Charlottesville Occupiers thrown in jail: creation of a permanent Occupy underclass

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    The Occupy movement may become a permanent fixture of U.S. society if political leaders continue to be more interested in throwing protesters in jail than acting to solve the problems that the Occupy protesters have pointed to.

    On Wednesday, eighteen Occupy Charlottesville protesters were arrested after Charlottesville police continued their enforcement of an 11 P.M. curfew at Lee Park. Over twelve of the protesters face trespassing charges for failing to withdraw from Lee Park after the group’s permit expired.

    Since mid-October, Occupy Charlottesville protesters have been camping in Lee Park.

    It’s true that upholding the laws of our state and the laws of the U.S. more generally is paramount to our liberal system of governance. But what is also paramount to our liberal system of governance is the legitimacy of our governing bodies, a legitimacy that becomes more tainted every day.

    The symptoms of the Occupy movement in Charlottesville and throughout the country can be partially gleamed by the very inactions of the political representatives that the Occupy protesters are themselves appealing to.

    Entrenched in the system of injustice and corruption themselves, many of our country’s political representatives cannot or will not use their powers of government to right the wrongs that are engrained in our current system of politics and economics.

    Instead, many of our political representatives have resorted to throwing these Occupy protesters in jail, creating a permanent underclass of Occupy protesters whose peripheral place in society has become almost permanent.

    Is it any surprise that the “American dream” has taken a beating in the last year alone?  

    • VADEM

      with all the property they own in C’ville have also said they cannot occupy any of their land/property. Mayor Norris-a democrat-mentioned while he was on the side of the occupiers that the health and safety of the public was more important. They have also posted signs all over the Downtown Mall-the home of the free speech wall-saying no trespassing. So the city council has pretty much buttoned up the area to make sure Occupy C’Ville is no more.

      I am saddened that a deeply blue area like C’Ville has done this. I just hope they can find other property to at least be at during the day. I will be back in C’Ville on the 19th and I hope there is an Occupy there that I can join in. Here in CA they are also dissipating quickly because of the “health and safety” issue.

    • pontoon

      now camping at peoples’ homes which are being foreclosed on trying to stop the foreclosures….embarrassing the banks.  That seems to me to be a excellent way to continue the movement.

    • jlsnook

      How does arresting Occupiers create a “permanent underclass?”  Because 18 people may end up with convictions for trespass, with a likely 10-day suspended jail sentence for a misdemeanor?  That is ridiculous.  While I would not recommend a misdemeanor conviction as an affirmatively good thing, it will not cause those convicted to become a “permanent underclass.”  Plenty of political protestors have trespass convictions.  Many Congresspersons have trespass convictions from political protests (though students of history will recall that Mark Twain once said that what sets America apart is that we have no permanent criminal class, except perhaps for Congress).

      My real question about the Occupy movement is whether it was intended to be a Gandhi-like civil disobedience thing.  If it was, then getting arrested is an integral part of the plan.  As Gandhi noted, civil disobedience without going to jail is not a virtue — it is hooliganism.  What makes civil disobedience virtuous is not that you get to thumb your nose at The Man, but that you are willing to go to jail to draw attention to the injustice of the law that you are complaining about.

      And that is the fundamental problem with the Occupy movement in general, and with the Occupy Charlottesville movement in particular.

      Occupy Charlottesville chose to occupy a park that is surrounded by the library, the Historical Society, a Methodist Church and a funeral home.  It is across the street from a parking lot in back of a Wachovia branch, but that’s the only connection to the financial world.  Lee Park is also located across the street from The Haven, a homeless shelter, which probably has more to do with why anyone bothered to occupy it.  It also has a history of being the site of late-night sex, drug distribution and consumption and drinking, which is why there is an ordinance that imposes a curfew there.  

      The Occupy folks set up there without any permit, in violation of the curfew ordinance.  No one ran them off, no one arrested them.  Charlottesville charges rent for the use of its parks; the Occupy folks were not charged.  They were allowed to use the City’s electric power hookup, without charge (there is a policy to charge $10 an hour for it, which was not charged to the Occupy folks).  They eventually got a permit, by which they implicitly agreed to leave when the permit expired.  After they had been there for about 6 weeks, and after the permit expired, and after Dave Norris met with the Occupy folks repeatedly and tried to work things out, and after he told them that their absolute deadline was 11 PM, the police moved in at about 11:30.

      Contrary to the headline, the Occupiers were not thrown in jail.  Eighteen of them were charged with trespass, and all were given the option to sign a summons, agreeing to appear in court on December 16.  Two chose to do that; the other 16 chose to be formally arrested.  They were taken to the Magistrate’s office, which is located at the Jail, and were given bonds and released.  One woman, who was completely naked, was charged with indecent exposure.  You can see the pictures for yourself at http://www.readthehook.com/102

      If this whole thing was intended as civil disobedience, getting arrested would appear to have been the point.  I don’t think that it was — the Occupiers never developed any list of things that they wanted anyone in Charlottesville to do, and doing a civil disobedience in Lee Park in Charlottesville to complain about corporate greed 350 miles away seems remote.  If it was a civil disobedience thing, there would be an exit strategy — a plan that when certain things happened, the Occupation would cease, or that they would stay there until they were arrested to protest the injustice of the economic system.

      But I think the Occupy movement is more of a primal scream.  The primal scream is understandable as a response to the economic mess, and doesn’t involve an exit strategy or an endgame.

      Anyway, it appears that you are unhappy that the Occupiers were removed from Lee Park, and I surmise that you believe that the Charlottesville City Council are either — “illegitimate”, “unjust”, “corrupt,” or for some other reason responsible for “creating a permanent underclass of Occupy protestors.”

      How?

      What specifically should the Charlottesville City Council do to “right the wrongs that are engrained in our current system of politics and economics”?  And how does occupying Lee Park — about 6 blocks away from City Hall — put political pressure on City Council?  If the Occupiers were complaining about the Library, or the Methodist Church, occupying Lee Park might make at least a little sense.  

      Personally, I think that City Council did the Occupiers a favor by allowing them a face-saving way to make the move.  City Council gave the Occupiers an exit strategy that they themselves did not have.

      Mayor Dave Norris is probably the most liberal Mayor Charlottesville has ever had.  When he was elected to Council, he had been working as an advocate for the homeless.  I can guarantee you that if there was anything that Dave could do to remedy the economic mess as Mayor of Charlottesville, he would already have done it.

    • Teddy Goodson

      for both sides, that is, for the dissatisfied and disillusioned who have been disenfranchised from the economic system, and those enforcing the status quo. Frankly, we as a people have not suffered enough yet to create a truly revolutionary situation, but we’re moving in that direction as the old system fails again and again (and it will, more frequently). OWS was a first effort at learning how to object in the streets. The next time around it will be more serious… on both sides.

    • The Richmonder

      In Richmond, the Occupy Richmond started out as a protest against banks and the 1%, but rapidly went off the rails and degenerated into a personal feud with the mayor and the police department.  Any thought of serious protest has disappeared–instead they are trying to stage “YouTube moments” to embarrass the mayor and police.