Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Statement to Judge Spottswood Williams

Statement to Judge Spottswood Williams
Tuesday, 27 May, 2014

After losing the camping ticket case described in earlier posts here, law professor Chris Lasch made himself and his brigade of students available for an appeal. I asked him when we first spoke if an appeal wouldn't most likely be futile. After all, our failure to bring anything new to the discussion with anything other than a previously failed 1st Amendment argument i figured we were done. I thought law students would be fun, though, so i went along. The proceedings were mostly remote afterward; when appellate courts refuse to see you, you don't have to see them, either. By the time the status hearing Judge Williams had scheduled rolled around, i had had time to mull the idea of community service as punishment over a bit. So i had to tell him this:

 Judge Williams, we’ve come to the end of my case, and it seems we come now to the end of this part of the larger thing we have been discussing, you and I. The societal problems that engendered the Occupy encampments of which i was and am a part have not by any means been alleviated since we began our relationship. Cases like mine, but initiated by necessity rather than principle can only increase in the face of increasing tension and decreasing wealth for most Americans. Things have developed some since this started, and positive advancements like Utah’s near elimination of homelessness with housing programs have been overshadowed by wars and rioting in the world, and continued societal polarization here at home. The principles and dynamics from which i derive motivation in what i am doing here have remained in place in the world, and also in me.

This action i have undertaken is about the widening rift between ordinary citizens and the increasingly few remnants of the old “American Dream,” defined by ideologies like Manifest Destiny and practices like eminent domain, in the wake of which the so-called dream becomes just sad justification for sidestepping the guilty baggage we have engendered by its systemic misuse and redefinition, however fine the intentions of its architects may have been. Whatever the disagreements may have been among Occupiers here in Colorado Springs, and whatever success the system may have enjoyed in obscuring the fact, i remain a part of Occupy and i became so because the package of grievances Occupy rose up to address fitted so well with positions i have held since my ethics were formed as a child, i imagine in more or less the same educational milieu as you, Mr. Williams. I see the ethical misfire of the camping ordinance in question here because it  is addressed by that package of moral truths i learned early. I cannot believe that you failed to note the same noble principles as i, involving truth, justice, equality, and by extension maybe even empathy and community. These are the principles that allow for national pride, but i have seen these principles abandoned wholesale, during my lifetime, if they ever really existed in our power structures to start.

I find attempts on the part of our government, (of which you are a part, i must note while avoiding personal disrespect), to criminalize poverty while simultaneously building policies that appear very well-designed to increase the same to be antithetical to those principles i have noted both now and throughout our interactions, which i was led to believe were entwined with our national identity. The development of stances that allow effete aesthetics to take priority over the most basic of human rights has positioned those of us outside the empowered set--one might say the 99%--in a defensive place. The system is at war with us.

We Occupiers have not gone away, nor have we failed to note that the troubles we came together to oppose have increased rather than subsided. We saw in the beginning that the sort of catastrophe that has been ongoing in Greece, for example, and now the Ukraine and Taiwan, of all places, will certainly happen here. Our American Dream has been twisted from a noble goal of an experimental system to a cruel motivation for clambering over the head of the next guy. Our system, our government, our corporations, and, yes, our courts have failed us and in truth actively oppose the people they are meant to sustain and protect. I can’t accept that in good faith. I have kids, for crying out loud.

So, with that i come to the meat here. You and i have engaged in a fairly deep conversation on the record here; you may recall a portion of that conversation, (recorded on around pp. 73-74 of the hearing transcript from 7 June, 2012, and throughout, really). The impoverished, i said, “have got to be under somebody else’s purview.” Because of the ordinance “[we] no longer have liberty.” We are barred from being where we need or want to be and must, by law retreat to where you, the System, wants us and we ourselves want specifically not to be. This is effectively status-based incarceration. I said already that “[T]he end result of this is jail,” and forcing another into a locked “shelter” is incarceration. The ordinance demands that i incarcerate myself prior to the commission of any so-called crime.

With all this in mind i have wrestled my own mind into a position wherein i can not accept your sentence of community service in lieu of jail. I figured up along the lines of around 20,000 hours of community service i’ve completed of my own volition in this town, and i’ve added several hundred to that figure since we met. I do this as a matter of course in my life. I don’t think it will mean anything at all to do more service at the Court’s behest. For the court to attempt to punish me with more is at least disingenuous, and hardly punishment; in fact it’s a bit of a sham, that seems to mock the values in question. The United States of America is not supposed to be a place where only the sensibilities of insensate money and its owners serve as our ethical foundation. So we arrive back at the point of where i want to be and what i want to do, which is not to submit to this ordinance which has acquired no redeeming attributes since we met. Therefore, i am here in front of you forcing your hand. You must now either acknowledge the ethical poverty of the ordinance, or prove my point. I hope this move doesn’t damage our relationship. You owe me a beer and a conversation, i think.