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Crimes of Dissent: Civil Disobedience, Criminal Justice, and the Politics of Conscience

Jarret S. Lovell
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Crimes of Dissent
    Book Description:

    From animal rights to anti-abortion, from tax resistance to anti-poverty, activists from across the political spectrum often deliberately break the law to further their causes. While not behaviors common to hardened or self-seeking criminals, the staging of civil disobedience, non-violent resistance, and direct action can nevertheless trigger a harsh response from law enforcement, with those arrested risking jail time and criminal records. Crimes of Dissent features the voices of these activists, presenting a fascinating insider's look at the motivations, costs and consequences of deliberately violating the law as a strategy of social change.Crimes of Dissent provides readers with an in-depth understanding of why activists break the law, and what happens to them when they do. Using dynamic examples, both historic and recent, Jarret Lovell explores how seasoned protesters are handled and treated by the criminal justice system, shedding light on the intersection between the political and the criminal. By adopting the unique vantage of the street-level activist, Crimes of Dissent provides a fascinating view of protest from the ground, giving voice to those who refuse to remain silent by risking punishment for their political actions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5347-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 Crime and Dissent
    (pp. 1-30)

    This book is about political dissent that tiptoes gingerly over the demarcation between legality and criminality. It tells the story of the homeless who staged a sit-in at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and converted the headquarters into their home until they were carried away in handcuffs by police. It highlights the war tax resister who has withheld some seventy thousand dollars in federal taxes in opposition to the military budget. Although this man has never been arrested on charges of tax evasion, he has been arrested for advocating tax resistance in the lobby of the Internal...

  6. 2 Society and Its Discontents
    (pp. 31-64)

    That the tens of thousands of people who protested the WTO in Seattle comprised a mix of anarchists, machinists, environmentalists, and steelworkers was inevitable. By the end of the millennium, the totality of effects wrought by globalization was felt by a wide swath of the public. People upset about the outsourcing of jobs and environmental degradation now had a common enemy, and they were vocal about the lack of generic pharmaceuticals on the international market or the privatization of water and other natural resources. The problem, as many people saw it, was that corporations were expanding their influence into virtually...

  7. 3 Dissent as “Pure” Crime
    (pp. 65-102)

    In socially diverse and highly industrialized settings where a political consensus is difficult to achieve, individuals unrepresented by a political majority must choose between compromise and conformity on the one hand and resistance and rebellion on the other.Crimes of dissentembody strategies through which political resistance can be manifested. Collectively, the crimes serve as open challenges to the laws and practices of the prevailing political climate. To that end, the acts are often staged to trigger a response from the justice system so that the people dissenting have access to a public forum where they can challenge the legitimacy...

  8. 4 Policing Dissent
    (pp. 103-138)

    The location was Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s historic municipal airport, which first opened for business in 1931. Located at the southeastern end of Brooklyn, it is named for the aviator who flew Admiral Byrd across the North Pole in 1926. Because of its long runways and agreeable weather conditions, the airport quickly became popular among pilots who sought to establish speed and distance records. Although it never became a commercial success, in its prime the airfield ushered in the aviation era by hosting visits from such pilots as Howard Hughes and Amelia Earhart. Today, with over twenty-five species...

  9. 5 Working the System
    (pp. 139-174)

    They called it “Guantánamo on the Hudson,” but on any given day Pier 57 was an otherwise nondescript three-story building located along New York City’s West Side. Extending some seven hundred feet into the murky Hudson River, the facility normally served as a parking garage for the buses of New York’s public transit system. Yet just as Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field functioned as a counterprotest training camp during the 2004 Republican National Convention (RNC), Pier 57 was likewise converted into a large makeshift detention center whose sole purpose was to house individuals arrested for protesting the policies of the Republican...

  10. 6 The Impact of Dissent
    (pp. 175-206)

    Sent to the activist group the Honeywell Project in the summer of 1984, the letter represents a small success in a decades-long campaign to end war profiteering, or the practice wherein businesses capitalize on international conflict by selling the tools and services that make war easier to wage. In the letter, the employee describes his work at Honeywell as having been that of a “weapons promoter.” More specifically, his job was to create advertisements, video tapes, brochures, and other materials that hype Honeywell’s line of munitions to the Pentagon and to others in the international arms market. Always careful to...

  11. Appendix: Activist Profiles
    (pp. 207-214)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 215-230)
  13. Index
    (pp. 231-238)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 239-239)