As I wrote last night, I participated in Occupy Seattle, and I continue to occupy in my own ways (this blog among them). I met a lot of different kinds of people, and some of them had extreme ideas that I understood but wasn’t really ready to buy into. Among these were the Anarchists. Now, to start with, I want to clarify that when I say “the Anarchists” I am not lumping anyone together with anyone else, I’m just saying that I met people who self-identified as Anarchists. And I want to make sure you understand that the people who dressed in black and broke windows were almost certainly different “Anarchists” from the ones I’m going to talk about (if the vandals self-identified as Anarchists at all). Like Feminism or any other group, Anarchism doesn’t operate as a unit. There are many shades and definitions. And all that said, I’d have to say that I’m not an Anarchist. Yet.
But that doesn’t matter at all, because people are being imprisoned for the crime of not speaking. In Leah-Lynn Plante’s case, the official charge is “civil contempt,” meaning she didn’t cooperate with the Grand Jury convened to get to the bottom of all her Anarchist literature, artwork, clothing, and beliefs.
Natasha Lennard writes in Salon:
“Writing for Truth-Out in August about the Northwest grand juries and those resisting cooperation, I noted that grand juries “are among the blackest boxes in the federal judiciary system.” The closed-door procedures are rare instances in which an individual loses the right to remain silent. As was the case with the Northwest grand juries resistors, the grand jury can grant a subpoenaed individual personal immunity; Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination are therefore protected, but silence is not. In these instances, refusal to speak can be considered civil contempt. Non-cooperators can be jailed for the 18-month length of the grand jury.”
Watch Leah’s video explaining her position and her readiness to go to prison:
You might not agree with her ideals or her lifestyle, but Leah-Lynn Plante’s only crime is refusal to cooperate with an investigation into those ideals by government she doesn’t recognize as operating in the her best interests or those of her fellow citizens–i.e., Leah is currently imprisoned for remaining silent and will very likely remain incarcerated for the next 18 months. Commenters on various websites miss the point when they ask, “Why not cooperate if you have nothing to hide?” Perhaps it will crystallize when a Grand Jury convenes to investigate their DVD collection.
I’m not an Anarchist, but I believe a person should be charged with a crime before an army of police invades their house and takes their stuff. I believe that a person should be found guilty of a crime before the government imprisons them. And I believe that Leah-Lynne Plante has the right to remain silent.
I’ll leave you with this famous quote from Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.