"There are means that cannot be excused. And I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don’t want just any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive.” - Albert Camus, in Resistance, Rebellion and Death
I spent most of today researching the extent to which the First Amendment protects the right to sleep or camp in a public park as a form of political protest. I did it to help the people who have taken to the streets and parks to call attention to economic injustice. I also did it because it is what I went to law school to do, to stand in the corner of people, like retired Philadelphia police Captain Ray Lewis, who donned his uniform and took a stand alongside the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators so he could speak his truth to power.
I spent other parts of today watching news reports and videos of police response to Occupy protests nationwide. I saw the photo of a Portland police officer spraying a protestor with pepper spray in the face at close range. I watched the video of police pepper-spraying a group of U.C. Davis students sitting with their arms locked on a sidewalk. And this reminded me of all the things that frustrate me about the law. Because I know that police use of pepper spray on nonviolent protesters engaged in civil disobedience violates the Fourth Amendment. I know it because the Ninth Circuit said so over ten years ago. But police continue to violate the law because it takes time, both from courageous plaintiffs and dedicated lawyers, to see that the law is enforced. And even then, the enforcement is an after-the-fact effort to redress the harm, often by the payment of money, and this is sadly cold comfort to the people who are out there protesting in the streets right now.
I am now spending the remains of the day reflecting on public perception of lawyers, who, perhaps justifiably, are readily identified as part of the one percent, or at least among those who serve the interests of the one percent. Most of the lawyers I know, however, work daily, diligently, constantly fighting unsung battles serving the indigent, the incarcerated, the underprivileged. I am heartened to know them. And this is enough, in the end, to keep me working, and writing, and hoping for a future that is more just.