This morning I read that an ardent member of the Occupy Los Angeles movement has been arrested and charged with lynching. You might think the protester, Sergio Ballesteros, attacked and hung someone. After all, California’s anti-lynching law was designed to protect minority defendants in police custody from vigilante lynch-mobs. But no, the police have used the law which defines lynching as “taking by means of riot any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer” to charge a non-violent activist with this felony for allegedly trying to keep a fellow demonstrator from being arrested.
I’m drowning in irony. First, given Southern California’s history of troubled race relations, and the long-term institutionalized racism of the Los Angeles Police Department, I suspect that city had its fair share of lynching in the 19th and early 20th century, and that this law provided the victims with virtually no protection because the police did not enforce it. Second, given the heroic pacifism of the Occupy Movement in the face of mounting police violence, I doubt any of the cops holding the demonstrators in their custody could legitimately be called “peace officers.” Finally, as far as I can tell from the videos, it was the police, not the demonstrators, who were rioting.
But then again, is it really that surprising that a law designed to protect the oppressed, should be turned on its head and employed against those who are rebelling against their oppressors? I’m sure this isn’t news to the OWS folks whose principle slogan is “we are the 99%.” Like the lynching law, the 14th Amendment was designed to aid the newly freed slaves. However, today its main purpose has been perverted to protect the “personhood” of the 1%’s corporate creatures.
I wrote here in early November that: “It is not surprising that OWS became intolerable to the authorities the movement refused to recognize. Such public naming of capitalism as Public Enemy Number One could not be countenanced… If the movement persists and grows, as I hope it will, the attacks upon it are sure to intensify.”
This new felony charge is a manifestation of that intensification. Hopefully the community will rally to Ballesteros' defense. The police have chosen a target they may regret. When Ballesteros is not occupying Los Angeles he’s building homes with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at a summer camp for children in Appalachia, studying urban education at UCLA, and mentoring Los Angeles-area kids. But convicting Sergio may not be the prosecutor’s primary goal. This felony charge is designed to scare away those who might get involved. However, strong-arm tactics do not appear to be intimidating the OWS folks. I hope this attack will backfire, and attract even more people to “the 99% movement.”
This is an appropriate place to reiterate that I had 250 “99%” buttons made in December; 125 were shipped to me. I have a couple of dozen left which I am distributing for free. The button maker, Donnelly/Colt: progressive promotional resources, is holding the other 125 so they can fulfill direct orders. All have a union label. The maker won’t charge for the buttons, but will charge for postage and padded packaging. The fee to package and mail one button is $1.84, two $2.30, three $2.76, four $3.22, five $4.41 and ten $6.38.
If you want any, you can get buttons from Donnelly/Colt, PO Box 188, Hampton, CT 06247 (phone 860-455-9621 & fax 800-553-0006).