St. Petersburg, FL -- With the May Day arrests of at least 116 people at Occupy protests around the country, there have now been a minimum of 7,106 Occupy arrests in 114 cities across the United States since the Occupy movement began in New York on September 17, 2011.
Though the frequency of arrests has slowed in 2012, there have been at least 1,200 people arrested for being involved in Occupy-related events since the start of the year. Large cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. are where the highest concentration of the arrests have taken place, but arrests are occurring all around the country, as evidenced by occupiers being arrested in 22 different cities in the past two months.
"The piling on of Occupy arrests can be seen as a barometer of this government's intolerance for the First Amendment. Aggressive policing tactics, including frequent gratuitous assaults on protesters and bystanders, are making our parks and streets hostile to the Constitution," says Heidi Boghosian, director of the National Lawyers Guild and author of the forthcoming book, "Spying on Democracy, Protest and Dissent in the New Era of Government Surveillance." The National Lawyers Guild monitors Occupy protests and has offered pro-bono legal assistance to thousands of ordinary Americans who have been swept up in arrests.
According to web sites maintained by Occupy movement organizers, many more major actions are being planned for 2012, including protests focusing on US meetings of NATO and the G8. Civil disobedience seems to be a continued aspect of Occupy strategy.
Despite use of mass arrests, pepper spray, stun grenades, many Americans report being inspired, not deterred from the experience of being arrested while participating in Occupy actions. "Civil disobedience plays a key role throughout U.S. history; the colonists disobeyed the Crown, the abolitionists disobeyed enslavers, the Black Freedom movement resisted segregation. Today, we look at our arrests the way Henry David Thoreau looked at his. When his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson walked by and saw him in jail for protesting the US War against Mexico, Emerson asked, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau answered, "Ralph, what are you doing out there?' Once you become aware of the indignity, predation, and violence being perpetrated by the US political, economic, and surveillance system against peopel and communities here, how can you not speak out, organize and disobey, as did Thoreau and Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King?" asks Greg Ruggiero, a publisher and parent who was arrested with 700 others on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011, during an Occupy march, and whose experience motivated him to begin a publishing project, Zuccotti Park Press, to defend and advance Free Speech from encroachment by corporations and government.
"The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, so it's not surprising that so many people are being arrested for speaking up, but it is still quite disturbing" according to Marianne Huber, spokesperson for St. Pete for Peace.
OccupyArrests.com, a project of St. Pete for Peace, has been tracking these arrests and lists each chronologically, including number arrested, location, a brief description and links to source documentation.
The total number of arrests is conservatively derived, including only those instances in which at least two credible and consistent sources are found. Many additional arrests are often reported.
For more information, please visit http://occupyarrests.com.
Chris Ernesto is co-founder of St. Pete for Peace, an antiwar organization in St. Petersburg, FL that has been active since 2003. Mr. Ernesto also created and manages OccupyArrests.com and USinAfrica.com. Mr. Ernesto received his bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of California, Davis and his master's degree in Applied Statistics from the University of Alabama.