Saturday, January 28, 2017

Stepping Up

All of the foot dragging and civil disturbance by environmentalists over development of fossil fuel infrastructure comes down to one basic demand: stop heating up the planet. Clean air, earth, and water are also quite important, but the issue that has most of our attention is the catastrophic future of our climate. Local and tribal objections are, in a strategic sense, wedges to enable and attract climate warriors to stand in the breach.

A friend of mine, +David Hardy, took the bold step of being arrested for joining a protest which blocked the steps of the county courthouse when the Cove Point Plant expansion approval was still undecided. He may not know it, but I admire his conviction and sacrifice. I wasn't then willing to risk such a fate, but now that I am retired, my old excuse of having to show up at work is pretty flimsy.

If I had a choice, being arrested would be a collateral risk of a bold or daring act, but not one that would place myself or others in mortal danger. For instance, one would not want to make law enforcement think there is a hostile threat to them or the public. Civil disobedience must be evidently peaceful enough that onlookers and police see it as an act of expression rather than aggression. The action should be planned to offer maximum public exposure. If possible, it should be prolonged enough to give the press a chance to film it. David's arrest got plenty of local press coverage. A tip off to the press could be the best way to ensure this.

The Greenpeace crane climbers near the White House did not have to tip their hand, but they were the epitome of a public and media spectacle. One of the climbers was a true inspiration. Sixty-two years old and afraid to even climb a ladder at home, she had never participated in any such stunts before, but volunteered to scale the crane and stay up there from pre-dawn into the nighttime because she saw the urgency of the changing mood and direction wrought by the new administration. Arrest after crane climbing is a pretty sure bet, unfortunately, but it would be nice to come up with a stunt that would garner as much attention while also affording a chance of escape.

One way to improve chances of escape, either from arrest or prosecution, would be to overwhelm law enforcement with more protesters than they are willing to take in. Provided everyone involved is contributing to the civil disobedience objective (like delaying critical work on infrastructure construction), then even if the police arrest a token few, there may be some safety in numbers. I suppose they could photograph a crowd and track down people to arrest later. Perhaps masks would be advisable in such situations.

There are offers available to subject oneself to being arrested - not the kind of thing you typically go shopping for on the web, but these are not typical times. I'll try to find one close by. Meanwhile, it would probably do me good to read up on carrying out civil disobedience.

"Strength" by Keoni Cabral

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