Monday, July 16, 2007

Civil Liberties and the 1981 Brink's Case: A 1991 `Downtown' Inquiry--Part 8

Asked by Downtown in 1991 whether she thought the same kind of false arrest and civil liberties violations could happen in the 1990s to any individual political activist, Eve Rosahn answered: “It could absolutely happen again and last much longer.” According to Rosahn, “You have to prove a very high degree of intention” to win a false arrest suit, so it was not too likely that an individual activist who was falsely arrested in the 1990s could win such a lawsuit.

Rosahn remained politically active in the 1990s in support of U.S. political prisoners, worked with the Lesbian and Gay Folks political group and was also a law school student in the early 1990s. [and by the late 1990s, Rosahn was working as a community-service-oriented Movement lawyer]. Asked by Downtown why some activists drop out of politics after they’ve been jailed, but other activists, like her, remain politically involved, Rosahn replied: “I think there’s an experience that is shared by many people. Not only is it difficult or frightening. You can also get through it and come out at the other end much stronger, having been arrested and having survived. Having been on the inside of a legal process, it can also make you want to work harder to support others who have also been victimized by the courts.”

Tipograph still hoped in 1991 that continued public concern in the 1990s over civil liberties violations related to the Brink’s Case would lead to the eventual release of the Brink’s Case defendants, but she noted that “hundreds and thousands of people in New York State and elsewhere” who are also imprisoned, have also received “unjustly excessive” sentences after unfair trials.

Asked by Downtown whether the same kind of media hysteria which helped to violate the civil liberties of the people arrested on October 20, 1981 could also be whipped up in the 1990s in relation to any similar politically-related case, Tipograph replied: “Yes. Look at the media hysteria on Iraq. Without necessarily supporting Saddam Hussein, you would have thought there would have been more concern for the 150,000 Iraqi people killed.” [in the first Gulf War in 1991]

Downtown asked the now-deceased Kunstler in 1991 to compare the atmosphere during the 1969-70 Chicago Conspiracy Trial, after which he was cited for contempt, with the atmosphere after the arrest of the Brink’s Case defendants in 1981.

“Totally different. Most of the Chicago defendants were out on bail and allowed to go out on speaking tours,” Kunstler recalled.

Asked by Downtown why the atmosphere surrounding the 1969-1970 Chicago political trial and the 1981 Brink’s Case trials was so different, Kunstler replied: “They were afraid of revolutionaries. And the fact that in the belly of the beast there were people who believed in armed struggle and who carried guns scared the hell out of them.”

In the 1990s, Gilbert thought that “however we are portrayed in the media—or even however more sincere people might see us and agree or disagree with some of the approaches—the basic social injustices go on. And that’s why they are vaster and more serious than any of these events. And so I think the big issue is people have to say `what are we going to do about these issues of social injustices?’ There are many forms to respond in many ways through struggle. But that struggle has to go on. We can’t just let it be deflected into saying that a handful of people who resisted are this terrible problem and terrible people. Let’s start looking at the nature of State power, police power and how it’s used in this society.”

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt, perhaps the time has now come for a 21st-century amnesty for 1968 Columbia Student Strike Leader Dave Gilbert and all other U.S. political prisoners?
(end of article)

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