April 27, 2009

Rochester war tax protest. 2 demonstrators and 3 witnesses arrested by police

Emily climbed the tree outside the IRS on  Tax Day evening. She unfurled a banner that read, "CUT WAR $PENDING".

Nobody said anything for about half an hour. Then the police came. They threatened to taser her while she was up in the tree and place her under mental health arrest if she didn't come down on her own. They kept trying to intimidate her as only an extremely unskilled negotiator could do. Then more police came.

They also arrested Mary, Emily's fellow activist, for trespassing. Mary had been under the tree with an anti-war sign leafletting people coming out of the IRS building. Later other local activists arrived. Out of this group, chanting support for Emily and Mary, the police arrested Ben and Jake. It is interesting to the Rochester activist community that the police picked them out of the group - Ben is a man of color and Jake has dreadlocks. Then they arrested Ted, a member of Rochester's Indymedia for asking what the charges were against Ben and Jake.

The police proceeded to forcefully remove Emily from the tree without any consideration of the fact that she was very concerned about her safety and what these incompetent cops would do to her since they had threatened to taser her while she was up in the tree.
After a fire truck arrived and provided a ladder they went up and maced her directly in the face as she was coming down. 

I met Emily at a workshop the other night in Rochester. For the short time I worked with her it was hard for me to believe there could have been a less threatening woman. She was passionate about ending the wars. She climbed a tree with a banner. There was no need to threaten her and endanger her life. She would have to come down eventually.

The whole thing played out like some crazy metaphor. it reminded me of the war resisters vs the war criminals issue.

This woman in the tree was trying to stop the killing and maiming of innocent people. So she unfurls a banner and refuses to descend to waiting, hostile, armed police. So they further threaten to place her under mental health arrest and lock her up for her harmless behavior. On the other hand, these policemen who clearly are not only threatening her verbally, but they threaten to taser her while she is up in a tree and, in fact, actually spray her directly in the face with mace as she descends.

Now we need to step back and look at this for a moment. Who is endangering whom? They were going to place her under mental health arrest and lock her up while they continue to roam the streets of Rochester with guns, mace and tasers. 

The military war resisters have a similar predicament. They don’t want to participate in the illegal war and occupation. So they are forced to hide from the most powerful military in the world. At the same time the people who orchestrated the whole criminal event in Iraq and Afghanistan hunt them down and lock them up. Why isn’t it obvious to everyone?

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