Dear Denver and St. Paul,
I can still smell the last whiffs of the tear gas that you sprayed at us, I still see the remnants of it rising mockingly in misty spirals to a backdrop of riot gear, though all that is left of our peaceful protests are the legal battles that began to erupt between you and us protesters in the aftermath of the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention.
It may have been many months ago that I was arrested, yet the feeling of your empty-shelled eyes staring at me in that courtroom, etched with some bizarre, indescribable vengeance, stains my brain. Your costume was so carefully pressed, fading beige and emotionless against all the other clowns, turning acrobatics in one ring, and with us protesters in the other, watching this warped circus you marketed under the tagline of “justice.”
Perhaps naively, I never thought you would actually go through with it—squandering your city’s resources to prosecute a nonviolent action that hurt no one, except the horses that you enslaved and forced to aid you in your fear tactics. Your feathers may have been ruffled; you may have heard something with which you didn’t agree, yet to actually charge and convict us, making us out to be mad criminals and attempting to silence civil speech … what a shame.
Even after those many months of tortuous legal conversations and thick, non-recyclable envelopes arriving with yet another statement about yet another obstacle to proving my “innocence” after engaging in political dissent, it makes me laugh, a sort of feverish giggle. How could I have believed with such blind faith that, where the American justice system is concerned, the true interests of the people would be at heart?
Must I thank you, then, for a re-education in reality, for breaking me from the rose-tinted outlook on the justice system that we mindlessly grazed on for so long as children?
How can you claim that we are in the wrong when your version of justice involves slapping felonies and outrageous fees onto nonviolent activists, medics, journalists, and legal observers while murder and rape cases pile high on your desks? What message does the “justice” system send to the American people when, instead of encouraging people to struggle for a better world, it incarcerates and punishes those who care enough about this country to push it in the direction they passionately believe is best?
One of the options you offered us activists, making it obvious that these trials were purely symbolic of your juvenile avengement, was a deferred judgment. In other words, “Plead guilty, be good for a year, and, as far as we know, this never happened.” Option 2: Come in and face probable conviction per guilt by association, a popular concept pulled right out of the good ol’ Red Scare days. The decision would be based on one thing—the luck of my getting a good jury.
Ah, the devil’s crossroads.
Since when does justice sound like a game of blackjack? I’ve never been much of a gambler, especially when “right vs. wrong,” not to mention my dignity, seems as insignificant as a gambling chip. You just wanted one more “guilty,” one more notch in your belt until someone buys you a drink for “beating” nonviolent civil disobedience … because that one activist took the Joker.
These days, I find it unbearable to listen to people put such steadfast faith in you and your ability to render decisions in the best interests of the people. It’s chilling every time I remember how you allowed your insatiable career-minded ego to gorge on my circumstances, all disguised as a vow to show me some mystical error of my ways, how the integrity behind the march was manipulated, not for the good of the city, but for your own selfish interests.
I hope you learned something as well. I hope you learned that such ludicrous and corrupt acts will not pass unnoticed, that the hundreds of activists and lawyers from around the country will always hold you accountable. You have seen them mobilize in countless numbers in your courtrooms, shattering your poker face with every charge they have forced you to drop and every “not guilty” that the juries have issued after the pressure of sheer public outcry and solidarity.
We will not be your marionettes; we will not play your game. We will, however, be back in four years, then eight years, and so on … until people’s futures are no longer decided by the luck of the draw.
The U.S. v. nonviolent DNC & RNC protesters
March 19, 2009
Dear Denver and St. Paul,
“Any mode for determining guilt or punishment has its weaknesses and the potential for misuse. Despite such imperfections, constitutional guarantees are met when the mode for determining guilt or punishment has been surrounded with safeguards to make it as fair as possible.”
-Justice Paul Stevens, Mccleskey v. Kemp (1987).
The case cited above by Justice Stevens related to the constitutionality of sentencing a man to death. Is it any small wonder that “justice” has been so far lost in your situation, regarding a far more minor supposed “crime”?