28 October 2011

The Evictions, Part II

In possibly the most brazen "legal" suppression of an occupation yet, authorities in Nashville have evicted occupiers under the authority of a curfew law that was only enacted yesterday. To the credit of the judiciary, a judge ordered the arrested occupiers freed on the ground that they had not been given adequate time to comply with the new rule. The occupiers themselves find that small consolation, but they've declared their intention to fight the law itself in court. They argue that it violates the guarantees of freedom to assemble in both the state and federal constitutions. Constitutional points aside, Nashville's action exposes how easily the "rule of law" proclaimed by evictors across the country can become a sham. What does the rule of law mean, exactly, when those in power can make laws as they please to suit their interests and handicap dissent? Again, if some alleged "authoritarian" abroad made a law that appeared to facilitate the repression of political opponents, few American observers would buy that ruler's equally inevitable "rule of law" argument for a second. If dissent is to be given the benefit of the doubt against state assertions of the rule of law around the world, consistency requires a similar indulgence of dissenters in America. A Tennessean reader comments that the right to protest doesn't trump everyone else's right to enjoy a public park undisturbed. A commitment to pluralism would seem to entail that dissent does have priority over the sort of peace the reader demands as a right. Freedom from "disturbance" is really the demand of the complete privatization of existence. It's the basis for the quarantining of dissent in "free speech zones," on the premise that the right not to hear dissent is equal to the right of dissent. But isn't there something undemocratic about that assertion -- the insistence that you don't have to listen to your fellow citizens on matters of public concern, or even look at them, even if you're elected officials or appointees of elected officials? There is something inherently democratic about the demand to be seen and heard, even if you don't represent a majority of the people, or even much more than yourself. There's also something inherently human about it that makes the demand inevitable, and one to be ignored at society's ultimate peril.

Meanwhile, the crackdown continues in San Diego, and it's unlikely to stop there....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some sanity seems to reign in Nashville. Apparently, the magistrate there has the authority to decide no crime has been committed and has therefore refused to prosecute any of the protestors.