The Costs of Directly Oppositional Action

I have recently been struck by the disturbing thought that activism arrests may be supporting the police state, by gathering exorbitant bail funds and contributing to a clumsy and confrontational culture of criminalized oppositional activism. While people certainly have the inalienable right to free speech and freedom of assembly, as well as the human responsibility to defend home and habitat from destructive and exploitative industries, like Big Coal, is there another way to confront/undermine these industries and their actions against the dignity of the land and people?

Do you have any idea how many community safe spaces, gardens, art programs, free kitchen, grassroots media and education programs could have been funded by the monies received by the state from activist communities trying to bail out their unfortunate friends this year?

While I support activism, I have a difficult time supporting inefficacy, particularly in times so delicate as these. I recently learned that a high-profile action in the SE was not met kindly by the local mountain community. The estimated bail amounts of the activists arrested total over 500,000 US dollars. Some of the people arrested are rumored to have been treated quite poorly in police custody. How does this work? Does this work? 

While it is impressive that a mine was shut down for 3 hours, that same mine is up and running again, as it was the very afternoon of the event.  Multiple people are in jail. Their are many locals that may have increased hostility toward activist efforts in a peculiar Stockholm Syndrome relationship that is characterized by abuse-laden dependence on a harmful industry for one’s livelihood. 

Here is a video and an excerpt from an activist reflection on the action: 

“Here’s a 2 minute video of what some of us did this weekend at the Hobet Mine 300 miles north of Asheville.  After getting back from the mine to Charleston, West Virginia on Saturday evening, and having been threatened and harassed by locals all afternoon on a 4 hour-walk through a hollow near the mine, a young server at MacDonald’s asked me why I had a phone number written in sharpie on my arm. I told him it was a jail support number, and that we had occupied a mountaintop removal site for a few hours earlier in the day. His young face lit up and he said “Cool. Tell me about it. I want to get involved.”  I knew what we did was important.”



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