"Trump is rejecting the rule of law and proposing military action that is antithetical to basic premises of the American experiment."
by Eoin Higgins
President Donald Trump on Monday evening threatened to use the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy the U.S. military to the nation's city streets if unrest over the killing of George Floyd did not calm.
"Trump is rejecting the rule of law and proposing military action that is antithetical to basic premises of the American experiment," tweetedThe Nation's John Nichols. "He thinks he is playing a political game. This is no game."
The president, who spent part of the weekend hidden in a bunker at the White House as protests raged outside the building, announced during a speech at the Rose Garden Monday that he was preparing to send military troops to cities around the nation.
President Donald Trump walks from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church after a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
"If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," said Trump.
The president also announced he was immediately deploying "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers" to Washington—the only place in the country the president can legally deploy the army without restriction.
As NBC News reported:
To activate the military to operate in the U.S., Trump would have to invoke the 213-year-old Insurrection Act, which four people familiar with the decision had told NBC News he planned to do.
Trump’s decision on whether to invoke the act, adopted in 1807, to deploy troops has come as his frustrations mount over the protests that have followed the death of Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody last week in Minneapolis. The people familiar with his decision said Trump was angry Sunday night at the destruction some protestors caused in Washington, particularly the vandalization of national monuments.
After his speech, Trump walked to St. John's Church. Police cleared the way for the president to walk to the photo-op with force, using batons, tear gas, and pepper spray against peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square on the way to the church.
The national protest movement that erupted after Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police officers on May 25 has spread across the entire country as long-simmering rage over police brutality, racism, and civilian killings have combined with the economic and social crises of the coronavirus pandemic to propel tens and hundreds of thousands of people into the nation's city streets night after night.
"Abuse of power and systemic racism are a deadly combination, particularly for people of color and Indigenous Peoples, who are disproportionately criminalized and targeted by weaponized policing around the world—destroying lives, families, and communities, denying people their basic humanity and dignity, and violating their rights," the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) said in a statement of solidarity with the protest movement.
As Common Dreams reported, police around the country have constantly attacked protesters, escalating the demonstrations into violence and injuring and arresting hundreds of people. At least two people have died.
"People are angry," Amnesty International USA End Gun Violence campaign manager Ernest Coverson said in a statement. "People are exhausted."
"They have a right to take to the streets and peacefully protest—everyone has that right," Coverson continued. "The rights of the many to take to the streets and demand justice and comprehensive police reform cannot be trampled upon, for any reason."
The White House has been a regular target of Washington protesters, who have gathered at or near it nightly, at times destroying or damaging property around the building.
The president's response to the protest movement has focused primarily on supporting the police. While Trump has mentioned George Floyd and expressed rare sympathy for a black victim of police abuse, the main focus of the president's remarks over the past week have been on supporting law enforcement as officers beat, pepper spray, and launch tear gas at demonstrators.
"Sending in the military to respond to a peaceful revolution has been the only action this administration has taken," said Coverson.
Republished with permission under license from CommonDreams.
Sunday was the sixth day of mass protest. Hundreds of protests, with violent outbursts in many major cities, have occurred. At least 40 cities have imposed curfews and National Guard members have been activated in 15 states and Washington, DC. At least five people have been kill and property damage will most likely total in the hundreds of millions.
As I watched protests, looting, burning of buildings, and the chaos erupting all across American in response to the murder of George Floyd by four police thugs, I couldn't help but think about a movie from 1973, "The Spook Who Sat by the Door". During the movie, which is based on a book by the same name, Dan Freeman, a black man pretends to be an Uncle Tom* in order to become the first CIA officer. Freeman then uses his specialized CIA training in gathering intelligence, political subversion, and guerrilla warfare to provide tactical training to street gang members to plot a Black American Revolution involving organized chaos sparked by police brutality. Obviously, the George Floyd protests weren't the result of an organized plot, but you'll be amazed how similar the results of this past week of protest has been to the movie plot.
The Spook Who Sat By the Door 1973
*Sambo was actually the sell-out character and Uncle Tom was the hero, but racism has distorted the nature of those two characters.
I'm tired of American Apartheid videos of black people being brutalized by police simply for participating in ordinary everyday activity. South African politician Julius Malema earlier this year stated: "don't be scared of white people"! He mentioned how everywhere in the world; "black people are treated like dogs and lifeless bodies".
A few days ago, a 15-year-old boy was pepper sprayed, knocked to the ground, his head slammed against the asphalt pavement and punched in the face at a Florida Mc Donalds.
Earlier this month, Renardo Lewis, a black business owner was slammed against a glass pane, then to the ground and punched in the face knocking out some of his teeth while at a Georgia IHOP.
The actual IHOP video can be viewed near the bottom of the this page. IHOP seems to have systemic issues. Last year in Missouri 10 Black Washington University students were falsely accused of leaving a Clayton IHOP without paying and a Kansas City IHOP printed "NIGGA" on a Black customer's receipt.
Dining while black, barbecuing while black, selling lemonade while black, gardening while black, and just simply living while black are among the mundane activities that have recently garnered headlines as reasons why some white people have called 911 on black people.
These calls to police often result in violence against innocent black people, however, the people making these frivolous false police reports are never charged and the companies involved are not held accountable. Starbucks is the only company that took serious action and closed all its stores for diversity training to ensure no more "while black" incidents occurred at its locations.
Unless Mc Donalds and IHOP take decisive action and condemn the brutal police tactics that occur against their customers on their property, I won't be dining while black at those locations anytime soon.
Many Black organizations seem to be afraid to speak out in any meaningful way to hold Mc Donalds, IHOP or others accountable when their actions cause harm to the black community. I suspect that many black organizations are afraid to speak out because they are afraid of losing white corporate sponsorship and donations.
Julius Malema the leader of South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) party gave a powerful and moving speech about not being afraid of white people! He briefly appeared before the Newcastle magistrates court in northern KwaZulu-Natal and although he faced charges related to his comments to invade vacant land he still courageously renewed his call to action.
Malema is charged with the contravention of the Riotous Assemblies Act for his utterances in 2014 and 2017, his case was continued to after the May 2019 elections. In June 2017‚ Malema told supporters in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Newcastle that white people could not claim ownership of land because it belongs to the country’s black African majority.
In 2014 he told the EFF’s elective conference in Bloemfontein: “We’re going to occupy the unoccupied land because we need land. For us to eat‚ we must have the land. For us to work‚ we must have the land. I come from Seshego – if there is unoccupied land‚ we will go and occupy the land with my branch. You must go and do the same in the branch where you come from.”
Institutionalized racism under Apartheid stripped South African blacks of their civil and political rights and instituted segregated education, health care, and all other public services, only providing inferior standards for blacks. Internal resistance was met with police brutality, administrative detention, torture, and limitations on freedom of expression.
During Apartheid, millions of blacks were forced off their land and resettled into slums on some of the worst lands. Ownership of land became firmly concentrated in the hands of the white minority. In 2018 blacks made up 80% of the population but owned just 4% of individually held farmlandand 30% of urban land. Whites comprise only 7.8% of the population but own 72% of farmland and 49% of urban land.
In 1994 South Africa transitioned from the system of Apartheid to one of majority rule and Nelson Mandela became president. By 1996 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC), where perpetrators of violence, including torture, murder and other human rights atrocities provided testimony and requested amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution. Amnesty also allowed White perpetrators to retain their land. There was more consideration given to a few white oppressors then was given to millions of black victims.
American Apartheid is more subtle but the effect is the same. Pick any major indicator, education, housing, employment, credit, business ownership, skilled trade, technology, science, law, medicine or any other and blacks woefully lag behind whites. These situations did not randomly occur, they were designed and enforced through government legislation and policy. We gave more aid to our former enemies of war Japan and Germany than we provided to Black people here in the United States.
The old methods of peaceful protest do not work. Oppressors do not care if the oppressed have a parade and march down the street. Their system of oppression must be disrupted and the most peaceful way to do that is to hold companies that cause harm or remain silent responsible and impose economic sanctions. It's not enough to fire an employee that causes a chain reaction of undeserved police brutality, those firms involved must denounce the resulting oppressive police action. Instead of marching, picket outside of the offending establishment and ask customers to take their business elsewhere.
Decades ago, my mother and father's car was damaged by a grocery cart in the parking lot of a St. Louis supermarket. Since there were signs posted stating the store was not responsible for damages, the store refused to pay for damages. My parents printed leaflets, made signs and picketed the store causing them to lose substantial amounts of business. The store eventually offered to pay for repairs, however, my parents declined their offer and continued the information picket to teach the store a lesson so they would treat customers differently in the future.
About ten years ago, I responded to an online used car advertisement by a new car dealer. I phoned to make sure the car was still available, traveled there on my lunch break and agreed to purchase. I returned later that night with a cashiers check but was then told that the priced advertised online was wrong and that they would not honor that price. I completed a Missouri Attorney General complaint form.
The next morning I faxed a copy of the form along with a letter explaining if they did not respond by noon, I would file the complaint. I provide details of a planned information picket on the public right of way outside their dealership on Saturday morning.
By 10 am I received a phone call apologizing and that the original agreement would be honored. When the car was picked up that evening, the dealership president explained he was unaware of the situation until my fax arrived and that he had the vehicle checked out and that several repairs had been made and he even had a second key made.
Imagine what might happen if the family and friends of Renardo Lewis picket outside the IHOP. According to a news report, an IHOP brand spokesperson responded to the video of the arrest, saying, “Our top priority is the safety of our guests and team members. After an individual at the Marietta IHOP became belligerent and made multiple threats to those in the restaurant, including the use of a weapon, the franchisee’s team quickly followed protocol and alerted authorities. We’re grateful to the police for their quick response and for keeping the guests and team members in the restaurant safe.”
The video of the arrest is below.
Even when you face oppression, you are not powerless. If you don't take the time to exercise your power, you automatically concede it to your oppressors and enemies.
Thursday night, September 6th, while some people were contemplating burning their Nike gear because of an ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, a 26 year-old unarmed immigrant, Botham Shem Jean, was shot and killed while being black in his own home by a 30 year-old white female off duty Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, after supposedly entering an apartment she mistakenly thought was her own.
Colin Kaepernick began his slient and peaceful protest, first by sitting and then by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick has clearly stated a number of times that his protest has nothing to do with disrespecting the flag or military, but is simply a stand against the killing of unarmed black men at the hands of mostly white police officers. Jean's killing is the most recent example of what Kaepernick's protest is about.
Guyger told police she thought she was entering her own apartment not realizing she was on the wrong floor; she thought her home was being burglarized and opened fire, shot him twice in the chest, and killed him. Guyger, off-duty but still in uniform, was returning home from either a 12 or 15-hour shift Thursday night; she said she mistook Jean's apartment for her own, which was a floor below in the same complex. Weird, given he had a red welcome mat at the door (she didn't) and presumably different stuff in his place, but okay.
Jean was a devout Christian and talented singer and worked as a risk assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He earned a bachelor's degree at Harding University in Arkansas, where he had been a beloved worship leader. Jean described himself on LinkedIn as a "young professional, engaged in developing a career built upon integrity, dedication and relationships, leveraging useful technologies to gain an understanding of and add value in a range (of) industries, striving towards leadership in my career, my community and society." A college friend described him as "wildly popular, hugely successful, and an incredible leader…he was a gentleman and a scholar."
In an affidavit released Monday, Guyger made several shady new claims. She said Jean's door was open; she didn't know it was the wrong apartment until after she shot him; she saw "a large silhouette" – cue myth of the big black dude – as she entered; and Jean "ignored" her "verbal commands" – in, lest we forget, his own apartment. At least two witnesses refute her; they say they heard a woman knocking on the closed door and saying "Let me in,” and Jean was too “meticulous” to ever leave his door ajar. Also Guyger, it turns out, has been here before: In May 2017, Guyger was called to assist another officer searching for a suspect. An affidavit indicates a man identified as Uvaldo Perez got out of a car and became combative with Guyger and another officer. A struggle began and Guyger fired her Taser at Perez, who wrested the weapon away from her. Guyger then drew her gun and shot Perez in the abdomen, the affidavit says. Guyger was not charged in the case.
Dallas police requested an arrest warrant Friday for Guyger after Jean’s death was ruled a homicide; it wasn't issued until Sunday, reportedly because the Texas Rangers took over the case and were still investigating. Guyger, a four-year veteran of the department, was charged with manslaughter, booked into Kaufman County jail that evening and was freed an hour later after posting $300,000 bond, according to jail records. Given the contradictions in Guyger's story, officials say she could face stiffer charges once her case goes to a grand jury.
Allison Jean flew to Dallas from the family’s native St. Lucia after the shooting. Her son will be buried on the Caribbean island Thursday. “She took my life away, like my very own life,” said Jean's mother, Allison. “She has to face whatever the law says. The very Bible says to render to Caesar that which is Caesar so if Caesar says to pay a penalty for a life, then she has to pay.”
For now, his family is left to grieve and seek answers. They gathered this weekend for a vigil at Jean's Dallas church, where the congregation honored him with one of his favorite hymns, "My God is Real," and a friend compared him to holy men of the Bible who gave friends spiritual guidance and "evangelized every day." His loss, he said, is "a disservice to humanity." It's also why Kaepernick and so many others continue to speak out in righteous rage, said family attorney Benjamin Crump, who said Jean's death should "astonish most sensible Americans…Black people have been killed by police in some of the most arbitrary ways in America. Blacks have been killed for ‘driving while black’ in their automobiles, ‘walking while black’ in their neighborhoods and now ‘living while black’ in their own apartment."
Critics online echoed him. The harsh clear lesson, said one: "Suit. Tie. Christian. Respectable. At home. Black. Dead." Jean's mother Allison Jean, a former government official of St. Lucia, likewise cited the clear racism behind her son's murder in an interview, calmly arguing a white man would not have met the same grim fate. “Botham loved God. Botham loved you. Botham loved mankind," she said. "God loves us all the same, and this has to stop."
As I heard about this young man's life, I couldn't help but be reminded about my oldest son. My son, who will be 25 tomorrow has been actively involve in church since his youth. Like Jean, he sings in the choir, and is currently a minister and founder of an organization dedicated to help others. This could have just as easily been either of my two sons. My thoughts and prays go out to the Jean family. Hopefully Jean's tragic death will open the eyes of those burning their Nike gear and help them realize that police killing unarmed people is a real problem that needs to first be acknowledged and then solved.
Since the September 15th, Jason Stockley verdict, peaceful protest and civil disobedience have been taking place around St. Louis. The St. Louis protest and the protest during the National Anthem by NFL players have raised questions about protest and the rights of protesters. In St. Louis, activist have blocked streets and highways in protest of police killings.
Is it legal to block traffic during protest?
No, blocking traffic is not legal. The First Amendment guarantees the right to assemble and the right to free speech and expression; however, there are limits on those rights. Generally, local and state governments can and do restrict the time, place, and manner of protest. Protester engage in civil disobedience when they block traffic. Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government. Although, the process has existed since ancient times, Henry David Thoreau popularized the term with the 1849 essay, "Civil Disobedience".
For example, in residential areas, reasonable restrictions may be place regarding noise and time. During the first night of the Stockley protest, protesters assembled near Mayor Lyda Kresons home which was vandalized. Even when you agree with the protester's cause, you probably don't want your sleep disturb because people are protesting late at night or early in the moring; at that point protest rights conflict with disturbance of the peace.
In a video below, Martin Luther King Jr. speaks about civil disobedience.
Compiled from various ACLU documents concerning protest rights
Can my free speech be restricted because of what I say—even if it is controversial?
No. The First Amendment prohibits restrictions based on the content of speech. However, this does not mean that the Constitution completely protects all types of free speech activity in every circumstance. Police and government officials are allowed to place certain nondiscriminatory and narrowly drawn "time, place and manner" restrictions on the exercise of First Amendment rights. Any such restrictions must apply to all speech regardless of its point of view.
Where can I engage in free speech activity?
Generally, all types of expression are constitutionally protected in traditional "public forums" such as streets, sidewalks and parks. In addition, your speech activity may be permitted to take place at other public locations that the government has opened up to similar speech activities, such as the plazas in front of government buildings.
What about free speech activity on private property?
The general rule is that the owners of private property may set rules limiting your free speech. If you disobey the property owner's rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).
Is civil disobedience constitutionally protected?
No. Civil disobedience – peaceful, but unlawful, activities as a form of protest – can legally be (and often is) prosecuted. You may be arrested. Make arrangements with a lawyer in advance.
What should I do if I am ordered to disperse?
Missouri’s “Refusal to Disperse” Law is speech protective. No police officer should give an order to “disperse” unless someone is at a “riot” or “the scene of an unlawful assembly” (i.e., “six or more people assemble and agree to violate criminal laws with force or violence”). If you are at such a scene, you must first be given an order to disperse. You must obey such an order. If you do not do so, you may be arrested, even if you are not committing acts of violence.
Do I need a permit before I engage in free speech activity?
Not usually. However, certain types of events require permits. Generally, these events are:
A march or parade that does not stay on the sidewalk, and other events that require blocking traffic or street closure
A large rally requiring the use of sound amplifying devices; or
A rally at certain designated parks or plazas Many permit procedures require that the application be filed several weeks in advance of the event.
However, the First Amendment prohibits such an advance notice requirement from being used to prevent rallies or demonstrations that are rapid responses to unforeseeable and recent events. Also, many permit ordinances give a lot of discretion to the police or city officials to impose conditions on the event, such as the route of a march or the sound levels of amplification equipment. Such restrictions may violate the First Amendment if they are unnecessary for traffic control or public safety, or if they interfere significantly with effective communication with the intended audience. A permit cannot be denied because the event is controversial or will express unpopular views.
If organizers have not obtained a permit, where can a march take place?
If marchers stay on the sidewalks and obey traffic and pedestrian signals, their activity is constitutionally protected even without a permit. Marchers may be required to allow enough space on the sidewalk for normal pedestrian traffic and may not maliciously obstruct or detain passers-by.
May I distribute leaflets and other literature on public sidewalks?
Yes. You may approach pedestrians on public sidewalks with leaflets, newspapers, petitions and solicitations for donations without a permit. Tables may also be set up on sidewalks for these purposes if sufficient room is left for pedestrians to pass. These types of free speech activities are legal as long as entrances to buildings are not blocked and passers-by are not physically and maliciously detained. However, a permit may be required to set up a table.
Do I have a right to picket on public sidewalks?
Yes, and this is also an activity for which a permit is not required. However, picketing must be done in an orderly, non-disruptive fashion so that pedestrians can pass by and entrances to buildings are not blocked.
Can government impose a financial charge on exercising free speech rights?
Some local governments have required a fee as a condition of exercising free speech rights, such as application fees, security deposits for clean-up, or charges to cover overtime police costs. Charges that cover actual administrative costs have been permitted by some courts. However, if the costs are greater because an event is controversial (or a hostile crowd is expected)—such as requiring a large insurance policy—then the courts will not permit it. Also, regulations with financial requirements should include a waiver for groups that cannot afford the charge, so that even grassroots organizations can exercise their free speech rights. Therefore, a group without significant financial resources should not be prevented from engaging in a march simply because it cannot afford the charges the City would like to impose.
Do counter-demonstrators have free speech rights?
Yes. Although counter-demonstrators should not be allowed to physically disrupt the event they are protesting, they do have the right to be present and to voice their displeasure. Police are permitted to keep two antagonistic groups separated but should allow them to be within the general vicinity of one another.
Does it matter if other speech activities have taken place at the same location?
Yes. The government cannot discriminate against activities because of the controversial content of the message. Thus, if you can show that similar events to yours have been permitted in the past (such as a Veterans or Memorial Day parade), then that is an indication that the government is involved in selective enforcement if they are not granting you a permit.
What other types of free speech activity are constitutionally protected?
The First Amendment covers all forms of communication including music, theater, film and dance. The Constitution also protects actions that symbolically express a viewpoint. Examples of these symbolic forms of speech include wearing masks and costumes or holding a candlelight vigil. However, symbolic acts and civil disobedience that involve illegal conduct may be outside the realm of constitutional protections and can sometimes lead to arrest and conviction. Therefore, while sitting in a road may be expressing a political opinion, the act of blocking traffic may lead to criminal punishment.
What should I do if my rights are being violated by a police officer?
It rarely does any good to argue with a street patrol officer. Ask to talk to a supervisor and explain your position to him or her. Point out that you are not disrupting anyone else's activity and that the First Amendment protects your actions. If you do not obey an officer, you might be arrested and taken from the scene. You should not be convicted if a court concludes that your First Amendment rights have been violated.
Can I record or photograph police in public?
Can police legally attend a protest undercover?
Yes. And you should be aware that they may try to attend planning meetings to learn about plans for illegal activity.
Can police search demonstrators?
If police have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in or about to commit criminal activity, they can frisk your outer clothing to search for weapons.
Can police search bags and containers without probable cause?
Yes, if you are entering what has been marked a secure area. But you can refuse and should be allowed to leave. Otherwise, police can only search bags if they have probable cause that it contains contraband, weapons or evidence of illegal activity.
For additional protest related information see the following:
I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe- "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.
This American government- what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of india-rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.
But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.
After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?- in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy-Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts- a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniments, though it may be,
"Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O'er the grave where our hero we buried."
The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others- as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders- serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few- as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men- serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. A wise man will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be "clay," and "stop a hole to keep the wind away," but leave that office to his dust at least:
"I am too high-born to be propertied,
To be a secondary at control,
Or useful serving-man and instrument
To any sovereign state throughout the world."
He who gives himself entirely to his fellow-men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist.
How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave's government also.
All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution Of '75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army.
Paley, a common authority with many on moral questions, in his chapter on the "Duty of Submission to Civil Government," resolves all civil obligation into expediency; and he proceeds to say that "so long as the interest of the whole society requires it, that is, so long as the established government cannot be resisted or changed without public inconveniency, it is the will of God… that the established government be obeyed- and no longer. This principle being admitted, the justice of every particular case of resistance is reduced to a computation of the quantity of the danger and grievance on the one side, and of the probability and expense of redressing it on the other." Of this, he says, every man shall judge for himself. But Paley appears never to have contemplated those cases to which the rule of expediency does not apply, in which a people, as well as an individual, must do justice, cost what it may. If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself. This, according to Paley, would be inconvenient. But he that would save his life, in such a case, shall lose it. This people must cease to hold slaves, and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people.
In their practice, nations agree with Paley; but does any one think that Massachusetts does exactly what is right at the present crisis?
"A drab of state, a cloth-o'-silver slut,
To have her train borne up, and her soul trail in the dirt."
Practically speaking, the opponents to a reform in Massachusetts are not a hundred thousand politicians at the South, but a hundred thousand merchants and farmers here, who are more interested in commerce and agriculture than they are in humanity, and are not prepared to do justice to the slave and to Mexico, cost what it may. I quarrel not with far-off foes, but with those who, near at home, cooperate with, and do the bidding of those far away, and without whom the latter would be harmless. We are accustomed to say, that the mass of men are unprepared; but improvement is slow, because the few are not materially wiser or better than the many. It is not so important that many should be as good as you, as that there be some absolute goodness somewhere; for that will leaven the whole lump. There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them; who, esteeming themselves children of Washington and Franklin, sit down with their hands in their pockets, and say that they know not what to do, and do nothing; who even postpone the question of freedom to the question of free trade, and quietly read the prices-current along with the latest advices from Mexico, after dinner, and, it may be, fall asleep over them both. What is the price-current of an honest man and patriot today? They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret. At most, they give only a cheap vote, and a feeble countenance and God-speed, to the right, as it goes by them. There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man. But it is easier to deal with the real possessor of a thing than with the temporary guardian of it.
All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote.
I hear of a convention to be held at Baltimore, or elsewhere, for the selection of a candidate for the Presidency, made up chiefly of editors, and men who are politicians by profession; but I think, what is it to any independent, intelligent, and respectable man what decision they may come to? Shall we not have the advantage of his wisdom and honesty, nevertheless? Can we not count upon some independent votes? Are there not many individuals in the country who do not attend conventions? But no: I find that the respectable man, so called, has immediately drifted from his position, and despairs of his country, when his country has more reason to despair of him. He forthwith adopts one of the candidates thus selected as the only available one, thus proving that he is himself available for any purposes of the demagogue. His vote is of no more worth than that of any unprincipled foreigner or hireling native, who may have been bought. O for a man who is a man, and, as my neighbor says, has a bone in his back which you cannot pass your hand through! Our statistics are at fault: the population has been returned too large. How many men are there to a square thousand miles in this country? Hardly one. Does not America offer any inducement for men to settle here? The American has dwindled into an Odd Fellow-one who may be known by the development of his organ of gregariousness, and a manifest lack of intellect and cheerful self-reliance; whose first and chief concern, on coming into the world, is to see that the almshouses are in good repair; and, before yet he has lawfully donned the virile garb, to collect a fund for the support of the widows and orphans that may be; who, in short, ventures to live only by the aid of the Mutual Insurance company, which has promised to bury him decently.
It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous, wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency is tolerated. I have heard some of my townsmen say, "I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico;- see if I would go"; and yet these very men have each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute. The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war; is applauded by those whose own act and authority he disregards and sets at naught; as if the state were penitent to that degree that it differed one to scourge it while it sinned, but not to that degree that it left off sinning for a moment. Thus, under the name of Order and Civil Government, we are all made at last to pay homage to and support our own meanness. After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.
The broadest and most prevalent error requires the most disinterested virtue to sustain it. The slight reproach to which the virtue of patriotism is commonly liable, the noble are most likely to incur. Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform. Some are petitioning the State to dissolve the Union, to disregard the requisitions of the President. Why do they not dissolve it themselves- the union between themselves and the State- and refuse to pay their quota into its treasury? Do not they stand in the same relation to the State that the State does to the Union? And have not the same reasons prevented the State from resisting the Union which have prevented them from resisting the State?
How can a man be satisfied to entertain an opinion merely, and enjoy it? Is there any enjoyment in it, if his opinion is that he is aggrieved? If you are cheated out of a single dollar by your neighbor, you do not rest satisfied with knowing that you are cheated, or with saying that you are cheated, or even with petitioning him to pay you your due; but you take effectual steps at once to obtain the full amount, and see that you are never cheated again. Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides States and churches, it divides families; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine.
Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?
One would think, that a deliberate and practical denial of its authority was the only offence never contemplated by government; else, why has it not assigned its definite, its suitable and proportionate, penalty? If a man who has no property refuses but once to earn nine shillings for the State, he is put in prison for a period unlimited by any law that I know, and determined only by the discretion of those who placed him there; but if he should steal ninety times nine shillings from the State, he is soon permitted to go at large again.
If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth- certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.
As for adopting the ways which the State has provided for remedying the evil, I know not of such ways. They take too much time, and a man's life will be gone. I have other affairs to attend to. I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad. A man has not everything to do, but something; and because he cannot do everything, it is not necessary that he should do something wrong. It is not my business to be petitioning the Governor or the Legislature any more than it is theirs to petition me; and if they should not bear my petition, what should I do then? But in this case the State has provided no way: its very Constitution is the evil. This may seem to be harsh and stubborn and unconciliatory; but it is to treat with the utmost kindness and consideration the only spirit that can appreciate or deserves it. So is an change for the better, like birth and death, which convulse the body.
I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves Abolitionists should at once effectually withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they constitute a majority of one, before they suffer the right to prevail through them. I think that it is enough if they have God on their side, without waiting for that other one. Moreover, any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.
I meet this American government, or its representative, the State government, directly, and face to face, once a year- no more- in the person of its tax-gatherer; this is the only mode in which a man situated as I am necessarily meets it; and it then says distinctly, Recognize me; and the simplest, the most effectual, and, in the present posture of affairs, the indispensablest mode of treating with it on this head, of expressing your little satisfaction with and love for it, is to deny it then. My civil neighbor, the tax-gatherer, is the very man I have to deal with- for it is, after all, with men and not with parchment that I quarrel- and he has voluntarily chosen to be an agent of the government. How shall he ever know well what he is and does as an officer of the government, or as a man, until he is obliged to consider whether he shall treat me, his neighbor, for whom he has respect, as a neighbor and well-disposed man, or as a maniac and disturber of the peace, and see if he can get over this obstruction to his neighborliness without a ruder and more impetuous thought or speech corresponding with his action. I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name- if ten honest men only- ay, if one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. But we love better to talk about it: that we say is our mission, Reform keeps many scores of newspapers in its service, but not one man. If my esteemed neighbor, the State's ambassador, who will devote his days to the settlement of the question of human rights in the Council Chamber, instead of being threatened with the prisons of Carolina, were to sit down the prisoner of Massachusetts, that State which is so anxious to foist the sin of slavery upon her sister- though at present she can discover only an act of inhospitality to be the ground of a quarrel with her- the Legislature would not wholly waive the subject the following winter.
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place today, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race should find them; on that separate, but more free and honorable, ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her- the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. If the tax-gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, "But what shall I do?" my answer is, "If you really wish to do anything, resign your office." When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished. But even suppose blood should flow. Is there not a sort of blood shed when the conscience is wounded? Through this wound a man's real manhood and immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see this blood flowing now.
I have contemplated the imprisonment of the offender, rather than the seizure of his goods- though both will serve the same purpose- because they who assert the purest right, and consequently are most dangerous to a corrupt State, commonly have not spent much time in accumulating property. To such the State renders comparatively small service, and a slight tax is wont to appear exorbitant, particularly if they are obliged to earn it by special labor with their hands. If there were one who lived wholly without the use of money, the State itself would hesitate to demand it of him. But the rich man- not to make any invidious comparison- is always sold to the institution which makes him rich. Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue; for money comes between a man and his objects, and obtains them for him; and it was certainly no great virtue to obtain it. It puts to rest many questions which he would otherwise be taxed to answer; while the only new question which it puts is the hard but superfluous one, how to spend it. Thus his moral ground is taken from under his feet. The opportunities of living are diminished in proportion as what are called the "means" are increased. The best thing a man can do for his culture when he is rich is to endeavor to carry out those schemes which he entertained when he was poor. Christ answered the Herodians according to their condition. "Show me the tribute-money," said he;- and one took a penny out of his pocket;- if you use money which has the image of Caesar on it, and which he has made current and valuable, that is, if you are men of the State, and gladly enjoy the advantages of Caesar's government, then pay him back some of his own when he demands it. "Render therefore to Caesar that which is Caesar's, and to God those things which are God's"- leaving them no wiser than before as to which was which; for they did not wish to know.
When I converse with the freest of my neighbors, I perceive that, whatever they may say about the magnitude and seriousness of the question, and their regard for the public tranquillity, the long and the short of the matter is, that they cannot spare the protection of the existing government, and they dread the consequences to their property and families of disobedience to it. For my own part, I should not like to think that I ever rely on the protection of the State. But, if I deny the authority of the State when it presents its tax-bill, it will soon take and waste all my property, and so harass me and my children without end. This is hard. This makes it impossible for a man to live honestly, and at the same time comfortably, in outward respects. It will not be worth the while to accumulate property; that would be sure to go again. You must hire or squat somewhere, and raise but a small crop, and eat that soon. You must live within yourself, and depend upon yourself always tucked up and ready for a start, and not have many affairs. A man may grow rich in Turkey even, if he will be in all respects a good subject of the Turkish government. Confucius said: "If a state is governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are subjects of shame; if a state is not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honors are the subjects of shame." No: until I want the protection of Massachusetts to be extended to me in some distant Southern port, where my liberty is endangered, or until I am bent solely on building up an estate at home by peaceful enterprise, I can afford to refuse allegiance to Massachusetts, and her right to my property and life. It costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State than it would to obey. I should feel as if I were worth less in that case.
Some years ago, the State met me in behalf of the Church, and commanded me to pay a certain sum toward the support of a clergyman whose preaching my father attended, but never I myself. "Pay," it said, "or be locked up in the jail." I declined to pay. But, unfortunately, another man saw fit to pay it. I did not see why the schoolmaster should be taxed to support the priest, and not the priest the schoolmaster; for I was not the State's schoolmaster, but I supported myself by voluntary subscription. I did not see why the lyceum should not present its tax-bill, and have the State to back its demand, as well as the Church. However, at the request of the selectmen, I condescended to make some such statement as this in writing:- "Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any incorporated society which I have not joined." This I gave to the town clerk; and he has it. The State, having thus learned that I did not wish to be regarded as a member of that church, has never made a like demand on me since; though it said that it must adhere to its original presumption that time. If I had known how to name them, I should then have signed off in detail from all the societies which I never signed on to; but I did not know where to find a complete list.
I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick, and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up. I wondered that it should have concluded at length that this was the best use it could put me to, and had never thought to avail itself of my services in some way. I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through before they could get to be as free as I was. I did not for a moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar. I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax. They plainly did not know how to treat me, but behaved like persons who are underbred. In every threat and in every compliment there was a blunder; for they thought that my chief desire was to stand the other side of that stone wall. I could not but smile to see how industriously they locked the door on my meditations, which followed them out again without let or hindrance, and they were really all that was dangerous. As they could not reach me, they had resolved to punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come at some person against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog. I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it.
Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man's sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest. What force has a multitude? They only can force me who obey a higher law than I. They force me to become like themselves. I do not hear of men being forced to have this way or that by masses of men. What sort of life were that to live? When I meet a government which says to me, "Your money or your life," why should I be in haste to give it my money? It may be in a great strait, and not know what to do: I cannot help that. It must help itself; do as I do. It is not worth the while to snivel about it. I am not responsible for the successful working of the machinery of society. I am not the son of the engineer. I perceive that, when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.
The night in prison was novel and interesting enough. The prisoners in their shirt-sleeves were enjoying a chat and the evening air in the doorway, when I entered. But the jailer said, "Come, boys, it is time to lock up"; and so they dispersed, and I heard the sound of their steps returning into the hollow apartments. My room-mate was introduced to me by the jailer as "a first-rate fellow and a clever man." When the door was locked, he showed me where to hang my hat, and how he managed matters there. The rooms were whitewashed once a month; and this one, at least, was the whitest, most simply furnished, and probably the neatest apartment in the town. He naturally wanted to know where I came from, and what brought me there; and, when I had told him, I asked him in my turn how he came there, presuming him to be an honest man, of course; and, as the world goes, I believe he was. "Why," said he, "they accuse me of burning a barn; but I never did it." As near as I could discover, he had probably gone to bed in a barn when drunk, and smoked his pipe there; and so a barn was burnt. He had the reputation of being a clever man, had been there some three months waiting for his trial to come on, and would have to wait as much longer; but he was quite domesticated and contented, since he got his board for nothing, and thought that he was well treated.
He occupied one window, and I the other; and I saw that if one stayed there long, his principal business would be to look out the window. I had soon read all the tracts that were left there, and examined where former prisoners had broken out, and where a grate had been sawed off, and heard the history of the various occupants of that room; for I found that even here there was a history and a gossip which never circulated beyond the walls of the jail. Probably this is the only house in the town where verses are composed, which are afterward printed in a circular form, but not published. I was shown quite a long list of verses which were composed by some young men who had been detected in an attempt to escape, who avenged themselves by singing them.
I pumped my fellow-prisoner as dry as I could, for fear I should never see him again; but at length he showed me which was my bed, and left me to blow out the lamp.
It was like travelling into a far country, such as I had never expected to behold, to lie there for one night. It seemed to me that I never had heard the town clock strike before, nor the evening sounds of the village; for we slept with the windows open, which were inside the grating. It was to see my native village in the light of the Middle Ages, and our Concord was turned into a Rhine stream, and visions of knights and castles passed before me. They were the voices of old burghers that I heard in the streets. I was an involuntary spectator and auditor of whatever was done and said in the kitchen of the adjacent village inn- a wholly new and rare experience to me. It was a closer view of my native town. I was fairly inside of it. I never had seen its institutions before. This is one of its peculiar institutions; for it is a shire town. I began to comprehend what its inhabitants were about.
In the morning, our breakfasts were put through the hole in the door, in small oblong-square tin pans, made to fit, and holding a pint of chocolate, with brown bread, and an iron spoon. When they called for the vessels again, I was green enough to return what bread I had left; but my comrade seized it, and said that I should lay that up for lunch or dinner. Soon after he was let out to work at haying in a neighboring field, whither he went every day, and would not be back till noon; so he bade me good-day, saying that he doubted if he should see me again.
When I came out of prison- for some one interfered, and paid that tax- I did not perceive that great changes had taken place on the common, such as he observed who went in a youth and emerged a tottering and gray-headed man; and yet a change had to my eyes come over the scene- the town, and State, and country- greater than any that mere time could effect. I saw yet more distinctly the State in which I lived. I saw to what extent the people among whom I lived could be trusted as good neighbors and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only; that they did not greatly propose to do right; that they were a distinct race from me by their prejudices and superstitions, as the Chinamen and Malays are; that in their sacrifices to humanity they ran no risks, not even to their property; that after all they were not so noble but they treated the thief as he had treated them, and hoped, by a certain outward observance and a few prayers, and by walking in a particular straight though useless path from time to time, to save their souls. This may be to judge my neighbors harshly; for I believe that many of them are not aware that they have such an institution as the jail in their village.
It was formerly the custom in our village, when a poor debtor came out of jail, for his acquaintances to salute him, looking through their fingers, which were crossed to represent the grating of a jail window, "How do ye do?" My neighbors did not thus salute me, but first looked at me, and then at one another, as if I had returned from a long journey. I was put into jail as I was going to the shoemaker's to get a shoe which was mended. When I was let out the next morning, I proceeded to finish my errand, and, having put on my mended shoe, joined a huckleberry party, who were impatient to put themselves under my conduct; and in half an hour- for the horse was soon tackled- was in the midst of a huckleberry field, on one of our highest hills, two miles off, and then the State was nowhere to be seen.
This is the whole history of "My Prisons."
I have never declined paying the highway tax, because I am as desirous of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject; and as for supporting schools, I am doing my part to educate my fellow-countrymen now. It is for no particular item in the tax-bill that I refuse to pay it. I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the State, to withdraw and stand aloof from it effectually. I do not care to trace the course of my dollar, if I could, till it buys a man or a musket to shoot one with- the dollar is innocent- but I am concerned to trace the effects of my allegiance. In fact, I quietly declare war with the State, after my fashion, though I will still make what use and get what advantage of her I can, as is usual in such cases.
If others pay the tax which is demanded of me, from a sympathy with the State, they do but what they have already done in their own case, or rather they abet injustice to a greater extent than the State requires. If they pay the tax from a mistaken interest in the individual taxed, to save his property, or prevent his going to jail, it is because they have not considered wisely how far they let their private feelings interfere with the public good.
This, then, is my position at present. But one cannot be too much on his guard in such a case, lest his action be biased by obstinacy or an undue regard for the opinions of men. Let him see that he does only what belongs to himself and to the hour.
I think sometimes, Why, this people mean well, they are only ignorant; they would do better if they knew how: why give your neighbors this pain to treat you as they are not inclined to? But I think again, This is no reason why I should do as they do, or permit others to suffer much greater pain of a different kind. Again, I sometimes say to myself, When many millions of men, without heat, without ill will, without personal feeling of any kind, demand of you a few shillings only, without the possibility, such is their constitution, of retracting or altering their present demand, and without the possibility, on your side, of appeal to any other millions, why expose yourself to this overwhelming brute force? You do not resist cold and hunger, the winds and the waves, thus obstinately; you quietly submit to a thousand similar necessities. You do not put your head into the fire. But just in proportion as I regard this as not wholly a brute force, but partly a human force, and consider that I have relations to those millions as to so many millions of men, and not of mere brute or inanimate things, I see that appeal is possible, first and instantaneously, from them to the Maker of them, and, secondly, from them to themselves. But if I put my head deliberately into the fire, there is no appeal to fire or to the Maker of fire, and I have only myself to blame. If I could convince myself that I have any right to be satisfied with men as they are, and to treat them accordingly, and not according, in some respects, to my requisitions and expectations of what they and I ought to be, then, like a good Mussulman and fatalist, I should endeavor to be satisfied with things as they are, and say it is the will of God. And, above all, there is this difference between resisting this and a purely brute or natural force, that I can resist this with some effect; but I cannot expect, like Orpheus, to change the nature of the rocks and trees and beasts.
I do not wish to quarrel with any man or nation. I do not wish to split hairs, to make fine distinctions, or set myself up as better than my neighbors. I seek rather, I may say, even an excuse for conforming to the laws of the land. I am but too ready to conform to them. Indeed, I have reason to suspect myself on this head; and each year, as the tax-gatherer comes round, I find myself disposed to review the acts and position of the general and State governments, and the spirit of the people, to discover a pretext for conformity.
"We must affect our country as our parents,
And if at any time we alienate
Our love or industry from doing it honor,
We must respect effects and teach the soul
Matter of conscience and religion,
And not desire of rule or benefit."
I believe that the State will soon be able to take all my work of this sort out of my hands, and then I shall be no better a patriot than my fellow-countrymen. Seen from a lower point of view, the Constitution, with all its faults, is very good; the law and the courts are very respectable; even this State and this American government are, in many respects, very admirable, and rare things, to be thankful for, such as a great many have described them; but seen from a point of view a little higher, they are what I have described them; seen from a higher still, and the highest, who shall say what they are, or that they are worth looking at or thinking of at all?
However, the government does not concern me much, and I shall bestow the fewest possible thoughts on it. It is not many moments that I live under a government, even in this world. If a man is thought-free, fancy-free, imagination-free, that which is not never for a long time appearing to be to him, unwise rulers or reformers cannot fatally interrupt him.
I know that most men think differently from myself; but those whose lives are by profession devoted to the study of these or kindred subjects content me as little as any. Statesmen and legislators, standing so completely within the institution, never distinctly and nakedly behold it. They speak of moving society, but have no resting-place without it. They may be men of a certain experience and discrimination, and have no doubt invented ingenious and even useful systems, for which we sincerely thank them; but all their wit and usefulness lie within certain not very wide limits. They are wont to forget that the world is not governed by policy and expediency. Webster never goes behind government, and so cannot speak with authority about it. His words are wisdom to those legislators who contemplate no essential reform in the existing government; but for thinkers, and those who legislate for all time, he never once glances at the subject. I know of those whose serene and wise speculations on this theme would soon reveal the limits of his mind's range and hospitality. Yet, compared with the cheap professions of most reformers, and the still cheaper wisdom and eloquence of politicians in general, his are almost the only sensible and valuable words, and we thank Heaven for him. Comparatively, he is always strong, original, and, above all, practical. Still, his quality is not wisdom, but prudence. The lawyer's truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency. Truth is always in harmony with herself, and is not concerned chiefly to reveal the justice that may consist with wrong-doing. He well deserves to be called, as he has been called, the Defender of the Constitution. There are really no blows to be given by him but defensive ones. He is not a leader, but a follower. His leaders are the men of '87- "I have never made an effort," he says, "and never propose to make an effort; I have never countenanced an effort, and never mean to countenance an effort, to disturb the arrangement as originally made, by which the various States came into the Union." Still thinking of the sanction which the Constitution gives to slavery, he says, "Because it was a part of the original compact- let it stand." Notwithstanding his special acuteness and ability, he is unable to take a fact out of its merely political relations, and behold it as it lies absolutely to be disposed of by the intellect- what, for instance, it behooves a man to do here in America today with regard to slavery- but ventures, or is driven, to make some such desperate answer as the following, while professing to speak absolutely, and as a private man- from which what new and singular code of social duties might be inferred? "The manner," says he, "in which the governments of those States where slavery exists are to regulate it is for their own consideration, under their responsibility to their constituents, to the general laws of propriety, humanity, and justice, and to God. Associations formed elsewhere, springing from a feeling of humanity, or any other cause, have nothing whatever to do with it. They have never received any encouragement from me, and they never will."
They who know of no purer sources of truth, who have traced up its stream no higher, stand, and wisely stand, by the Bible and the Constitution, and drink at it there with reverence and humility; but they who behold where it comes trickling into this lake or that pool, gird up their loins once more, and continue their pilgrimage toward its fountain-head.
No man with a genius for legislation has appeared in America. They are rare in the history of the world. There are orators, politicians, and eloquent men, by the thousand; but the speaker has not yet opened his mouth to speak who is capable of settling the much-vexed questions of the day. We love eloquence for its own sake, and not for any truth which it may utter, or any heroism it may inspire. Our legislators have not yet learned the comparative value of free trade and of freedom, of union, and of rectitude, to a nation. They have no genius or talent for comparatively humble questions of taxation and finance, commerce and manufactures and agriculture. If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among the nations. For eighteen hundred years, though perchance I have no right to say it, the New Testament has been written; yet where is the legislator who has wisdom and practical talent enough to avail himself of the light which it sheds on the science of legislation?
The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to- for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well- is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at least which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.
In the wake of the police acquitals in shooting deaths of unarmed black men and women and the NFL players refusing to stand during the National Anthem, Nick Canon delivered a power spoken word piece, "Stand For What".
Complete text of the spoken word piece, "Stand For What".
"Stand For what?!
You want me to stand for a song that continues to remind me of all the harms that have done me wrong?
Stand for what?!
For your Army that none of our sons truly belong
Stand for what?
The 100 years it took them to convince Congress to become the anthem after 40 failed attempts
Stand for what?
Your forefathers who really just Pimps.
Stand for What?
A song about War, not freedom That's how you want to lead them Brainwash your people? that's how you want to treat em Slavemasters whips to Cops night sticks, that's how you continue to beat em.
Stand for what
the beginning of Slavery in 1619 Or the end of those Black Marines of 1814 That's really what the lyrics are about They may have taken the word slave out but they forget to remove the slave connotations from their brains and they mouth The mentality to make America Greater than your imagination is how you pout Hating because we burned down their White House Gave proof through the night, that its light out For the old elitist white man thinking Drunk off they ass with power at baseball games singing and drinking
Man stand for what?
Stand for something or fall for dumb shit!
Stand for what
To salute the Red White and Blue, on a Flag where my Colors not reflected
Stand for what
To uphold laws that were embedded to have my community negatively affected
Stand for what
Your racist systemic melodies of mind manipulating rhetoric? Did you know the government pays Sports organizations for plays, to make people more patriotic This MK Ultra Soul control needs to stop it I can still love my country and hate that fucked up song about rockets, and bombs bursting air Reminds me of Charlottesville's vicious glares And police shootings with no care like the dash cameras wasn't there.
Stand for what
Monuments and statues of old slave masters Constant reminders of our nations disasters The Heros in Houston, the Doctors, the Poets and the Pastors. That's who I want to shape our greatness after I honor and respect our men and women of service But we've been taught to idolize wars without purpose The majority of our Militaries casualties are minority soldiers So let's make statues of those warriors because they truly deserve it Mt Rushmore was built by the Ku Klux Klan, so why the fuck should I have respect for those men Damn, This is not my country and it's not yours either. Go back to Africa? I wish we never had to leave it But the entire World is our neighborhood So why do we perceive certain blocks to be bad and other blocks to be good? Instead of glorifying the past we gotta focus on the future Dick Gregory warned me if U speak up They probably gonna shoot ya! But I shout for his eternal voice along with Martin, Malcolm and Marcus Garvey and march wholeheartedly for their legacy Because I'll say it loud as you can see Fuck Francis Scott Key and Robert E. Lee They don't represent me and neither do either of these hypocritical political parties I am a native to the cosmic and Universal God Energy. Even though the constitution really doesn't apply to me I'll try to exercise my freedom of speech So you can tell them you heard it from me. Yeah I said it Brutality, Historic Fallacies and All war is wrong and so is that fucking song! It's Been way too long! It's time to make a change and acknowledge that your home of the brave was built on the back of a Slave. So bowing down to a true King Is the only way to let freedom ring
We've included 21 full-length movies you can watch now on your computer or device and 12 additional movie trailer recommendations to watch during black history month and beyond. Unfortunately, we cannot possibly list every good move related to black history and there are plenty of excellent movies not included on this list. However, we hope you discover something new and enjoy watching.
Full Movies Which Were Available on the Date of Publication
The Vernon Johns Story (1994 Full Movie)
Vernon Johns (April 22, 1892 – June 11, 1965) was an American minister at several black churches in the South. He is best known as the pastor 1947-52 of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama. He was succeeded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The video has been deleted, trailer now shown below.
King (1978 Full Movie)
King was a television miniseries based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. It aired for three consecutive nights on NBC from February 12 through 14, 1978.
The Rosa Parks Story 2002
Something the Lord Made (2004 Full Movie)
Based on the true story of Vivien Thomas, a carpenter that wanted to be a doctor, unable to attend college he works for a real doctor as a janitor. Realizing what this young man is capable of the doctor gives him real tasks and as a team, they go to conquer what other people thought impossible. Based on a true story. Vivien Thomas became a black cardiac pioneer and his complex and volatile partnership with white surgeon Alfred Blalock, the world famous "Blue Baby doctor" who pioneered modern heart surgery.
Keep the Faith, Baby – Adam Clayton Powell Movie 2002
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (November 29, 1908 – April 4, 1972) was a Baptist pastor and an American politician, who represented Harlem, New York City, in the United States House of Representatives (1945–71). He was the first person of African-American descent to be elected from New York to Congress. Oscar Stanton De Priest of Illinois was the first black person to be elected to Congress in the 20th century; Powell was the fourth. Re-elected for nearly three decades, Powell became a powerful national politician of the Democratic Party and served as a national spokesman on civil rights and social issues.
Deacons for Defense 2003
The Deacons for Defense and Justice was an armed self-defense group of African-Americans that protected civil rights organizations in the U.S. Southern states during the 1960s.
The Tuskegee Airmen 1995
The Tuskegee Airmen was a group of the first African-American military aviators (fighter and bomber) in the United States Armed Forces who fought in World War II. Officially, they formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces. All black World War II military pilots who trained in the United States trained at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Air Field, and were educated at Tuskegee University, located near Tuskegee, Alabama.
Ghost of Mississippi 1996
A Mississippi district attorney and the widow of Medgar Evers struggle to finally bring a white racist to justice for the 1963 murder of the civil rights leader. Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was a black civil rights activist from Mississippi who worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi and to enact social justice and voting rights. He was killed by a white segregationist.
In October of 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was created in response to challenge police brutality in Oakland.
The Marva Collins Story 1981
Marva Delores Collins (August 31, 1936 – June 24, 2015) was an American educator who started the highly successful Westside Preparatory School in the impoverished Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago in 1975.
Introducing Dorothy Dandridge 1999
Dorothy Jean Dandridge (November 9, 1922 – September 8, 1965) was an American film and theater actress, singer and dancer. She is perhaps best known for being the first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1954 film Carmen Jones
The Josephine Baker Story 1991
Josephine Baker, born in St. Louis, MO, was a singer and entertainer who skyrocketed to international fame as a performer in Paris. Baker renounced her U.S. citizenship because of racism and became a French national and war hero during WWII.
The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992)
Based upon the history of the Jackson family, one of the most successful musical families in show business, and the early and successful years of the popular Motown group The Jackson 5.
The Temptations 1998
Biography of the singers who formed the hit Motown musical act, The Temptations.
Miss Evers Boys
The true story of the U.S. Government's 1932 Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, in which members of a group of black test subjects were allowed to die, despite a cure having been developed.
The Jackie Robinson Story 1950
Biography of Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player in the 20th century. Traces his career in the Negro Leagues and the major leagues.
The Spook Who Sat By the Door 1973
A black man plays Uncle Tom in order to gain access to CIA training, then uses that knowledge to provide tactical training to street gang members to plot a Black American Revolution.
About a loving and strong family of black sharecroppers in Louisiana in 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, facing a serious family crisis when the husband and father, is convicted of a petty crime and sent to a prison camp.
A Woman Called Moses 1978
Based on the life of Harriet Tubman, the escaped African American slave who helped to organize the Underground Railroad, and who led dozens of African Americans from enslavement in the Southern United States to freedom in the Northern states and Canada.
The story of the life and career of the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles.
A fictionalized account of the gang war between the Italian/Jewish mafia alliance and the Black gangsters of Harlem that took place in the late 1920s and early 1930s based on real events and characters. The film concentrated on Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Laurence Fishburne), Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth), and Lucky Luciano.
The video has been deleted, trailer now shown below.
12 Black Movie Trailers to Stream or Rent
Based on historic events of the 1923 Rosewood massacre in Florida, when a racist white lynch mob killed blacks and destroyed their black community.
Based on the true story of the 1839 mutiny aboard the slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen abducted for the slave trade managed to gain control of their captors' ship off the coast of Cuba, and the international legal battle that followed their capture by a U.S. revenue cutter. The case was ultimately resolved by the United States Supreme Court in 1841.
Roots was an American television miniseries based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family; the series first aired on ABC-TV in January 1977. (Goodbye Uncle Tom is another 70s Slave Movie which was virtually banned from the U.S.)
Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film about female African-American mathematicians at NASA.
Malcolm X 1992
Malcolm X is a biographical drama about key events in Malcolm X's life: defining childhood incidents, his criminal career, his incarceration, his conversion to Islam, his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam and his later falling out with the organization, his marriage, his pilgrimage to Mecca, and his assassination on February 21, 1965.
American Violet 2008
A single mother struggles to clear her name after being wrongly accused and arrested for dealing drugs in an impoverished town in Texas.
Based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle in 18th century England.
A Soldier's Story 1984
Not a true story, but an excellent look at the what was at stake for black people through the lens of the perceived humanity of our black soldiers.
The film is about one of the first military units of the Union Army during the American Civil War to be made up entirely of African-American men (except for its officers), as told from the point of view of Colonel Shaw, its white commanding officer.
The Cotton Club 1984
The Cotton Club was a famous night club in Harlem. The story follows the people that visited the club, those that ran it, and is peppered with the Jazz music that made it so famous. The Cotton Club was whites only but featured all black entertainment during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance.
Mississippi Burning 1988
Two FBI agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.
The Retrieval 2013
A fatherless 13-year-old black boy, who survives by working with a white bounty hunter gang who sends him to earn the trust of runaway slaves and wanted black men.
Indiana passed a bill on Wednesday that authorizes police officers to shut down highway protesting “by any means necessary.” S.B. 285, as it is known, obliges a public official to dispatch all available officers within 15 minutes of discovering any assembly of 10 or more people who are obstructing vehicle traffic.
The bill then authorizes the responding officers to clear roads “by any means necessary.”
Critics are calling it the “Block Traffic and You Die” bill, an apt name for a bill that has co-opted the phrase “any means necessary,” used famously in speech delivered by Malcolm X during the Civil Rights movement, turning it into a threat against government dissent (with no apparent awareness of the irony).
S.B. 285 is among a collection of increasingly hostile ‘anti-obstruction’ laws that have been quietly submitted in states around the nation over the past few months. A report by The Intercept published Wednesday tracked five such anti-protest laws introduced by Republican lawmakers in different states, four of which are currently pending.
One of the most disturbing among them is House Bill N. 1203, a bill introduced earlier this month by North Dakota lawmaker Keith Kempenich in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests. The bill would exempt motorists who hit demonstrators with their cars from any liability in cases where the victims were “obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway.” This twisted take on protest criminalization comes short of condoning manslaughter as a viable means of crowd control.
Also this month, Minnesota State Representative Kathy Lohmer led the effort on submitting H.F. 322, a bill that would re-classify obstructing highway traffic from a misdemeanor to a “gross misdemeanor” and would authorize government units to sue protesters for “public safety response costs related to unlawful assemblies.”
The proposed legislation is strikingly reminiscent of Washington State Senator Eric Ericksen’s proposal to punish protesters as ‘economic terrorists,’ which Anti-Media first reported on in November.
All of the proposed laws share a common trait in that they were all adopted in response to a major protest event in that state. H.F. 322 was submitted shortly after a judge dismissed the riot charges against protesters who took to the St. Paul Interstate last July in a demonstration against the police shooting of Philando Castille. Ericksen’s “economic terrorism” bill announcement came just days after anti-fracking protesters blocked railroad tracks in Olympia, Washington. DAPL protests inspired both the Indiana and North Dakota bills.
These retroactive responses on behalf of Republican state lawmakers are also seen as preemptive strikes against the threat of increased protests during the Trump presidency.
As ACLU staff attorney Lee Rowland expressed in an interview with The Intercept, these so-called ‘obstruction bills’ are but thinly disguised efforts to squash any government dissent.
“A law that would allow the state to charge a protester $10,000 for stepping in the wrong place, or encourage a driver to get away with manslaughter because the victim was protesting, is about one thing: chilling protest,” Rowland said.
Growing tension between government officials and protesters is expected to come to a culmination on Inauguration Day in D.C., where there will already be many barriers in place to limit demonstrations.
First and foremost is the Federal Grounds and Buildings Improvement Act of 2011, known as H.R 347.
H.R.-347 is a revision of a 1971 federal trespassing law that made it a crime to “willfully and knowingly” remain in an area under Secret Security protection. H.R. 347 removes the word “willingly,” a legal technicality that effectively lowers the bar on the mental state required to be found guilty under the law.
“Under the original language of the law, you had to act ‘willfully and knowingly’ when committing the crime. In short, you had to know your conduct was illegal. Under H.R. 347, you will simply need to act ‘knowingly,’ which here would mean that you know you’re in a restricted area, but not necessarily that you’re committing a crime.”
Under current federal law, protesting in proximity to an elected official under the protection of the Secret Service, which includes President Trump, is a crime punishable by fine and up to ten years in jail.
Protesting during Trump’s inauguration comes with additional complications as the National Park Service reserves a large portion of the inaugural parade route along Pennsylvania Ave and in Freedom Plaza for ticket sales under the exclusive discretion of Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC). This means the PIC can refuse to allow protesters along the route.
An activist group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (Answer) has been engaged in a legal battle with the National Park Service since 2005, arguing the privatization of the Inauguration is an attempt to “sanitize” the streets of dissent.
While the National Park Service has been controversially setting aside tickets for the PIC since 1980, the issue garnered more attention this year when it was discovered that the sidewalk in front of the Trump International Hotel, a significant site for protesters, would be a part of PIC’s ticket-only area.
Adding another level of bureaucracy, the Washington Postreported the hotel and plaza in front are actually under the control of Trump’s real estate agency, meaning protesters would have to literally ‘ask permission’ to remain in the space.
As the week comes to an end, it becomes apparent that dissent is being criminalized not only nationwide but on multiple fronts. Increased regulations are appearing that limit the public spaces that can be lawfully occupied in protest. Meanwhile, legislation is also being introduced to increase the negative consequences for newly unlawful protests. Should more states follow suit with Indiana, demonstrators will soon find themselves paradoxically protesting for their right to protest at all.
Pledge to end 'American carnage' stirs fears among opponents who recall campaign built on xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia
President Donald J. Trump has taken the oath of office, delivering a blunt speech rife with his signature autocratic declarations, promising to "make America great again" as tense protests swelled around Capitol Hill.
Watch the video of the speech, a full transcript is included near the bottom of this page.
"Today's inauguration is an incredibly dark day for our country," Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive PAC Democracy for America, said in response to Trump's speech Friday. "The only thing more empty than the National Mall today during his poorly attended inaugural address were the platitudes Donald Trump made about bringing the country together."
"In fact, after putting forward a cabinet filled to the brim with self-dealing billionaires, bigots, and bullies, it's clear that Donald Trump is establishing the most corrupt, corporate, and bigoted administration in generations," Chamberlain said.
Protests were well underway by the time Trump was sworn in, with massive groups in the streets throughout Washington, D.C., chanting and wielding signs, blockading entrances to the inauguration, and at times clashing with armed police who sprayed tear gas with abandon.
"This is our right to stand here," said one protester, Mica Reel, who took part in an inaugural entrance blockade, the New York Times reported.
Another, Ramah Kudaimi, who sits on the board of the Washington Peace Center and helped organize one of the day's actions, said, "It's important from Day One of Trump's administration that we make clear that we are going to be disrupting his agenda. When communities are under attack, we are going to fight back."
In a vacuous speech that contrasted with former President Barack Obama's years of poignant addresses, Trump said, "Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come."
"America will start winning again, winning like never before," he said. "We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams."
These pledges, along with references to "American carnage" wrought by "crime and drugs and gangs," stirred fears among the president's opponents who called attention to a campaign built on xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia—and a cabinet that belies his promise to "drain the swamp" of special interests.
CREDO political director Murshed Zaheed said, "Today's inauguration of a man who scapegoats Muslims and immigrants, demeans women, and openly advocates discrimination is not a cause for celebration or bipartisan camaraderie….In the coming weeks and months it will take firm opposition and dedicated resistance from Democrats in Congress to minimize the damage Trump is able to inflict on our communities and our democracy."
Demand Progress policy director Daniel Schuman said, "Donald Trump is unpresidential. He is an authoritarian who will stifle our free press, restore torture, expand mass surveillance, fill government with cronies, and use bully tactics to silence private citizens. Donald Trump will violate the Constitution on Day One and has given every indication of his intent to undermine our constitutional rights and privileges."
Progressive leaders praised Democratic lawmakers who boycotted the inauguration.
"By standing up to Trump, these courageous members of Congress are standing for the American people and our way of life," Schuman said.
Jo Comerford, campaign director at MoveOn.org, added, "Democrats boycotting today's inauguration are standing on the right side of history. Donald Trump is a threat to our nation."
Republished with permission under license from CommonDreams.
Full Transcript of Trump's Inaugural Address
"Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.
We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people.
Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.
Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power.
And we are grateful to President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition.
They have been magnificent.
Today's ceremony, however, has a very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.
For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have bore the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment.
It belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.
This is your day.
This is your celebration.
And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.
At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves.
These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.
Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.
An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.
And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
We are one nation, and their pain is our pain.
Their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny.
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.
For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.
We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own. And we've spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future.
We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.
Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.
America will start winning again, winning like never before.
We will bring back our jobs.
We will bring back our borders.
We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams.
We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation.
We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example.
We will shine for everyone to follow.
We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.
The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.
Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.
The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.
Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.
A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. It's time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.
We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms and we all salute the same great American flag.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator.
So to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
Together we will make America strong again, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again.
And, yes, together we will make America great again.
The Bundy militia fought for their right to make money. We want to protect our sacred lands – but the state is treating us with violence and hostility
Sometime in the early summer when the Sacred Stone Camp was just a handful of tents and the Dakota Access machines had not yet come to our side of the Missouri river, I got an email from a woman who said her husband was Cliven Bundy and that she wanted to bring her daughters to stand with us. I knew little of this gun-toting militia, but enough that I told her no, we are a non-violent encampment, you cannot come here.
When I began to look into the Bundy’s standoff at the Malheur Refuge, I became angry. That place is a locus of ancestral heritage of the Burns Paiute Tribe, which the Bundys knowingly desecrated. They reportedly dug latrines through recognized cultural sites. As a tribal historic preservation officer, my heart broke when I heard they allegedly rifled through some 4,000 cultural items that had been kept in the museum. Some of the sacred objects they destroyed were hundreds of years old.
The Bundys did not reclaim that land. It was never theirs. It is Paiute land.
From the beginning, we at Standing Rock gathered in a spirit of prayer and non-violent resistance to the destruction of our homeland and culture. We came together with our ceremonies, songs and drums. Weapons are not allowed into our camps. The Bundys’ occupation began with threats and guns. It was violent from the outset, and the people they pretended to represent did not even condone it.
Last week we saw how justice works in this country: armed ranchers are treated with compassion and their charges are dropped, while indigenous people are physically attacked and charged with trespassing on our own ancestral lands.
Our resistance has not been met with handshakes.
Both the Bundys and the water protectors at Standing Rock stand for our convictions on what is claimed to be federal land. But that is where reasonable comparisons end. The land they claimed to take back was cleared of our relatives and the buffalo nation so that white ranchers like the Bundys could graze their cattle there.
The Bundys assert a property right which was only made possible through the genocide of indigenous peoples and the continued occupation of our lands by the same government they claim to fight. Their white supremacist ideology is the foundation of the settler state, and their ranching would not be possible without it. Their racist fear blinds them to the fact that they are actually supporting their enemy and fighting themselves.
The Bundy militia were fighting for their right to make money, while we are fighting our children’s rights to clean drinking water.
Our camp reclaims land stolen by the US government in direct violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, which affirmed it as sovereign unceded territory of the Great Sioux Nation.
Right in the path of the Dakota Access pipeline are Sundance grounds and village sites, held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne. The day after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed papers identifying the burial places of our ancestors, Dakota Access intentionally destroyed them to avoid federal regulation. Would you stand by as bulldozers drove through the National Cemetery at Arlington?
Erasing our footprint from the world erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end; it is that simple. If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?
As indigenous people, we know these attempts to erase us very well, and one of the ways it works is through environmental racism. Indigenous lands across the country are the sites of nuclear waste dumping, toxic mining operations, oil and gas drilling and a long list of other harmful environmental practices, but see very little benefit from these projects. We live in the sacrifice zones. And that is the story here too – the Dakota Access pipeline was rerouted from north of Bismarck, a mostly white community, out of concerns for their drinking water, but then redirected to ours. They consider our community “expendable”.
The national guard and state police have been reinforced by forces from seven other states, to push corporate interests through our home, but together with our relatives, we stand up. We are still here.
We have always welcomed everyone to come stand with us against the injustices of the federal government. Joining forces would be a source of great power – if we stand together to confront racism and destruction of the land. But we will do that with prayer, not guns.
We are the people of this land. We have the roots growing out of our feet. We stand with compassion and prayer. They cannot break us.
Ladonna Bravebull Allard is the founder of the Sacred Stone Camp in Cannonball, North Dakota.
Reprinted “Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd”.