A legal defense fund, really?

I’m not a big fan of get-arrested theater posing as civil disobedience. We see quite a bit of it here in Washington, and I can’t help think it says more about those getting arrested than the cause, because it’s a tactic as fresh and timely as a Nehru jacket. It also reeks of entitlement, since the presumption is that those arrested will be processed, offered bail and probably have charges dismissed or reduced to a fine.

Which brings us to the Unitarian Universalist arrest-a-thon today, the day after a federal judge gives SB 1070 a judo chop to the throat. But the show must go on, and Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpiao — admittedly not one of my favorite people — himself has become a focus of the campaign. That’s mission creep from an anti-SB 1070 stand.  (And, how, for example, does this show solidarity for those who are avoiding or do not deserve arrest?)

But say what I will about D.C. arrestees, at least (I’ve heard) they have their lawyers all set up. And at least they’re not asking for a legal defense fund, as the tweely-named UUA Standing on the Side of Love campaign is. (I’m not linking to it.)

If you set yourself up to be arrested, be prepared to pay the cost. That’s pretty basic to real civil disobedience. You might even refuse bail. Real love has costs, and sometimes hurts — and the hurt will find you; you needn’t look for it.

10 Replies to “A legal defense fund, really?”

  1. I could not attend any of those protests, so I was *glad* to contribute by bailing out some of the protestors–some of whom are my dear, dear friends.

  2. Me too. I wish I could have been there, since I think getting arrested was a particularly apt way to publicize this issue. Since I couldn’t join in the civil disobedience, my participation has been to talk with folks here in Mexico about it (they seem very well-informed, including being aware of the current state of the federal case) and to send money to help colleagues who were willing to get arrested. And to wear my SSL shirt, since I don’t think there’s anything twee about this kind of love–in fact, if I have any qualms about the slogan, it’s that it’s too muscular.

  3. Amy – how does this publicize this law anymore than it’s already been publicized? It’s been front page news (on newspapers and online) for months.

  4. As soon as I hit send I wanted to change the word “publicize,” though I’m not sure what word would replace it. Keep the urgency of the issue before the country (as well as UUs) . . . educate people about the impact the law will have (is already having). . . let people know that there’s an energetic movement for just immigration laws–that’s what I’d be trying to do if I were able to go to Phoenix.

    Judging from a few conversations I had, the news in Mexico today was “as the law takes effect, lots of people are protesting.” As opposed to “as the law takes effect, Latinos are quietly fleeing the state.” As long as getting arrested gets you more notice than just holding signs, it’s going to remain a tool that deserves our respect.

  5. Sometimes, Steve, I think it’s just about taking a stand. About not sitting in silence. About saying out loud, “This is not ok.”

    You’re right that it’s easy to get arrested when you know the charges will be dropped or that you’ll be able to pay a small fine, etc. I understand what you’re saying there. I understand how you might see it as entitlement. But it’s still a choice that requires the knowledge that every time you apply for a job, or practically anything else these days, a background check will be run on you and you will have to explain the fact that you have a record. IF you are given the chance to explain.

    You’re right that being arrested as a white person in a protest is easier than as a latino/a being arrested for . . . well, being latino/a. But does that mean white people should just sit by and let it all happen, let latino/as fight for themselves? Because I think white people have been sitting around long enough. What’s wrong with trying to be part of the solution?

  6. I would think a legal defense fund for those not legally in this country who were arrested by those enforcing the actual law would be more to the point.

  7. I strongly disagree with the notion that those who came to Arizona just wanted to get arrested for fun & fame.

    – All those arrested knew that they would be processed in Arpaio’s jail. They didn’t know then that the Sheriff himself would come down and berate them, or just how dehumanizing the entire system he has in place would be. I am inspired and amazed by those who had the courage to walk willingly into the belly of the beast as it were.

    – Arpaio was a target not just because he is a big part of the problem, but because he specifically publicized big immigration raids for the 29th and 30th and made it clear those raids would go ahead regardless of the injunction. The actions that UUs were involved in directly interfered with those raids, helping make them the least successful Arpaio has ever conducted. That probably explains him coming down to personally yell at those he arrested.

    – SB 1070 is not gone, parts of it are just on hold but can be put back into effect at any time. There is no reason to still not protest against it. Further, 1070 was only the latest in a string of increasingly harsh and degrading anti-immigrant laws and policies across the country. It might be what finally woke everyone up to how bad things have gotten, but now that we’re awake the goal is and has been a fair and humane overhaul of our immigration system. I think this is consistent with the three pronged result that came out of GA, an AIW against 1070 and similar legislation, a 2 year CSAI on immigration as a moral issue, and a commitment to an immigration and human rights convergence in Phoenix at GA 2012.

    – SB 1070 is all about fear. Far right politicians are playing on fear of immigrants, fear of the economy, and fear of the fed government to buy votes for the fall. It creates a culture of fear in the immigrant community, making sure they feel unwelcome and that everyone from the police to their neighbors is out to get them. Its is immensely important for people to stand up and reject that fear. To refuse to give in to the division some are trying to deepen.

    – Maybe most importantly of all, the willingness of white and/or middle classed people to set aside their privileged position and stand with the hispanic community was incredibly powerful. Its impossible to convey the outpouring of gratitude, and the bonds that were created between our communities. The actions of May 29th, the events at this past GA, and now this most recent action are building the networks, the community ties, and setting us on an arc toward affecting real change in Arizona and beyond.

  8. CC wrote: “I would think a legal defense fund for those not legally in this country who were arrested by those enforcing the actual law would be more to the point.”

    Good. They exist, and I hope instead of criticizing the specific actions chosen by some of the people who oppose SB 1070, you’ll donate to one of the organizations that supplies lawyers for people in danger of deportation.

    There are lots of things people can do who want to change our immigration policies. They may write to their members of Congress, give money to legal aid for immigrants, help with or fund direct-aid organization like No More Deaths that literally bring water and medical help to those in danger of dying in the desert, and/or, yes, help fund legal support for those who get arrested in solidarity. Those all seem like worthy ways of helping with the cause.

    Rob wrote: “the willingness of white and/or middle classed people to set aside their privileged position and stand with the hispanic community was incredibly powerful”

    Today I’ll be at a rally to respond to the judge’s ruling in the federal case about Proposition 8. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to know that people who are not in any way personally affected by the fate of this law will be there with me. If the crowd were all GLBT folks, no matter how big the crowd might be, I would feel much more small and alone. That’s why I, as someone born a US citizen and, by virtue of my color, not likely to ever be asked to prove it, want to be loud and visible in my protests on behalf of recent immigrants.

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