Scott Olsen, The “Occupy” Movement and The Protest Dilemma

The critics of the various Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are hustling to defuse the backlash from an incident that took place this week in Oakland, where a confrontation between police and Occupy Oakland protesters not only led to many arrests, but also a severely injured protestor. Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen is hospitalized with a fractured skull as a result of being hit by a projectile directed by police, probably a tear gas canister.

In the age of YouTube, the various images of Olsen’s injury were quickly exploited by protest organizers, as should be expected and is entirely fair. All demonstrations and protests are ultimately about public relations: if the protesters manage to be viewed more sympathetically than the group they are protesting against, then they attract sympathy and support. They win. If the protesters become unsympathetic, then they lose. All intense demonstrations eventually become a game of chicken between demonstrators and the government’s law enforcement force, be it police or National Guard. The demonstrators refuse to clear out of an area where they do not have a right to be, either because of the lack of a permit, or because they are disrupting the public peace, safety and welfare. They will try to provoke police without appearing so violent, unruly or scary that they lose public support. The police (or National Guard) have a job to do—they also have their own physical safety to protect—and yet they have to avoid making martyrs out of the demonstrators by appearing too militaristic, and also to make sure that their efforts don’t evoke images of police state oppression. Continue reading

Occupy Wall Street: Unethical Demonstration, Unethical Supporters

If this is the level of your comprehension, I really don’t care what you think.

“Ethics Bob” Stone recently posted about the ethics of mass demonstrations like “Occupy Wall Street,” noting that long-term, open-ended demonstrations begin crossing ethical lines once they accomplish the goal of sending a message and hang around anyway, creating fertile ground for violence, and, though Bob doesn’t mention this, inconveniencing the public, wasting scarce municipal funds, and tempting pundits to make fools out of themselves.

Even with this, Bob is giving the Occupiers more credit than they deserve. A group that imposes its presence on the public, law enforcement, and local governments is entitled to express a minority and even a crackpot viewpoint. There is an ethical obligation, however, not to abuse the right of assembly and the precious time of everyone else by creating a big disturbance that means nothing, conveying a message that is irresponsible because it is based on ignorance.

New York Magazine quizzed the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, and discovered that: Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: The Washington Post Editors

Clear out, everybody! Ann Miller wants to honor Thomas Jefferson!

“Aggrandizing what amounts to a stunt based on misinformed views of the First Amendment cheapens the real and courageous achievements of those who advance the causes of civil rights by refusing to comply with immoral laws”

—–The Washington Post, in an editorial entitled “Dancing at a National Memorial Isn’t Civil Disobedience”

The Post is talking about the escalating and pointless battle by self-indulgent, publicity-seeking, First Amendment grand-standers —a description that I shortened to the crude but sufficiently explanatory “assholes” in my post on the same topic-–to demonstrate for the endangered ‘right” to dance inside government memorial structures(Next up: frog races, strip shows, and Mummer parades). The editorial makes the true content of this noble exercise plain: it is 100% nonsense: Continue reading

Dancing With Thomas Jefferson: How Assholes Make the Law Spoil Life For Everyone

Coming to a place of honor and reflection near you.

On Saturday, the U.S. Park Police forcefully arrested five “Code Pink” protesters under the dome of the Jefferson Memorial for defying a recent Federal Appeals Court ruling that dancing at federal monuments was not constitutionally protected expression.

Perhaps you missed that ruling earlier this month, which was, I presume, made necessary by the realization that a flash mob could break out at any moment at the Lincoln Memorial or the Alamo. That was not the threat in 2008, however, when Mary Oberwetter was arrested, also at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, for hoofing to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

She sued the National Park Service for violating her First Amendment rights, and on May 17 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the Jefferson Memorial should have a “solemn atmosphere” and that dancing, silent or otherwise, was an inappropriate form of expression there. The appellate judges concurred with the lower court that the memorial is “not a public forum,” and thus demonstrators must first obtain a  permit. Demonstrations that require permits in the Park Service’s National Capital region are defined as

“…picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct which involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which has the effect, intent or propensity to draw a crowd or onlookers. [The] term does not include casual park use by visitors or tourists which does not have an intent or propensity to attract a crowd or onlookers.”

The Appellate Court wrote: Continue reading