Saturday, May 19, 2012

Time, Place, and Manner

One of the concepts being proffered regarding protesting is the legal notion of "time, place, and manner" restrictions on rallies, marches and demonstrations -- ie: petitioning for redress of grievance -- that, according to the courts do not violate the First Amendment protections of free speech. The legal theory is, apparently, that so long as time, place and manner restrictions do not discriminate on the basis of the political content of the marches, rallies and demonstrations, they are perfectly permissible.

This means, of course, that the First Amendment's protections of free speech and assembly and petitioning for redress of grievance are essentially moot. Yes, the People may have the right, according to the Constitution, but the People do not have the liberty to exercise that right -- except to the extent the Authorities wish to permit it.

Thus, in part to challenge this reading of the First Amendment, many of the protests and demonstrations over the past several months have been deliberately "unpermitted." The organizers (well, that's a stretch) do not seek the permission of civic authorities to march and carry signs because they maintain that the Constitution itself is all the "permission" that's necessary.

This practice has put civic authorities and the police on the spot; yes, they have the "legal" authority to restrict the time, place and manner of demonstrations and to require permits for rallies and marches (and to restrict the kinds and sizes of signs and the amount of noise, the routes of travel and so on) but having the authority and exercising it are two different things. As they have exercised their authority with increasingly harsh and brutal measures against demonstrators, more and more Americans become radicalized. As more and more Americans become radicalized, they cease obedience to every jot and tittle of the "law" and the authority of the Authorities is progressively diminished.

When the events surrounding Move In Day in Oakland, CA (January 28, 2012) are considered in retrospect, we can see how the process works -- or could work. Oakland's movement(s) did not take advantage of their success in delegitimizing the authority of the police and civic officials that day in part because they didn't recognize it. As far as I can tell, they still don't.

What happened throughout the day starting with the march to the Kaiser Center, but especially with regard to the Battle of Oak Street and into the night with mass arrests at the YMCA, was in totality a highly radicalizing event. I'm sure it was terrifying to be in the midst of it -- I know some of the people who were there, and they still shudder. It wasn't pleasant. Many of those who participated were shocked at what happened and some sought to blame the victims (ie: the organizers and activists). Many others were astonished and appalled, not at the behavior of the demonstrators but at the actions of the authorities and police and the extraordinary levels of violence they were prepared to undertake in order to protect vacant buildings and to maintain their vacancy at all costs. That alone was delegitimizing authority.

But instead of recognizing how thoroughly Authority had delegitimized itself during the day's events, many of those who considered the events soon afterwards saw the results through a backwards lens, asserting that the events had instead delegitimized the movement through lack of organization and clarity, lack of transparency, ineffective actions, and the precipitation of violence among other faults and failings. Consequently, instead of building on success, the movement in Oakland has been facing disintegration.

Now comes Chicago.

The Pre-Crime arrests have begun, the drones are (maybe) deployed, and soon we can expect the full panoply of the National Security State to be displayed. Oddly, or perhaps not, some of the livestreaming I was expecting is simply not functioning. Hm. Who would have thought? Other livestreamers are apparently too tired and hungry to go on. There is a strange silence out of Chicago. Very strange indeed. I can find only one active live stream from Chicago, and it is from the NBC affiliate, naturally focusing on the Power Players and arrests, typically only vaguely aware of People in the Streets.

Ah, but so it goes.

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