The Symbolic Power of Occupying Public Spaces

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Occupy Protestors Vow to Return
Concerted attack on occupy movements took place after 18 mayors held a conference to discuss a coordinated strategy.

Portland is not the only city to evict occupation protestors from public squares in recent days. The cities of New York, Oakland, Salt Lake City, Denver, Albany (New York), and Chapel Hill (North Carolina) all carried out similar raids on occupation campsites over the past few days. City leaders have cited public safety and health concerns as the main reasons for the occupation evictions. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan recently revealed that 18 mayors had held a conference to discuss a coordinated strategy for dealing with the occupation movements in their respective cities. Dan La Botz, a teacher, writer, and activist who has been participating in the Occupy Cincinnati movement in Ohio, suggests that city governments' moves to shut down Occupy movements also stem from concerns over the symbolic power of occupying public urban spaces.

DAN LA BOTZ, OCCUPIER: When you come to the heart of the city and you occupy the city, you tap into both the history of oppression and the struggle against oppression. And I think it's a very powerful powerful thing to do. And that's why it's so scary to the people that run the cities. That's why they've called out the cops, that's why they've arrested people, because this is a powerful reaching into the very heart of the city, of the consciousness of people. This is the one thing that the powers that be want to control is that city, that powerful symbol, that powerful nexus of all their connections. And we have invaded that space, and we're turning it into something else. We're saying this is the source of the power of the 99 percent. It's the source of the power of the great majority of American people. We're turning it inside out and saying we're going to tap into the history of oppression and the history of struggle and make that a force in the country.[1]

Resisting Arrest & Legal Precedents For Fighting Back

When We Fight, We (Ultimately) Win

Short collection of relevant court rulings on false arrest and resisting arrest:[2]

“When a person, being without fault, is in a place where he has a right to be, is violently assaulted, he may, without retreating, repel by force, and if, in the reasonable exercise of his right of self defense, his assailant is killed, he is justified.”

Runyan v. State, 57 Ind. 80; Miller v. State, 74 Ind. 1.

“These principles apply as well to an officer attempting to make an arrest, who abuses his authority and transcends the bounds thereof by the use of unnecessary force and violence, as they do to a private individual who unlawfully uses such force and violence.”

Jones v. State, 26 Tex. App. I; Beaverts v. State, 4 Tex. App. 1 75; Skidmore v. State, 43 Tex. 93, 903.

“An illegal arrest is an assault and battery. The person so attempted to be restrained of his liberty has the same right to use force in defending himself as he would in repelling any other assault and battery.”

(State v. Robinson, 145 ME. 77, 72 ATL. 260).

“Each person has the right to resist an unlawful arrest. In such a case, the person attempting the arrest stands in the position of a wrongdoer and may be resisted by the use of force, as in self- defense.”

(State v. Mobley, 240 N.C. 476, 83 S.E. 2d 100).

Do individuals have the right to come to the aid of another citizens being falsely arrested?

You bet they do. As another court case ruled:

“One may come to the aid of another being unlawfully arrested, just as he may where one is being assaulted, molested, raped or kidnapped. Thus it is not an offense to liberate one from the unlawful custody of an officer, even though he may have submitted to such custody, without resistance.”

(Adams v. State, 121 Ga. 16, 48 S.E. 910).

And on the issue of actually killing an arresting officer in self defense:

“Citizens may resist unlawful arrest to the point of taking an arresting officer’s life if necessary.”

Plummer v. State, 136 Ind. 306.
This premise was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in this case: John Bad Elk v. U.S., 177 U.S. 529.

Editor's Note

None of the legal precedents cited above morally justify doing harm to anyone else. Violence of any kind is morally reprehensible. These precedents are cited here solely for the purpose of showing that nobody is forced to tolerate anyone inflicting violence on anybody for any reason. In other words, you don't have to put up with cops beating you, or anyone else for that matter.

Source Material

News Sources

If you thought the recent crackdowns of Occupy encampments across the country was more than a coincidence, there is a good chance you were right...
Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict "Occupy" protesters from city parks and other public spaces. According to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.

See Also