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DeChristopher first on the dance floor

by Jesse Fruhwirth
- Posted // 2011-03-03 -

One Utahn who supports Tim DeChristopher argues Bidder #70 had to be convicted.

Curtis Haring writes the Blue in Red Zion blog and is the former executive director of Utah Fair Boundaries, the anti-gerrymandering organization. He writes that DeChristopher needs to be convicted in order for his action to have the intended impact, but more than that, he writes that DeChristopher must be jailed for the maximum effect.

Many have been shouting to “free Tim” but to do so would diminish his actions. An acquittal, in the eyes of most, will result in two things: first people will feel that DeChristopher got away with something (diminishing the impact of what he actually did) and second, they will promptly forget about the entire incident. Put simply, without a guilty verdict the issue is closed.

A guilty verdict, however, changes things. Suddenly a debate is solidified around his actions. Many won’t change their opinion of the issue of gas and oil sales (if they ever had any) but some will – people who have never considered the issue important enough to hit their radar until, quite by surprise, they realize that someone has gone to prison for questioning such land sales.

If actions take place without consequences, only those who are already aware of the situation will care about what is going on. Once someone is jailed for their actions, it forces the larger society to reflect on the true justice of the situation, as well as the overarching reasons why a person did what they did.

Italics mine.

I think Haring is right about this. I've heard suggestions that if DeChristopher were acquitted that perhaps a groundswell of monkey wrencher/culture jammer/civil disobeyers would be emboldened to commit their own legally questionable acts with less fear of prosecution. Meh. Maybe. I doubt it.

A DeChristopher critic said in court the other day that he hopes DeChristopher is not jailed because DeChristopher's letters-from-jail to the supporters would further solidify his status as a martyr/political prisoner. Meh. Maybe. I think that's more likely than the other scenario.

But, really, DeChristopher is just one guy, folks. People forget that Rosa Parks--Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary compared the two--was just one of several bus sitters. As she sat down on the bus, others were civilly disobeying by sitting down at white-only lunch counters, while others were boycotting racist bus companies and others were on Freedom Rides.

To me, the difference between DeChristopher and Parks is their peers, their context. I know a lot of people scoffed--albeit only on Twitter where the stakes are low--at the comparison to Rosa Parks, but Parks was, in a sense, late to the party--many others did similarly risky things, indeed, others did basically the exact same thing she did before her. As far as climate change activists, DeChristopher is pretty much the first one on the dance floor with his sabotage of the oil and gas lease auction. Will he be the last?

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