Emily Yates is a woman from Oakland, California who was ostensibly in Philadelphia last Saturday for an anti-war rally. Judging by the video, she ended up in an area where US Park Police did not want her to be. Unsurprisingly, once some arbitrary rule or pronouncement of theirs was broken (in their opinion) and after giving a few warnings, they attacked and kidnapped her. Emily is now facing time behind bars. According to The Philly Post, “Yates was released from federal custody on a $25,000 bond after being charged with resisting arrest, failure to obey law enforcement officers and disorderly conduct.” Friends are raising $15,000 for her legal defense, an amount that sounds about right if she plans to take it to a jury trial. Federal court is expensive.
It goes without saying that the park police are brutes. It goes without saying that Emily has a right to be on public property. It goes without saying that park police overreacted. Emily was hurting no one, well at least not until they attacked her.
However, it also must be said that we don’t live in the republic the founders supposedly promised us. We don’t live in a stateless society. We have our freedom, but the powers that be do not respect it. And we have learned over and over again that they will act on their threats. They will manufacture evidence. They have the judge and the prosecutor in their pockets. They will make your life hell and bleed you dry before you ever make it before the jury. We know this.
Therefore, before going in front of an agent of the state, especially one with a willingness and ability to arrest, you should think very deeply about how you will handle yourself. You can stride onto the field of battle as an army of one, ready to take a musket ball to the chest. Or you can strike when they aren’t expecting it, melt into the mountains when things get hot and repeat over and over again.
I can save you $15,000 and months of heartache, possibly even time in a cage, with one simple trick. Here it is:
When the cops warn you to move, move.
That’s the simple trick. Unless you have given long and thorough consideration to being arrested on purpose, unless you have an already organized support team behind you, unless you already have contingency plans in place, unless you have already informed people of your intentions, then don’t get arrested. It’s that simple. Stow your ego, take a step back and get your body out of the line of fire.
“Oh, George, you’re a pacifist who wants everyone to lie down and just let the cops walk all over us. You want us to stand by and watch people being brutalized and caged!”
Wrong on all counts. There is a place for morality. I am big on morality. But there is also a place for strategy and tactics. There is little tactical benefit in going to jail. Economically it is a great loss. It is not mentally healthy to be in a cage, to realize that your life is not yours anymore. If they put you on house arrest with a GPS ankle monitor, like they did to me in 2010, the mental impact is even greater.
We need people to be strong and free. We need to be organized. We need to be exploiting all of our advantages and nonviolent options. We have a space in which to leverage our relative liberty for our mutual benefit. Use that space. Don’t take steps that lead you to less liberty, such as going into a cage and having to pay bail, court costs and lawyers’ fees as well as fines and possibly even an extended amount of time in that cage.
Let’s work together to collectively, in an organized fashion, in order to fully use the free spaces we have left and then to push them out, little by little. Slowly but surely, we can have an impact if we are organized. If we continue to sacrifice ourselves in a one-off fashion, like victims to the slaughter, then we will never achieve the momentum or benefits of coordinated, repetitive actions. In short, stop going to jail!