A friend and I were speaking about social movements in this nation’s history and how in general social movements were usually met with mass arrests for those doing the protesting, and in some cases deaths as well. My friend who, full disclosure, is a conservative republican who then countered my argument saying how a group he supports the tea party has had no known arrests and that shows how justified their cause and how unlike the occupy wall street people they know how to conduct themselves… I shall touch back on this towards the end..
It should be stated that when I say arrests I am speaking of not only the number of people arrested which below I will show a long history of such but also show of the naïve people who expected help from those whose main job it was to enforce the laws on the books. It should also be stated that I am not marginalizing protests where people were not arrested merely showing that arrests does not mean that a protest is not justified nor predicated on liberty and justice which was what got me writing this.
Note: I did not go too in depth in any one subject usually just writing a few paragraphs, I am sure a quick google search will support everything I have said as the truth, as well as tell you a whole lot more information on the few subjects below as well as some other movements that I did not cover… it would be impossible to cover the hundreds of social movements that have occurred in American history by city, by state, and even by country…
A. M.-We can look at the abolitionist movements where men and women who were fighting for the abolition of slavery were arrested many times. At times these movements did turn violent as those who were opponents of the peaceful rallies of some of the abolitionist movements would come with sticks and guns to beat up on the protestors.
I could not pass this part without mentioning people like John Brown who led a revolt against the laws by action, where he and several of the men he led attacked slave settlements where their goal was to actively end slavery by what they thought were attacking those that actively stood in the way of liberty, those who owned slaves. Brown was later arrested and killed for his actions. I say this only to show that where peaceful resistance were shown to not work a man decided to take another route, one that caused his death yet dying for a cause of liberty for millions is something I must stand behind.
With also looking at the abolitionist movement what did we also see? Were the police simply bystanders? Sorry to tell you this; but for the most part the police are there to maintain the law, the police are there to keep order and maintain the status quo. It would be very naïve to expect help from a group whose main job is to maintain order and work with the laws on the books when you are by definition protesting the very laws on the books for a sense of justice that you believe is not there or from a law that is there yet that you believe to not being practiced. [link]
W. S. The next movement I would look at is the women’s suffrage movement when American women were fighting for their equal rights under the law. Particularly the right for women to vote and hold political office the same as their male counterparts could. During this movement important women to the movement were arrested, such as a group of women led by Susan B. Anthony who were all arrested for voting when of course it was illegal for a woman to vote.
In 1913 on the day before the inauguration of President Wilson, Thousands of women were protesting for the rights of women, hundreds of them were attacked and injured by those opposing the rights for women. There was never any arrest made.
In 1917, hundreds of women were arrested for their attempt to bring rights to women across the country. Nearly 200 of them served jail time and some claimed to have been brutalized by their jailers, the very people who were supposed to guarantee their safety while incarcerated.
As with the previous movement, I shall say yet again it would be naïve of you to expect help from the police, it would be naïve to challenge a law and expect help from a group of people whose main job is to enforce the law on the books. Now, I wish to be certain to not smear all police as being this way, yet I would say all social movement that have shown themselves to be of importance started with defying a law… it has been this way since the founding of this country. The founders defied the laws stating the supremacy of Britain… You cannot have a true social movement that will get recognized without going against the unjustified laws that may be on the books.
L.M. The labor movement has a long history of not only arrests but killings as well. I will start with The Battle of Blair Mountain where hundreds of miners fought private companies for their right to unionize, for safe working conditions and a livable wage. During this gun battle, which is called one of the largest civil battles in American history since the civil war, which took place in West Virginia 15,000 coal miners fought against the sheriff’s department, the State Police, The US Army and a private detective agency. All of which actively fought against the workers gaining worker rights. Any stepping outside of the law was met with charges of treason by police officers, some convicted many others not.
In this battle you had Sheriff Don Chafin who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to fight against the workers unionizing, of which he ordered his men to arrest and imprison any coal miner who wished to organize and unionize usually with trumped up charges.
Then you have the battle of Matewan, which once again was a fight between labor groups, people who wanted to unionize and the private companies who hired thugs to kill those trying to organize. The private company known as Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency was hired to stop the people from unionizing by evicting them from their homes.. which had hoped would make them move and do away with the attempt to unionize. They attacked the town of Matewan where seven of the private detective agencies were killed, and four townspeople were killed, including the mayor of the town.
The police Chief Sid Hatfield and about two dozen other people was arrested for the death of one of the Private Detectives… but they were all acquitted,. When going to another trial at a later date Hatfield was shot and killed by the brother and an associate of one of the private detectives that had died in the battle of Matewan
As with the previous incidents, for the most part the law was against the miners and their right to unionize, as previous stated not all of the law were like this evidence of such men like Sid Hatfield who fought against the abuses happening to people who attempted to unionize, who was arrested and eventually killed in his fight to help the workers and stop the abuses.
L.M.-C-L: When speaking of the labor movement it cannot be covered without mentioning the child labor movement. Children were often used in mines because of their small frames they could squeeze in and place charges in the rock where a grown person could not fit into, this throughout the time caused the death of many children.
Yet when speaking of this it is not just dangerous at time but it is also unjust in that the children generally did the same job as their adult counterparts yet were not paid nearly as much. While there are many of those who advocated for the abolishment of child labor laws, one of the most well-known people was Mary Harris “Mother” Jones [more commonly known simply as Mother Jones. Jones was arrested several times in her fight to get equal pay for the young workers as well as the abolition of child labor laws as a whole.
In 1908 during her work trying to get coal miners in Paint Creek, West Virginia to unionize. During this strike armed men hired by the Coal mine owners to kill the strikers opened fire with machine guns on the crowd.. in this a guard was killed and as such Jones was arrested on conspiracy to commit murder and other charges..
she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison, though she got very sick while in prison and just a few months after this her sentence was overturned by the senate in which she was found to be innocent of the charges.
In 1913 she was involved in yet another strike and was found guilty and spent nine weeks in prison… she was deported and then found her way back … where she was arrested yet again.
Like previous incidents the police in most case did nothing to help those being picked on. Ironically after the labor movement you now have many police unions and the majority of cops in America belonging to some type of union. Yet like previous movements only a naïve person would expect the help of the police whose job in a general sense is to keep order and maintain and fight on behalf of the laws that are on the books… so to expect help from a people who by definition are to uphold the law while you are fighting to change it is not smart at all.
G.R.M. – I will also discuss briefly the gay rights movement. I do not think any person can speak to the gay rights movement in America without speaking of the Stonewall Riots which was a series of at times violent clashes between gay rights opponents and police after years of police and government persecution of the gay community.
There were very few clubs, diners, and other businesses that allowed openly gay people to come to their places. Because of this many homosexuals started opening their own establishments, generally clubs where gays, lesbians, trans people could go, be welcomed and so on… yet this of course cause a problem. Police would raid these establishments since homosexual sex was still illegal during the 60s[link]
It was not until 2003 when the last of the sodomy laws were repealed, sodomy laws of course made any sex between people of the same gender illegal though the main focus of this law were generally gay men.
When speaking of gay rights it would be hard not to bring up several men.
One mentioned below is Bayard Rustin, an openly gay civil rights icon, the chief advisor to Martin Luther King, who also in his later life advocated and was a proponent for gay rights in America and who testified in 1986 in front of the New York state Senate in which he said
“Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination. The new "niggers" are gays. . . . It is in this sense that gay people are the new barometer for social change. . . . The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people.”
Which challenged the notion that social change was predicated solely on racial and gender injustices. Challenging the social mantra of somewhat conservative thinking of their view of family of only man and women and any who dared to step out of this could expect to be demonized.
When also speaking of gay rights mentioning Harvey Milk who was a huge proponent of the gay rights movement and was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. Milk got into politics after seeing hundreds of people what he believed to be illegally arrested and being generally picked on for being homosexuals
C.R.M. you cannot speak of social movements in America without speaking of the civil rights movement. I decided to connect this with the labor union movement since a key figure in both movements was Martin Luther King Jr. A man who fought for the rights of black workers to unionize and at the time of his death he was in town to protests with the sanitation workers so that they may unionize.
Yet moving on the civil rights movement which is more than labor, which is more than children’s rights, which is more than woman’s rights and gay rights and so on…
King protested at many venues and was arrested quite a few times, in order to try to make the people lose favor king was smeared as a communist, anti-American… he had his phones tapped many times, was tailed by federal agents to try and get dirt on him and those he was around. During his life MLK was imprisoned nearly 30x for the fight for civil rights for people he believed were not being given them.
When speaking of the civil rights movement you cannot do so without discussing the mass demonstrations that took place on college campuses, marching onto public places, peaceful resistance which had thousands of people arrested, dozens of people killed, which had women raped and beaten by the opposing people
You had people like civil rights leader James farmer who led peaceful protests yet who reported how police beat up protesters, how many people were arrested, himself included for peacefully protesting on what was public ground.
You have men like Bayard Rustin, an openly gay man who was the chief adviser of Martin Luther king, who, himself was arrested for being a homosexual in his younger years which was considered illegal.
The civil rights section of this incorporates all of the movements previously mentioned. From the abolitionist movements, from the labor rights movements, from the women’s rights movement, from the gay rights movement, to the abolition of child labor laws and from many of the other civil rights and social movements that one has taken part in our history, where the people were usually met with mass arrests and mass injustices against the them usually by public officials as well as the police.
W.U. To wrap this up I will get back onto the premise that caused this where a friend was speaking of how the tea party movement is more justifiable because they have had no one arrested. To say that is to say all of the major civil movements in American history which granted rights to millions people were not justified because people were arrested. Currently in the Occupy Wall Street Movement thousands have been arrested, several hundred arrested just a day or so ago in the “day of action” when they were marching around New York City. To say this is not a justifiable movement because people are being arrested make no sense given the historically correlation between civil protests and mass arrests.
As with the other movements, it would be naive to expect help from police in general. Police are there to protect and abide by the very laws that you are now challenging. They are there not be sympathize but to enforce. I have seen very few social movements in this nation's history, if any, where the police in general sided with those challenging the very laws that they swore an oath to uphold. So it does not come at any surprise when I see police using pepper spray intended for bears, not people, at a minimum of 15 feet away... spraying it at point blank range in the eyes of people. It does not surprise me when I see police shooting rubber bullets at protesters, it does not surprise me when I hear the stories of police enclosing protesters in a small areas in order to arrest and pepper spray them more, it does not surprise me when I hear these things because history tells us that the law enforcers are there for just that, enforcing the very laws that you are now protesting, that you are now challenging.... no one ever said that change was easy and no one ever said that true change happens overnight... it is a long and hard fight for justice, for some resemblance of liberty... for some distant memory of the idea of liberty that is the ideal of us all...
To connect previous person to this you have the MLK Quote:
"You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry.... Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong... with capitalism.... There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism".
The OWS group, usually called the 99% are people who are doing just that. Who believe that to address social progression you must also take the money out of politics. You must hold politicians accountable, yet make sure that money does not drown out the want of the people. They also want realistic regulation, they are not “anti-American”, nor do they want to see American destroyed. Quite the contrary they wish for America as a nation and its citizens to flourish … not just a few select people making record profits as the nation goes into record debts, as 1/6 of the country now lives below the poverty lines, as we do nothing to address the over 100K Americans that die each and every year from a lack of or no medical coverage, how we continuously cut education and wonder why America has went from being in the top 10 of all academic subjects worldwide to now being in the 20s-30s range in many of the academic subjects.
So, while I may not agree with the tea party to say they are more “justified” because they have not been arrested makes no sense in an historical; social movements in the nation’s history. If you wish to be a tea party person, great, have at it yet saying you are more justified and as such have a better message because no one is arrested should make you evaluate why that is.
In many social movements in our nation’s history those involved in social movements were challenging the establishment, were arrested, beaten, and in some cases killed. If you say this group is wrong because they are being arrested and beaten, even veterans who have taken to the streets have been beaten by officers. I believe history will be on the side of those from Occupy Wall Street, yet with respect to the Tea party, have you never wondered why the establishment for the most part are not against you? That those in power do not see you as a threat to their profits? … it is because you are nothing more than pawns being used as a chess piece by those in power.
As always, the views with respect to the opening and closing is all my opinion and myself as a liberal, progressive and democratic socialist will not lie and say that there is no bias based upon my views because I am sure there more than likely is. Yet it does not take away from the historical facts listed above of mass arrests of people who challenged the status quo and who would not sit by and do nothing.
As always comrades,
Let knowledge be that truth, which portrays humanity, condemns malevolence; that respects the differences in others while abandoning the hatred and misconceptions of the past.