[NFB-Talk] civil disobedience question

Jack Heim john at johnheim.com
Mon Jan 13 18:40:06 UTC 2020

Steve, you crazy old radical you! Who would have thunk it?

I have to say though, I think if you came on this list and asked for 
support because you had held up an airline flight by refusing to change 
seats, you would not get much of it on this list.  Maybe you'd get some 
because people know you.

On 1/13/20 12:11 PM, Steve Jacobson via nFB-Talk wrote:
> Chris,
> While participating in civil disobedience is a personal decision, I do not think one should give it a blanket label as not being appropriate.  The action that one takes is going to depend a great deal upon what progress is being made and the specific issue involved.
> I was arrested many years ago for refusing to move from a seat in an exit row on an airplane.  It was most certainly civil disobedience because I didn't just do what the airline and eventually the police asked me to do, but from my perspective, there was no law or clear regulation at the time that required me to move, just the whim of the airline.  Therefore, I was comfortable with my action.  We were charged with disorderly conduct since there was no law that fit more exactly, and a jury found us innocent of those charges.  In that particular case, whether I was participating in civil disobedience is somewhat dependent upon one's perspective.
> In another case, a local amusement park had a regulation that any blind person had to be accompanied on a number of their rides by a responsible adult.  The responsible adult was defined as someone who was sighted and more than a specified height.  There was no age requirement, and in one case, a nine-year-old daughter was designated as the responsible adult for her father.  Some of us went to that amusement park and after waiting our turn, occupied a few cars on one of the roller-coaster style ride that had such a requirement.  In that case, I again did not feel that we were likely violating any actual law, but we were clearly violating the amusement park's rules.  I felt the violation was justified, though, and the statement was worth making.  Our action generated very good news coverage that would not have occurred without such an action, so it was a useful tool.  We did eventually ride without being assigned a responsible adult, and the policy was eventually modified.
> Beyond all of that, though, it is pretty hard for me to be critical of people who participated in violating laws that had been in place for a century or more that were unconstitutional.  There are times when civil disobedience has actually had public support.  Still, I think the smart thing is always to analyze what will be gained or lost when planning an activity that includes some form of civil disobedience, but I really don't think one should rule out civil disobedience as a valid tool for making changes.  One needs to be smart about it.  I can't say how I would feel about the actions you are describing without more specifics, but people sometimes forget that the Boston Tea Party that is celebrated in our history was clearly civil disobedience and even involved the destruction of property.
> Best regards,
> Steve Jacobson
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nFB-Talk <nfb-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Chris Westbrook via nFB-Talk
> Sent: Monday, January 13, 2020 9:10 AM
> To: NFB Talk Mailing List <nfb-talk at nfbnet.org>
> Cc: Chris Westbrook <westbchris at gmail.com>
> Subject: [NFB-Talk] civil disobedience question
> I'm curious to know what my fellow NF members think of something. I am on
> the board of a local organization here (not NFB or blindness related) and
> some people from that organization decided to protest lack of wheelchair
> access by totally disrupting the inauguration ceremony for new politicians,
> to the point where they were arrested and almost charged with disorderly
> conduct etc. As you can imagine this has sparked some controversy. I don't
> want to get in to more detail here as I am on the board and we haven't
> discussed things yet, but i'm just curious if anyone feels such militant
> protests are ever justified? I am inclined to say no and definitely not in
> this specific case for other reasons I won't get into here. This protest
> was apparently enabled/aided by ADAPT which seems to be a very in your face
> organization that is bad news in my opinion. It seems to me that such
> protests can only hurt our cause. I think we must be careful to always
> behave with dignity and be the adults in the room so to speak. Curious what
> you all think.
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