by Adam Jung / Huffington Post
Before we get any further in this article I want to first say “Hello” to the NSA. So, What did you have for breakfast? Second, I should probably be clear that I’m not advocating burning anything, including a bank. However, objectively, I’m not sure why someone shouldn’t.
Yesterday a judge ruled that Jeff Olson, a 40 year old man from San Diego, California will face thirteen years for using washable children’s chalk outside three Bank of America branches to promote credit unions over large banks. In making his ruling, Judge Howard Shore, who I can only assume has the same disdain for the Constitution that I hold for broccoli, ruled that Olsen’s defense was prohibited from “mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial.” To be clear, the judge outlawed citing the constitutional law that protects Olsen’s actions in defence of his actions.
The Bank of America, indicted so far in the LIBOR scandal, the SIOR scandal, and the robo-signing foreclosure scandal, is playing the victim, claiming it cost them $6,000 to clean the sidewalks of chalk. One assumes they cleaned the sidewalk of the offending speech with a sandblaster using diamonds.
On February 28th, 2012, a US Bank branch on the University of California – Davis campus closed down. The closing was the result, alleged by both US Bank and the UC-Davis administration, of sit-ins by eleven students and a faculty member. If that is true, congratulations are in order for the activists. A sit-in follows a rich tradition of civil disobedience that includes the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement. Those sit-ins led to Woolworth’s department store reversing their racist segregation policy.
The sit-ins at the US Bank branch are almost identical in practice as the sit-ins that took place at Woolworth’s in 1960. The sit-ins by SNCC were constant and repeated. A boycott followed. The income of segregated businesses in Greensboro dropped by a third. Finally, Woolworths and other businesses gave in. What is viewed in hindsight as sacred is now viewed as criminal.
On March 29th, 2012, those eleven students, that, it should be remembered, pay over $12,000 a year to attend their university, and one faculty member , were charged with “obstructing movement in a public place” and conspiracy. They are facing eleven years each and $1 million in damages. I’ll repeat that. Eleven years and $1 million in damages.
US Bank is another bank prosecutors allege were involved with the LIBOR scandal, and the administration of UC-Davis, who requested the charges, most people will remember, sent in police to pepper-spray and assault their own students during Occupy Wall Street.
A forty year old man who used washable children’s chalk and eleven students and a professor who sat down are facing thirteen and eleven year each, respectably.
For context I studied up on the California Penal Code and sentencing guidelines for California judges. If these activists are going to be treated like terrorists I wanted to see what the penalties are for actions the state has already claimed is terrorism. My conclusion – you’d be better off just burning down the banks.
Again, I’m not advocating taking a torch to your local bank branch in California, but if you’re going to face thirteen years for drawing with chalk, objectively, it makes more since to make sure the building is empty of people and just burn the bank down. That, more than anything, should show the absurdity of the charges these activists are facing and the creeping authoritarianism of the state.
California Penal Code Title 13, Chapter 1, 451 is a bit confusing, but basically it states that for the crime of arson a person can face up to six years for burning down a structure and up to three years for burning down a property. Malicious mischief charges can be added that would add another six months and up to a $50,000 fine. This of course doesn’t take into account possible federal charges, including terrorism, as the alleged members of the Earth Liberation Front faced in 2006 for a string of arsons across five states. Nor does it take into account possibly civil lawsuits.
There is absolutely no doubt the state would react harshly to any political act of arson, and indeed they have. One should be under no illusions on who the law serves. And one would be a fool to advocate breaking the law, let alone arson, in the pages of the Huffington Post. In no way would I advocate taking those actions.
This isn’t about what I would advocate. These activists are not facing federal charges or civil suits; they are being charged by the state of California. According to the state of California, civil disobedience that includes sitting is punishable by up to eleven years and $1 million in damages; chalking is punishable by up to thirteen. Burn down a bank on the other hand, and according to California law, you’ll receive less than seven years. What makes more sense to you?