By Mike Kolhoff
“Government has no other end, but the preservation of property.” —John Locke
The granting of corporations the status and protections usually reserved for individuals has hammered home a simple message: property is more important than people. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the repression of the radical ecology movement known as the “Green Scare”; in every prosecution for civil disobedience or sabotage, the “rights” of private property have consistently been demonstrated as superior to those of individual human protesters freedom to act on their beliefs.
The leveling of felony charges against protestors during the Occupy movement and in previous summit protests has been out of all proportion to the supposed crimes committed, making it clear that such egregious prosecution can only be understood as an act of intimidation.
In the recent trial of three women for blockading the Endridge Pipeline in Michigan, the judge, William Collette, announced in a pre-trial hearing:
““I am tired of people coming in here seeking publicity for themselves…I’m ready to try these cases. … I’m tired of it, and it’s going to go to trial…I am unsympathetic to people who try to use this courtroom as some place to make a statement about your problems.”
He was tired of protestors and civil disobedience. With such a judge, the outcome of the trial was a foregone conclusion.
“The trial of peaceful activists ended today with the jury finding Vicci Hamlin, Lisa Leggio, and Barb Carter guilty of both charges brought against them: trespassing and resisting and obstructing an officer. Supporters are deeply saddened that after deliberation for over 10 hours the verdict returned was guilty of all counts. The jury was split most of this time, returning to the courtroom several times for clarification. Sentencing was scheduled for March 5th and the defendants’ bail was revoked and they were immediately taken into custody.”
Along with ecological dissidents, animal rights activists have also been specifically targeted for suppression: “Bills that criminalize whistleblowing on farms have passed in over a dozen states so far. Often referred to as “Ag-Gag” bills, they prohibit taking pictures or filming on a farm without permission to prevent whistleblowers from exposing animal cruelty. Many of the bills are based on ALEC’s model legislation, “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.” The ALEC model bill not only bans taking pictures or video on farms, but would also place violators on a “terrorist registry.” (http://frackthemedia.com/surveillance-political-dissent-part-ii-criminalizing-dissent/)
The price of peaceful protest has been increased exponentially, or rather, the price of effectively expressing dissent has increased. Participation in ineffective expressions of dissent is still okay, such as participating in elections. With the electoral system owned completely by the capitalists, all electoral politics are ineffective politics.
Using the legal system as a stick to beat dissidents with isn’t a new development of course. You would need to go no further back than the trials of the protesters of the Vietnam era to find people being prosecuted not for actual crimes, but for their opposition to the status quo. The thing that’s hard to digest is that twenty years ago the majority of people would have readily agreed that such prosecutions are contrary to the spirit of free speech within an open society. Now, if people actually do think this way they seem content to be silent on the subject.