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Read more carefully

by Amy L. Dalton Saturday, Aug. 12, 2000 at 6:13 PM

Edison: You are not reading carefully enough. Asia’s letter, which is not intended as a journalistic piece, explains clearly that Terrence, Paul and Kate were arrested “preemptively.” Although I did not write the letter, to me this means that they were walking down the streets at the time of their arrests; they were not engaged in any form of civil disobedience.

She then goes onto say that these three had taken part in previous lockdowns that ACT UP organized. She is presenting this as background so that we understand that these were politically motivated, preemptive arrests. She is not equating “walking down the street” with “lockdowns.” She is rather clarifying that these people were arrested because they had, in the past, expressed their views through non-violent civil disobedience and it was therefore surmised that they must be planning similar activities currently.

I would assume that all three were arrested during this previous incident. Most practicioners of civil disobedience understand very clearly that they are breaking laws. That is what civil disobedience is about: placing your body non-violently in the way of an institution you find oppressive. It is quite a statement that you make: that it is reasonable for these people to be rounded up after the fact in order to prevent them from engaging in further action. Perhaps that is not what you meant to say, but it is what comes across.

Asia's letter does equate “lockdowns” with “nonviolent direct action.” This is not naivete; it is a particular and powerful philosophical position. Given that you say you partially agree with Kate’s tactics, I would encourage you to think twice before you name such an assertion a “bias.” Perhaps there is a standard of pure truth, but most likely every way of looking at an event utilizes particular lenses. These "lenses" (or "biases" if you will) are only problems when they are not owned up to. The problem with corporate media is that they pretend they do not have a bias. This is the insidiousness that media activists need to counter.

Asia is up front about her proclivities, and eloquently so:

“Direct action results in major shifts in the terms of debate, in favor of people with AIDS. So when public officials equate blocking traffic, clogging transportation routes, blocking hotel entrances, and stopping business as usual with "terrorism," "rioting," and "conspiracy," we must fight back. In the history of the AIDS crisis, and the history of the queer liberation movement, we have never won anything by asking. Every positive advance has been the result of struggle. But the tools of struggle and resistance are being taken from our hands.”

Since you are concerned that this philosophical position will appear "irrational" or "extreme" "to the mundane world," I would suggest that you spend more time interpreting it to that world, rather than attacking it for all to see.

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