If you follow me on Twitter you might have read that I was detained by police Thursday.
The place was the 2012 Obama For America Headquarters at 2406 Manor Road in Austin, Texas. The same building also houses the Obama Store, where loyal Obama voters can buy yard signs, caps, posters, and “trinkets” showing their support for the re-election of our President. Activists from Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK and Occupy Austin gathered to show support for B Manning, the whistleblower who faces potential life imprisonment for leaking documents about United States manipulation of world governments and the murder of civilians. This ‘#Vets4Brad’ protest has been ongoing but flared in several cities on September 6 to coincide with the Democratic Party nomination.
Though one goal of the protest was to deliver a letter about Manning’s treatment and ask that it be faxed to the White House, Obama campaign staffers locked their doors and refused to allow entry to anyone they didn’t recognize. The protest was completely nonviolent, chanting and holding signs. I began chalking ‘FREE BRADLEY MANNING NOW‘ in the parking lot and on the steps of the headquarters using the same temporary sidewalk chalk we always use.
Since we couldn’t deliver the letter through the front door, #OATX livestreamer Corey and I began walking around the building, approaching the door of the Obama Store along the side. It was locked. When I looked inside, I saw a man standing there and I smiled and waved. As we left the door, the man came out. ‘You have to leave the property!’ he told us angrily.
Since we couldn’t deliver the letter, I pulled out a piece of chalk and wrote our demand on the pavement again. ‘Show some respect!’ he yelled. I told him to show respect for an American hero who has become a political prisoner. He went back inside the store while I continued chalking. After a while, I rejoined the protesters holding banners and signs on the sidewalk.
That’s when the police arrived and detained me temporarily. As I was detained, I was able to set off my I’m Getting Arrested app for android, alerting friends to my detainment (and setting off a rather flattering explosion of concerned tweets).
Here’s a video of two Austin Police officers explaining how my chalking made Obama’s employees fear for their safety:
Of course I’ve written before how, abruptly, chalking has become a serious crime when used for dissent. It’s true that I could have deescalated the situation by leaving instead of chalking, but I was angry. This may be ‘private property’ of Obama, but Obama is our public servant. He works for us — at least that’s the mythology. Anyone who has been involved in Occupy or other radical activism recently knows this is a lie — he works for the same corporate masters as Romney and he’s just as eager to further dismantle social services.
Neither chalk, nor our attempts to deliver a letter, nor our sign waving and literal whistle blowing threatened the safety of Obama’s campaign staff and salespeople. What it threatened was the ability for the Obama store to turn a profit on mass-produced crap mostly destined for landfills come January 2013. It threatened the ability of liberals to march in lockstep to the polls in November, holding their nose while they vote for Obama.
Even small, temporary acts of dissent threaten the status quo. On the way home, I bought more chalk.