Don't just stand there: Get arrested

  • Cartoon of Monopoly board custom-made for Cove-Mallard

    Diane Sylvain
 

Everybody's doing it - the Audubon Society's Brock Evans, former Indiana congressman Jim Jontz, the Sierra Club's Charlie Ogle - all going to jail for trees and to stop salvage sales. Getting handcuffed and treated roughly by gendarmes. Paying a new, for them, sort of dues.

Since our travels around the West put us in contact with many people expressing interest in the time-honored tradition of nonviolent civil resistance, we thought a citizen's guide might be useful. You could call us experts - we get sent to jail regularly - and since not a lot happens while doing time, we had lots of it to come up with tips:

* First, divest yourself of all worldly possessions. This is to ensure that any lawsuits instituted against you by timber or road-building companies result in hollow victories. Giving all your stuff away is a relatively simple process once you put your mind to it, and your friends will enjoy the windfall, at least until they decide it's their turn to do the same. The toughest items to give away, if you're anywhere in the middle or upper classes, are your television sets. Everybody already owns three.

* Clip your finger and toe nails the day before the bust. In jail, they won't give you clippers or scissors. Suicide watch, we guess, although we can't picture how you could kill yourself with a nail clipper. Really slowly, we presume.

* Always put your hands behind your back with the wrists slightly apart. This may force the cop to cuff you loosely, thus keeping the circulation flowing. If he or she offers to "double lock" them, say yes. It's not concern about your breaking free; other cuffs automatically tighten as you squirm around in the squad car or wagon.

* Dress warmly, as you may be chained to a tree for hours while someone figures out what to do with you. Better yet, get busted with Idaho activist Mike Roselle, and stay behind him; he is such an exceptionally large, charismatic megafauna that he keeps down the wind-chill factor.

* It sometimes lowers the tension if you or your supporters bring coffee and donuts for the police. But don't drink any yourself because ...

* ... you'll have to relieve yourself, and you may be chained with your arms around that tree. Best bet: go before the action, don't drink fluids during the action, and wear Depends, just in case.

* Choose your law-enforcement jurisdiction carefully if you think you're going to be in for a while. California, especially Marin County, offers fairly tasty vegetarian fare, and some rural Idaho lock-ups serve fresh game, although we suspect it's roadkill. Others may offer the ubiquitous baloney and mayo on white bread. They may remove the baloney if you swear you're a Hindu.

* Resist the temptation to go on a hunger strike; nobody cares. This is America, the land of plenty, and everyone will think you're nuts for not eating free food, even if it's the baloney sandwich.

* Tell your loved ones that the only phone calls allowed in jails are outgoing calls, and must be made on their nickel. And no, you can't phone for a pizza.

* Finally, never, EVER, call cops "fuzz." Trust us on this one.

If you read High Country News with any regularity, you know that there is no shortage of venues from which to choose a maiden voyage into the world of non-violent resistance. Cove/Mallard in central Idaho. The Redwoods in the Headwaters Forest in California. Any salvage sale, as well as other varieties of "lawless logging." Grazing allotments. Cyanide-leaching gold mines. Pick your best shot and join or form a like-minded group - there definitely is safety in numbers. But don't go to jail on a Friday - you'll look at bars all weekend until court opens and it's a media black hole.

After the ordeal is over and you've been tried, convicted and sentenced, keep in mind that the second time will be easier. Also the third, fourth, etc. Remember, civil disobedience is like sex: if you can remember the number of times you've done it, you haven't done it enough times!

Robert Amon can be reached at the Cove-Mallard Coalition, Box 8968, Moscow, ID 83843 (208/882-9755). Mike Roselle lives at 127 E. Main, Missoula, MT 59802 (406/543-4765).

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