activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: fitzgerald scott

red river showdown: activist temporarily stops construction of tar sands pipeline

An activist locked his arm in a concrete capsule buried in the path of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline earlier today, stopping construction for at least two hours. Firefighters extracted him and he is now in police custody. According to Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance,

Fitzgerald Scott, 42, is the first African American to risk arrest while physically blockading TransCanada’s dangerous tar sands pipeline, and the second person to take action this week. … This week of action, called the “Red River Showdown,” is intended to protect the Red River, which marks the border between Oklahoma and Texas and is a major tributary of the Mississippi.

On January 20, 2012, Scott was arrested for wearing a jacket bearing the phrase “Occupy Everywhere” in the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. After the U.S. Attorney’s office dismissed the charge, Scott’s attorney, Jeff Light, filed a false arrest lawsuit on his behalf. For the past five months, Scott has been organizing against the Keystone XL pipeline and has met many people who are struggling to protect their homes from eminent domain. Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance promises that the direct action campaign against the pipeline will continue:

As construction on the southern portion of Keystone XL nears two thirds completion, no regulators or politicians show any willingness to halt the project… According to George Daniel, spokesperson for Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, “Scott’s action sends a clear message: because every other avenue has failed to stop this deadly project, we will blockade – all summer and on into the fall, if that’s what it takes.”

lawsuit filed regarding arrest for ‘occupy everywhere’ jacket

On January 20, 2012, Florida resident Fitzgerald Scott was arrested for wearing a jacket bearing the phrase “Occupy Everywhere” in the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Attorney’s office later dismissed the charge. On Wednesday, attorney Jeff Light filed a false arrest lawsuit on Scott’s behalf.

As in Cohen v. California (1971), Scott’s arrest was based solely on speech. In Cohen, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Paul Cohen’s conviction for wearing a jacket bearing the words “Fuck the Draft” in the Los Angeles County Courthouse in April 1968. It was the alleged offensiveness of the specific words he used, not the message itself, on which his conviction rested before its reversal. According to the majority opinion, “the State certainly lacks power to punish Cohen for the underlying content of the message the inscription conveyed.”

In Scott’s case, there’s nothing offensive about the “Occupy Everywhere” inscription. Even had there been, the Cohen opinion made clear that “we cannot … forbid particular words without also running a substantial risk of suppressing ideas in the process.” In other words, Scott’s arrest was illegal.