up, leaped to the controls of the scraper and hit a lever that lowered the bucket, narrowly missing another special agent. Meanwhile, said [Special Agent Earl M.] Kisler, Steve Hammond shouted obscenities at federal officials. Neither Hammond resisted arrest.” High Country News

          The original charge was a felony, “Forcibly impede, intimidate and interfere with federal officers engaged in the performance of their official duties”.

          The High Country News reported that many sources applied a great deal of pressure on the BLM and the Secretary of the Interior, protesting the arrests. Some employees received phone calls and death threats at their homes.

          1994, August 15 — The charges were reduced to a misdemeanor for both Steven and Dwight Hammond, to “Interfering with Government Employees and Private Parties”.

          1997, July 16 the “Interfering” cases were dismissed by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

          1999 — Steven was arrested and convicted for interfering with lawful users of public lands.  On Oct. 9, 1999, he interfered with a lawful hunt being conducted by a hunting guide and his party.  On March 9, 2000, he was sentenced to 3 years of probation.

          2001, September 30 — Hardie-Hammond Fire.

          According to testimony from a commercial hunting guide, his two clients, and Dusty Hammond the grandson to Dwight Hammond and nephew to Steven Hammond, their family and friends were hunting when shots were fired from the group into a herd of deer on BLM land. The guide said four bucks were crippled, but the Hammond hunting party did not track or collect any deer.

          Later, Steven, with Dwight at his side, handed out boxes of matches to everyone in the party including 13-year old Dusty. Their instructions were to “light up the whole country on fire”. They went off in different directions and began igniting fires, but Dusty was by himself, following a path pointed out by Steven. He was at first unsuccessful in getting the vegetation to ignite, but after Steven showed him how to use several of the “strike anywhere” matches together, he was creating eight to ten-foot flames which at one point surrounded and entrapped him causing him to fear for his life —  “I thought I was going to get burned up”, he said. The fires were lit along the line between their property and public land, and spread onto public land.

          Gerri Badden, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said the motive for setting the fires was to cover up the illegal slaughter of the deer which was witnessed by the hunting guide, the guide’s two hunters, and was affirmed by Dusty.

          Two hours after igniting the fires Steven called the BLM to report that they were going to burn invasive species.

          The hunting guide saw that the fire was moving toward their camp and was concerned about his safety and that of his two clients from Utah. The three of them evacuated from the area without even taking the time to break down and remove their equipment at the camp. As they drove away they were able to see the flames of the fire in the area they had left. Testimony in the trial indicated that the Hammonds were aware of the location of the guide and his clients before lighting the fires since they flew their airplane over the area earlier that morning.

          Later in the day Dwight and Steven took to the sky again in their airplane to examine the burnt area, telling Dusty they were going to check to see if the fire got rid of the juniper, which is an invasive species that robs water from grasses grazed by cattle.

          Dusty said that when the Hammond hunting party returned to the house after setting the fires, “Dwight told me to keep my mouth shut, that nobody needed to know about the fire”. Eight years later 21-year old Dusty told investigators why he waited so long to speak up about the arson, saying that if Steven heard he provided information he would come to Dusty’s front door and kill him. 

          The writers of the sentencing report said the setting of the fires created a “conscious or reckless risk of death or serious bodily injury” to individuals including Dusty Hammond. The fires burned 139 acres of federal land.

           

          2004 — Steven allegedly “sandpapered” off the chest of Dusty Hammond, then age 16, two initials he had tattooed on himself. Steven was charged with Criminal Mistreatment, but the charges were dismissed in 2005 when he entered into a diversion program.

          A police report about the incident was introduced in the 2012 trial as evidence along with photos after the Hammonds referred to themselves as “dedicated family men who are highly regarded in their community”.

          2006, August 17 — Steven told a BLM employee that he and Dwight had been setting fires in the area for years. Steven also said to not be surprised if more fires appeared after the next lightning storm in the area.

            He assumed that one more fire, if several were started in the county, would not be looked at closely by investigators.

          2006, August 21 — A lightning storm hit the Steens Mountain area and ignited several fires, including the Krumbo Butte Fire. Dwight encountered the same BLM employee he had talked with on August 17 who was assigned to suppress the fire, telling him he wished the fires were larger.

          2006, August 22 —  A firefighter assigned to the Krumbo Butte Fire with his crew that was spending the night on a hill saw three small fires below their location. The fire behavior and calm winds at the time made it very unlikely that they could have been spot fires started from embers generated by the main fire. When the three fires grew together he worried that the new fire could run up the hill endangering the crew. Concerned there was an active arsonist in the area, he moved the crew to a safer location.

          2006, August 23 — Steven admitted to one of the firefighters that he set the fires the previous night “to provide feed for his cattle”, according to the BLM report about the Hammond’s grazing permit. The report also goes into much detail about suspicious fires that started that day in an area near where Steven and Dwight were seen in the general vicinity of the main fire, the Krumbo Butte Fire. These new ignitions compromised the safety of firefighters nearby, some of whom were forced to retreat from the area. They were given advice and led to safety via radio by an orbiting Air Attack. Again, this occurred in a location that virtually ruled out ignition caused by embers from the main fire; one was three miles away.

          Dwight had disappeared into the vegetation but when he was spotted by a firefighter who told him to stop, fled, but he eventually stopped.

          Later a fire investigator determined that seven fires were intentionally set.

          According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Hammonds’ motive for setting the fires was to protect their winter feed. Steven ignited the fires during a county wide burn ban and while a “red flag warning” was in effect, without notice or permission and while knowing BLM contract firefighters were in the area.

          2006, August 24 — Steven was arrested for questioning about the suspicious fires.

          2011 — Steven was convicted of unsworn falsification in state court for forging a landowner’s preference hunting form.

          2012, June 21 — After a trial over arson charges, the jury found Dwight and Steven Hammond guilty of the 2001 arson and Steven Hammond of the 2006 arson, and not guilty of other arson charges.  While the jury was deliberating on the remaining charges, the Hammonds negotiated a settlement with the government which resulted in acceptance of the guilty verdicts, the dismissal of the remaining charges, and a promise from the government not to recommend a sentence greater than the mandatory minimum of 5 years.  The Hammonds acknowledged in open court that they knew the mandatory minimum prison term they were facing was 5 years.

          2012, October 25 — The sentencing report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office recommend a 78-month prison sentence for Steven Hammond and a 63-month prison sentence for Dwight Hammond. The government kept its promise and asked for the minimum mandated by law, five years.  The government argued the Hammonds were “arsonists,” not “terrorists.”

          2012, October 30 — Dwight was given 12 months in prison and Steven received 3 months.

          The U.S. Attorney appealed the sentences, since they did not conform to federal sentencing laws, and the appeals court imposed the required five year sentence. The Hammonds appealed that revised sentence all the way to the Supreme Court and lost in March, 2015.

          2013, January 4 — The Hammonds began serving their prison time. Dwight was released in March, 2013 and Steven in January, 2014.

          2014, February 14 — The BLM denied the renewal of the Hammond’s grazing permit, citing the arson convictions and other issues.

          2014, December 4 — A civil suit related to the arson brought against the Hammonds by the federal government was settled, with Dwight and Steven agreeing to pay $200,000 each. If they had to sell their property in order to make the payments, under the agreement the government had first right of refusal. However the two payments of $200,000 were received, and there was no sale of property.

          2015, October 7A federal judge re-sentences the Hammonds to five years. They were scheduled to return to prison January 4, 2016.

          These arsonist/ranchers are trying to feed their cattle, on public land, for free, even though the permit fees(In 2015, $1.69/head, calves are free.) are less than 1/12th of the open market rate.

          Many of their law-abiding neighbors would be fine with the feds ending this by force, at this point..

    1. Barack Palin

      And here is one lack consideration.  Does this type of thing really help?  Not at all.  With every one of these type of thuggish “protests”, there is less and less empathy and support for their so called cause.

      True, just go on the Internet and read the comment sections on the bridge blockage articles.  They hurt more than helped their cause.

  3. Eric Gelber

    And here is one lack [sic] consideration.  Does this type of thing really help?  Not at all.  With every one of these type of thuggish “protests”, there is less and less empathy and support for their so called cause.

    Without opining on the recent events in the Bay Area, this is a refrain often heard from the right. In my lifetime I heard it during the civil rights protests of the 50’s and the anti-Vietnam War era protests of the 60’s and 70’s (and in relation to other movements–for women’s rights, gay rights, disability rights, etc.). To say these movements were unsuccessful or that civil disobedience didn’t help is to ignore history. And to characterize all those who had the courage of their convictions and often risked their lives to engage in these activities as “disappointing spoiled and drug-addled offspring of the greatest generation that then went on to generate spoiled and confused offspring of their own that do the same” is both insulting and just plain wrong.

    1. hpierce

      The problem I see is that “black (or pick your group) lives matter” is a bit ‘squishy’ as to what that means.  The voting rights protests, the anti-war protests were more concrete.

      I could say that, given the rhetoric by certain presidential candidates, ‘shut downs’ on the theme of “Muslim lives matter”, “immigrant (legal or undocumented) lives matter” would be equally justified.

      As would “mentally ill lives matter”.  Or, “conservatives’ lives matter”.

      Looks like “acting out” more than true ‘civil disobedience’ for a resolvable cause/issue.

      Just my opinion.

      1. Miwok

        And of course the “separate but equal” rhetoric comes to mind, of the 50’s and 60’s.

        My ignorance of this results in trying to ask what MLK was up to, and was he trying to get Social Justice or just integration? From my work experience in the 70’s & 80’s, Blacks were accepted pretty much by force in UCD and other places. Part of the problem was the fact politicians and City Employees spend their whole career in one office, which means the next person to hire happens in 40 years, or two and maybe three generations in teen birth years.

        The movement pretends that every judge, police person, and attorney has a bias they cannot possibly change enough to understand or dispense justice without a Separate System that is made up of Blacks? So would the sentencing guidelines be changed? Arrests drop off? Murders stop? Less people getting mugged? More of my ignorance. Try it in Chicago first, and if it works there, go with it.

        Then we need to set up another system for Muslims, Asians, Hispanics… After all the system IS overloaded, maybe more courts would help the process, much like the ACA promised Health Care for all? I thought more people would go into the Medical field, but instead hospitals and clinics are closing..?

    2. Davis Progressive

      eric makes a really good point, successful protests in the 50s and 60s were waged that substantially created disruption of people’s lives.  in fact, that’s why they were effective, eventually when the protesters wouldn’t go away, the world changed – it took disruption, violence, and intervention, but it was effective.

      “True, just go on the Internet and read the comment sections on the bridge blockage articles.  They hurt more than helped their cause.”

      and what do you think people in the south were saying about the bus boycott or the lunch counter sit in?  go team go?  those things pissed people off but eventually they worked.

        1. Tia Will

          It isn’t the south in 1965, it is the Bay Area in 2015.”

          Just because the inequities are not the same, does not mean that inequities within the judicial system do not exist.

        2. Barack Palin

          Just because the inequities are not the same, does not mean that inequities within the judicial system do not exist.

          Just as the ranchers probably feel.

        3. Miwok

          BP, Since you mention the ranchers, I would say they read the 1872 LAW that tells them something different than what the BLM has changed over the years, except the LAW still is the same.

          this is why the “Executive Order” is so reviled.

  4. Davis Progressive

    it is interesting that the article proposed a new strategy that would be effective on a number of fronts and yet, the comments are focused on these protests that are causing people inconvenience but attacking the system as thoreau and mlk suggested.  no one wants to talk about that.

    1. Sam

      DP-Why would they change when with what they are doing they lead the news casts and face no punishment? I agree the tactics in the article would be much more effective and would lead to actual change. I just don’t see them stopping blocking traffic anytime soon.

      1. Davis Progressive

        i guess it depends on what their goal is.  you seem to think that it’s to get on the news.  i think a lot of them have a goal to change the system.

        1. Sam

          When they were protesting the Alameda County DA their goal was to drop the charges and raise the minimum wage. Those are the only two specific goals that I have seen. Otherwise it seems that they want to get the message out that Black Lives Matter and they do a good job of it blocking commute traffic.

        2. hpierce

          Ok.. what does “change the system” mean?  Anything concrete? Or change for the sake of change?  Just don’t see how there are any ‘remedies’ for “black lives matter”  Of course they do (black lives DO matter)… sounds more like a mantra than anything that can be concretely addressed…

          1. Don Shor

            Since the earliest days of the movement in Ferguson, groups like the Organization for Black Struggle, the Black Lives Matter network, and others have made both clear and public a list of demands. Those demands include swift and transparent legal investigation of all police shootings of black people; official governmental tracking of the number of citizens killed by police, disaggregated by race; the demilitarization of local police forces; and community accountability mechanisms for rogue police officers.

            Source: http://blacklivesmatter.com/11-major-misconceptions-about-the-black-lives-matter-movement/

        3. hpierce

          Don, if you are saying your post covers the “be all, end all” of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, thank you… have been wondering if the scope has ‘creeped’…

        4. sisterhood

          “Anything concrete?”

          DP already described a few concrete examples:

          :right now, the system only works because of plea bargains and acquiescence from defense attorneys.  if they attacked the core of the system, it might force changes.  the criminal justice system couldn’t handle all the trial requests if everyone stopped making plea agreements.  then the prosecutors would have to choose which cases to try because they would only be able to accommodate the most serious cases.  no one wants to talk about this of course.  it’s much better to block roads and whine about protesters.”
           

          I disagree re: plea bargains. If my family member did not plea, he would have probably spent 7 years in state prison vs. 6 months in county, for a crime he did not commit. The D.A. had more resources than he had. The DA wanted cash for a conviction involving a sex offense. The DA would have made such a big deal about the adult porn found on an old floppy desk, that hadn’t been viewed in literally YEARS, that the jury would have convicted him. Look at Ajay’s case.

        5. Davis Progressive

          I disagree re: plea bargains. If my family member did not plea, he would have probably spent 7 years in state prison vs. 6 months in county, for a crime he did not commit. The D.A. had more resources than he had. The DA wanted cash for a conviction involving a sex offense. The DA would have made such a big deal about the adult porn found on an old floppy desk, that hadn’t been viewed in literally YEARS, that the jury would have convicted him. Look at Ajay’s case.

          you’re completely missing the point here.  the problem isn’t that plea bargains are necessarily bad, it is that they allow the prosecutors to push for the maximum on every single case and force people to plead or face the seven years in state prison.  the system would collapse if defense attorneys force prosecutors to go to trial in every case.  in fact, the system would collapse if they forced prosecutors to go to trial 20 percent of the time, perhaps even 10 percent of the time.  that’s the point, not where your relative was advantaged in one single case by taking a plea – that often happens and it’s why the system is perpetuated.

  5. sisterhood

    “…to characterize all those who had the courage of their convictions and often risked their lives to engage in these activities as “disappointing spoiled and drug-addled offspring of the greatest generation that then went on to generate spoiled and confused offspring of their own that do the same” is both insulting and just plain wrong.”

    Hear, hear.

  6. Frankly

    Boy the social justice lefties on the VG are sure showing their true colors here.   Unbelievable that they support these rich spoiled brat crybullies harming other innocent people to get attention.

    It is not like this is 1965 in Selma Mississippi.  It is 2016 in the Bay Area for heaven sake.

    But then there are not many rich, spoiled brat crybullies in Selma Mississippi.  They all live in those exclusive gated communities.

    This looks more like terrorism to me rather than peaceful social disobedience.

  7. sisterhood

    “Someone who is in jail and can’t afford bail will stay in jail “and that person loses their job, loses their home, sometimes loses their family and they are under enormous pressure to take a deal and get out as soon as they can and try to restore what they can in their lives.”

    A Solano Co. clerk admitted making a mistake and checking the “no bail” section of a form when my family member was arrested. He wrongfully spent the night in jail, worried that no one would pick his kids up from school, worried sick that Social Serv. might come to the school and take them away forever. His lawyer corrected the problem the next day. He paid his lawyer $250 an hour. After all was said and done, $250,000. to defend him against a false accusation. The lawyer was an aquaintance, otherwise his regular fee was $500 an hour.

    How many folks can afford to pay a criminal defense lawyer $500 an hour?

      1. Davis Progressive

        there are not many criminal defense attorneys that earn $1 million a year.  most people charged with crimes can’t afford to pay for attorneys.  there are a few that earn good salaries, but most attorneys are kind of in a feast or famine mode – they get a paying client and they get paid.  i know a lot who live on settlements.  they’ll get a few hundred thousand in a settlement and then nothing for months.  that might sound like a lot of money, but after you pay your bills, it disappears fast.

  8. Tia Will

    Frankly

    And they are not hurting any other citizens with their actions,”

    I am wondering if you do not consider the closure of the local schools for a week as well as some governmental offices “harm to any other citizens”. You do not consider continuing to occupy after being asked repeatedly at a public meeting to leave after having publicly stated that they would leave if asked to do so by the locals “hurting” anyone. You do not consider armed occupation of public property ( meaning that of all of the citizens, but now accessible only to those of like mind) “harming any other citizen”.

    It is of interest to me that you  see over a few weeks armed occupation of territory with exclusion of other citizens at checkpoints as “fighting tyranny” ( yes, I guess those bird watchers are pretty tyrannical), while bemoaning a few hours of bridge closure. I do not support either action in this case, but I do not see how one can support the former action because it comports with one’s own political views while condemning the latter.  Do any of you believe that if Mr. Bundy and his armed vigilantes had been Muslims fighting the “tyranny” of secular government, they would no longer be living in their occupied space ?  And yet our home grown terrorists ( because that is what an armed invasion is in my view) are essentially given a free pass. Or, the bridge closure folks, unarmed but inconvenient,  get arrested and removed, but the armed Oregon occupiers remain for weeks.  Talk about proof of unequal treatment under the law !

  9. Barack Palin

    Or, the bridge closure folks, unarmed but inconvenient,  get arrested and removed, but the armed Oregon occupiers remain for weeks.

    If the Oregon occupiers had closed down a major freeway and bridge I’m sure they would’ve also been removed and arrested.

    1. Tia Will

      BP

      If the Oregon occupiers had closed down a major freeway and bridge I’m sure they would’ve also been removed and arrested.”

      This is likely true. But it also ignores a central tenant of our society. Equality under the law. Those who occupied the bridge were breaking the law. They were arrested and removed. Mr. Bundy and his colleagues are breaking the law and they are utilizing weapons in their lawbreaking. If we truly had equality under the law, they would be arrested and removed and their weapons confiscated. I strongly favor equality under the law as a basic principle of our constitution. Don’t you ?

      This gets to the heart of a comment two comments frequently posted by you and Frankly. I paraphrase. If you don’t want to do the time, don’t due the crime. And we should not restrict the gun ownership rights of law abiding citizens.

      And I agree. So since the occupiers in Oregon have broken the law, and done so equipped with weapons, please remind me why they are not arrested and relived of said weapons ?

       

       

      1. Barack Palin

        I remember local college students who occupied buildings on campus that were allowed to stay for days until they decided to leave.  Did you complain at that time that there should be equality under the law?

        1. Tia Will

          BP

          Since Bundy and his fellow lawbreakers were not an issue at the time, it would have been hard to make a case for equality under the law. However, the relevant question is, did I support the protesters blockage of the freeway. The answer to that is “no” I did not support their action.

  10. legacyaustin

    Mr Greenwald, I appreciate your perspective of suggesting that BLM should direct their protest at a particular issue: bail reform. However, I believe they are right in disrupting commerce and convenience to raise attention to the plethora of issues facing Black America. The Chicago and Minneapolis BLM protests that disrupted Michigan Ave, Mall of America Christmas shopping and the Minn-St Paul airport traffic are brilliant strategies. When Black people protest within our own communities we only disrupt our lives. The life of the country has to be awakened!

    1. Davis Progressive

      i think the point raised here is that by blocking a bridge you are only disrupting people you aren’t attacking the system.  blocking commerce isn’t the system.  attacking the actual pillars of the system and shutting them down is what mlk did, and what blm could do.  it doesn’t have to be bail reform, but there are a lot of access points that are more direct than a bridge.

    2. hpierce

      They also blocked EV access to anyone who needed to be transported across the bridge to get appropriate medical treatment… ‘collateral damages’?  Apparently, some lives don’t matter…

      1. Biddlin

        Oh, how many people were harmed, waiting to cross the bridge for emergency medical attention? I couldn’t find any reports of that. I think you are making that up.

        1. Don Shor

          You know, after all this discussion, I wondered how long the traffic backup had been. So I looked it up.

          The activists froze traffic for about 30 minutes before they were arrested on suspicion of public nuisance, unlawful assembly and obstructing free passage, CHP Officer Vu Williams said.

          The protesters apparently drove onto the bridge in five cars shortly before 4 p.m., stopping near the new eastern span tower — one in each of the five lanes. They stepped out on Interstate 80, just east of Yerba Buena Island, and strung chain through each of the cars and across the lanes, forcing traffic to back up well into the MacArthur Maze in the East Bay.

          CHP officers used bolt cutters to cut the chains, Williams said.

          Police began arresting the protesters, who were placed in zip-tie handcuffs and moved to the shoulder of the highway so that lanes could be reopened.

          “There was no force used; everyone cooperated,” Williams said. “The fortunate thing was today was a public holiday, so traffic wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”

          http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Bay-Bridge-reopening-after-protesters-chain-6767354.php

        2. hpierce

          And you can cite that no-one was harmed, or could have been?  Cite your sources, unless you are ‘making up’ your posit… I have a non-citeable source but it turned out that all is good.  It worked out.  Might not have, tho’…

          Privacy matters rule, in this case…

        3. hpierce

          BTW, transport by EV is not always a “life or death” situation… you are probably correct that the incident was not “reported”… as Don  has reported, there was a 30 minute delay… had it been a very critical medical emergency…

  11. Biddlin

    “And you can cite that no-one was harmed, or could have been?  ”

    I made no such claim.

    “Cite your sources, unless you are ‘making up’ your posit… I have a non-citeable source…”

    You do? Well, that’s called  “rumor.” That ranks just below hearsay, but above prevarication, I suppose.

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