The Cove Mallard Coalition is now in its fourth year of a nonviolent resistance effort to save the largest remaining unroaded wilderness in the continental United States. It is a campaign like many other nonviolent civil disobedience campaigns of recent years. Or was meant to be. But as the national climate of violence, demonizing and scapegoating grows uglier and as our national fears lead to the panicked reactions that produce an anti-terrorist bill that suspends the Bill of Rights, Cove Mallard becomes a warning of the future we face.
When did this last happen to your affinity group? You leave the courthouse after a trial and proceed to your vehicle, which is parked across the street, to discover your lug nuts and your axle have been loosened?
In some campaigns, civil disobedience has become almost choreographed, but now many of us find our partners arrive in spikes and brass knuckles. A tree sitter clings to his platform for dear life as angry workers, inflamed by the propaganda barrage of federal agencies and industry barons, partially dig up the roots of his tree unimpeded by the federal officers who just minutes before were harassing activists camped in legal areas. When was your life so graphically threatened for a first amendment act?
The polite veneer is being stripped away from traditional acts of nonviolence. A man lies on the floor of a government office and is arrested. He is brought into a county jail alongside suspected murderers who are in handcuffs. He is wearing handcuffs, a waist chain and leg manacles and has a federal agent holding him by each shoulder.
American government listens and responds to the violent minority and
adopts its tactics. Nonviolent civil disobedience
is denied its legitimacy and marginalized, demonized or brutalized. This attitude spills over into the justice system, where civil disobedience is no longer acknowledged in many courtrooms.
Our society has taken a giant step backwards. It can't happen here? It won't happen again? Two arrestees enter a jail cell. Their cellmates have been prepared for this event by the jailer. The men are greeted with epithets and assured that their skulls will be split open by morning. They had occupied a Forest Service office.
Local prejudice, inflammatory rhetoric, refusal of service (to the point of
being denied a Post Office box for land that is inhabited and on the tax rolls),
police brutality, inability to have verbal or written dialogue with government
agencies are all par for the dissident course. But the climate is changing. The face of
the future is forming before us and it is chains and mobs and throwing
Christians to lions. Take each of these seemingly innocuous or 'normal'
harassments and follow it to its logical
conclusion. And before you challenge what is
logical about the conclusions I may be drawing, place them in the context of the
international scene over the past decade. There is a pattern of general collapse of the
will of the individual to oppose the Bosnias, Rwandas and Sri Lankas of our
day. Never again? Constantly. Ignore this sit
uation, which is middle class and in our own back yard, and you set in motion the political and moral glaucoma that will cloud our vision to the point of blindness.
If this is happening to you, it isn't being covered any better than we are. If not this may be your future. Whatever the traffic will bear here in Idaho, it will bear in your neighborhood. We call upon every reader of this document to take a specific action. If your story is like ours let us know; we will help get the word out and share our contacts with you. If you are a believer in and a worker for human rights defend us in the struggle in whatever way you can. Let our judges know the power and legitimacy of civil disobedience. Let your Congresspeople (or fellow Congresspeople) know the dangers of the anti-terrorist bill. To stand beside us is to stand up for yourself.
Twelve Cove-Mallard defendants were convicted in October. Ten were sentenced to seven days in jail and $500 fines. One woman was sentenced to fifteen days and another woman, twenty days.
Cove Mallard Coalition
P.O. Box 8968,
Moscow, ID 83843,
Ph (208) 882-9755.
From: The Nuclear Resister, no. 103, December 5, 1995. For contact information, see Confessions of a Semi-Supporter in this issue.