History venerates activism

By By Jeffrey Jenkins

By Jeffrey Jenkins

Civil disobedience has played a large and often controversial role throughout our nation’s history. The Boston Tea Party, Henry David Thoreau’s famous actions and essay on the subject, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott and other examples have become relics of inspiration that we appeal to when it is necessary to buck the status quo.

We are taught the importance of these various acts of civil disobedience from as early as grade school. However, when the actions took place, they were viewed very differently. The colonists who took part in the Boston Tea Party were dubbed terrorists by the British, and Rosa Parks was arrested by the local police. Given the propensity of the status quo to deprecate those who participate in civil disobedience, it is not surprising to see why Tim DeChristopher’s act of civil disobedience has been blasted by the media.

For those who don’t recognize DeChristopher’s name, perhaps the media reference of “monkey-wrencher” or “bogus bidder” will help you know whom I am talking about. Last week, DeChristopher was indicted with two felony charges. The indictments came after he bid on 13 land parcels that totaled $1.8 million in a Bureau of Land Management auction. Patrick Shea, one of DeChristopher’s attorneys, said the felonies arose from a false statement made to a federal official and lying to a federal official. Shea believes that the manner in which DeChristopher went about his act of civil disobedience is completely within his constitutional rights. Brett Tolman, the prosecutor, obviously believes otherwise, but declined to comment regarding the issue.

The FBI has attributed more than $100 million worth of property damage to eco-terrorists since 2003 and considers them one of the most potent domestic threats. It is a given that when protest erodes into mindless violence, it defeats the protesters’ purpose and credibility. A single individual acting out of personal concern for the environment in an appropriate manner should be considered a welcomed change to the hapless destruction that many environmentalists and animal rights activists are engaging in.

Shea was quick to point out that DeChristopher’s actions resulted in no property damage. In addition, DeChristopher has been exceedingly candid by explaining to the media why he took the action he did. He has not attempted to shy away from his decision, downplay his intentions or run from the possible consequences. Granted, making a false statement and lying to a federal official are illegal. However, so was throwing British tea in a harbor and so is trespassing for the sake of nonviolent protest. Often, the only way in which an individual or a group can focus the attention of the public and government on an issue is to participate in civil disobedience.

An act of civil disobedience that is appropriate and harmless should never be, but often is at first, viewed as unbecoming behavior. However, hindsight is always 20/20, which is why we venerate the colonists of Boston and have dubbed Parks the matriarch of the Civil Rights Movement. The actions of DeChristopher were nonviolent, nondestructive and in no way threatening to the BLM. The actions were a benign and appropriate act of civil disobedience to draw attention to a marginalized issue.

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Jeffrey Jenkins