Saturday, June 16, 2012

ProtestKid interviews Me

ProtestKid has a lot of questions about why his friend Ted got arrested on December 17th, and since writing helps me clarify my thoughts on things, I thought I'd put it out here. Please to note, these are answers I am giving to an eight year old. Adults might get slightly different answers.

Why are police being so mean to protesters? Why would they arrest a peaceful protester?

In our society, police are supposed to focus on the law-- what's legal and what isn't. Their job (not who they are as people, just what they get paid for) is not to worry about what's right or what's good.

I know the police's job is to enforce the laws. Why did they arrest him when he wasn't doing anything wrong? He was protesting a grievance, the bill of rights says you can do that.

Good question! In this particular situation, a lot of stuff was going on. People were making music and talking and carrying signs on the sidewalk outside a fenced lot. That piece of land, the city says, belonged to Trinity Wall St, a religious corporation. (Note: that language I picked up from sitting in court. I'm not being snarky, Trinity's legal counsel called them that.)

The police didn't arrest anybody for being on the sidewalk. Some people brought a ladder and used it to climb over the fence. Do you remember how Liberty got cleared out in November?

Yes. They put up a fence so people couldn't get in. They beated people. They killed puppies. So so so bad.

Right. So for a whole month, the occupiers hadn't had anywhere to call home, from November to December 17th. And Trinity Wall St owned this vacant land, and the Occupiers decided that it was the perfect place to build a new home.

They brought two ladders, actually, and people even moved part of the fence and opened a gate and lots of people went into the space with backpacks full of camping gear so they could make a place to protest from.

Our friend Ted was one of those people. After lots of people came in, chanting and hugging and dancing, the police came and arrested everyone they could reach. They reached Ted. (The guy wearing a grey knit hat sitting in front of Bishop Packard)

Why didn't they put handcuffs on him? Usually they put handcuffs on the prisoners?

I don't know! I think they ran out of handcuffs.

That's kind of funny. ...Why didn't he run away?

I don't know for sure, because I haven't asked him. But I can tell you some reasons a person might not run away.

One is, they know they can't escape. If you "resist arrest" and the police catch you again, you can get into a lot of trouble. Really lots.

Another is, they think they haven't done anything wrong. If you aren't afraid of the consequences of being arrested, then you have no reason to run.

Is that enough? Or do you need more explanation?

A little more, I'm still confused.

Sometimes police arrest the wrong person. If you're sure you're innocent and you believe you (or your lawyer) can prove it in a court of law, then you don't need to feel afraid and run away. (Though even if you are innocent, it is scary being arrested, and you can't be sure the court will find you innocent, and jail is no fun.)

Another kind of innocent is if the police say what you're doing is wrong-- like trespassing--

What is trespassing?

It's when you go onto somebody else's property without their permission and knowing that if you asked permission, they would definitely say no way.

...So maybe someone arrested for trespassing would say, "Well, yes I was there, but I didn't think the owner would mind so much." So they think a trial will clear them of the charges against them.

Another kind of being innocent, though it's trickier, is saying, "Yes, I was there, and yes I knew the owner of the space I was in wouldn't like it, but my reasons for being there were much more important than what the owners want."

Like, if you saw a little kid was hurt in somebody's back yard and no one was coming to help them. They might not want you in their yard, but helping the little kid is way more important than something like "property rights"... So if the police arrested you, you might say, "Yes, I was trespassing, and I had no reason to think the owners of the yard would let me in, but the little kid was hurt, and helping is more important than anything else."

I've got a question about the court. What does the jail look like? Does it look like a really tall upside down cylinder made from bars?

That sounds like a cartoon! In real life... I don't know, I haven't been inside a jail before. But if Ted gets found guilty and is sent to jail, we will go visit him and find out. Deal?


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