While I’ve noticed this phenomenon quite a few times before, yesterday’s sentencing of three Earth First! activists in Maine reminded me of the amazing backwards-notion that forcing activists into community service somehow amounts to a punishment.
Activists who engage in civil disobedience aren’t hoodlums running around the streets or menaces to society — these are people who risk arrest and jail time to make a difference in their communities. A judge need-not assign community service because it’s almost guaranteed that these people already do more than most.
In the case of the three women in Maine, the judge went so far as to stipulate that the community service work must be “for a nonprofit agency that does not advocate civil disobedience as one of their goals.”
Huh? So the judge thinks that these activists — who locked themselves together inside the Land Use Regulation Office building in Augusta, Maine — are merely obsessed with civil disobedience, rather than actual concerned citizens? They have to be forced to do something positive for their communities?
And anyway, what kind of organization advocates civil disobedience as a goal? Civil disobedience is never a goal, it’s merely a tactic that is used to achieve goals.
To the three activists who received community service for the act to stop development in the pristine Moosehead Lake region of Maine: try to enjoy your 60 hours outside planting trees or rehabilitating wildlife. I know it’ll be rough.
While a punishment like theirs makes me laugh, others end up with jail time, probation, or hefty fines for their acts of civil disobedience. Those punishments aren’t amusing, but with civil disobedience comes a willingness to accept the consequences.
It’d be nice, however, if those consequences were more consistent. With the recent arrest of four activists under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, it’s becoming clear that even activists who engage in only legal forms of protest can be targeted and labeled as “terrorists.” And that’s not funny at all.Photo Credit: alexindigo on Flickr under Creative Commons license.