Jessica L. West *
Sometimes dramatic, sometimes mundane, acts of civil disobedience bring attention to issues that have recently included climate change, policing, and high school closings. In the United States, we are surrounded by protest. The stories of these protests capture deep aspects of the human experience and our relationship to government power. These stories often involve a confrontation between the protester and the law. Popular media is full of stories of protesters who have stepped over the law: the news article regarding a nun who served seven years in federal prison for pouring a vial of human blood on a Trident missile silo; the movie about an environmental protester who broke up a federal lease auction; the business journal report on the $20 million cost to the city of Baltimore for the police overtime and cleanup as a result of protests.
* Associate Professor of Law, Vermont Law School. This article is dedicated to members of the generations on either side of me: my parents and my children. Vocal anti-war and civil rights activists, my parents’ activities etched into my young mind the power of protest. My children, Anaya West and Chloe West, themselves activists with a strong sense of justice, give me hope for the future.
. See, e.g., Sarah Berger, Ferguson Protests Arrests: Cornel West, DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie and Osagyefo Sekou Arrested In St. Louis, Int’l Bus. Times *Aug. 10, 2015, 4:29 PM), http://www.ibtimes.com/ferguson-protests-arrests-cornel-west-deray-mckesson-johnetta-elzie-osagyefo-sekou-2047082; Hal Burton, Shell Icebreaker Moves Out as Protesters in Portland Dangle From Bridge to Block It, Seattle Times (July 30, 2015, 7:27 AM), http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/protesters-in-portland-rappel-off-bridge-to-block-shell-icebreaker; Lauren Fitzpatrick, Dyett High School Supporters Arrested After City Hall Sit-In, Chi. Sun-Times (July 29, 2015, 11:02 AM), http://chicago.sun times.com/news/7/71/833430/dyett-high-school-supporters-arrested-city-hall-sit-in.
. See Andy Merrifield, The Enigma of Revolt: Militant Politics in a Post-Political Age, in The Post-Political and Its Discontents: Spaces of Depoliticisation, Spectres of Radical Politics 279, 290 (Japhy Wilson & Eric Swyngedouw eds., 2014) (“Perhaps it’s possible to draw up a list of ‘archetypes of dissent’ . . . that symbolise . . . some innate disposition to make trouble, to dissent and protest, to revolt against the structures of modern power . . . .”).
. See Linda Stasi, Exclusive: 84-Year-Old Activist Nun Imprisoned in Brooklyn Jail Hellhole for Breaking into Nuclear Facility, Exposing Security Flaws, N.Y. Daily News (Jan. 19, 2015, 2:30 AM), http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/exclusive-nun-84-brooklyn-jail-hellhole-activism-article-1.2083481.
. Yvonne Wenger, Unrest Will Cost City $20 Million, Officials Estimate, Baltimore Sun (May 26, 2015, 7:11 PM), http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city /bs-md-ci-unrest-cost-20150526-story.html.