Saturday, October 22, 2011

Naomi Wolf: How I Was Arrested at Occupy Wall Street

It ends in huffy hyperbole (eroding the power of the piece, which otherwise is wisely cool and factual), and describes what most of us recognize as the inevitable result of defying a cop with his back up (in societies both fully civil and less so). But, still, there are troubling things in this tale of "a middle-aged writer in an evening gown arrested for peaceable conduct".

I don't like one bit what Wolf describes as "the web of 'overpermiticisation' – requirements that were designed to stifle freedom of assembly and the right to petition government for redress of grievances." And I like even less implications that police may be fabricating new rules on the fly and lying about law in order to make their work more convenient. Protecting the expression of civil liberties must always take precedence over the inevitable inconvenience such expression causes authorities.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that I agree with you that her conclusion was "huffy". I think that she made it because the events support (note i didn't say prove) a position about civil freedom in the US that she has been expounding for several years.

Jim Leff said...

A cop tells you to get out of the way, you do it. That's just the way it is. Is that how the constitution says it should happen? No. But that's how it is.

There's a long history of people mouthing off to cops, getting arrested (or hit over the head and then arrested), and writing huffy indignant screeds about the fascist state.

Before the very end of her article, where she indulged her pique, she was making some good points.

But a cop says keep walking, you do it. It's not the moment for a sidewalk colloquium on civil liberties, nor is it the end of American democracy when said cop throws you in handcuffs.

So color me ambivalent.

joshi said...

as contrast to your (jim leff) reply, take a look at gandhi and the salt march.

getting hit hard by cops on the head was the point!

and that was a defining moment for the non-violent revolution.

Jim Leff said...

But Gandhi was trying to make a statement about cops (i.e. the British iron fist). The Occupy Wall Street movement is not about that.

In fact, the way cops (and their unions) have been targeted by far right governors looking to privatize virtually everything, the cops are, if anything, potential allies.

This is just boilerplate obnoxious indignation (see also Henry Louis Gates' reaction to being arrested when spotted trying to break into his own house....something I'd have thanked the cops for, personally). You or I wouldn't talk back to a stressed out cop. And if we did, we'd accept the inevitable result. Wolf was just being obnoxious.

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