Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Iron Man

Raw report (minimal editing and spellcheck)  from the Casino-Free Philadelphia Trial today. 
All charges dropped. The D.A. was incompetent, our councel, Larry krasner, was super; the  judge seemed to be on our side from the beginning.  I'm exhausted (got up at 5:00 AM). 
A moving experience--this was really quite an extraordinary group of people. (see the bios end of this report: HERE We gathered earlier at the United Methodist Church on North Broad, went around the circle ...  Quaker style, taking turns as the spirit moved us to say something about why we were there. This was covered by the press... most particularly, by CNN, which (as near as I could understand) is preparing to do a piece on the effects of using gambling for revenue... including lotteries. The reporter asked intelligent questions--and seemed particularly interested in what I said about the corrupting power of back door taxation. He pushed this question. Pushed it further. Finally asked, "do you think the system is broken?" 
For a moment I couldn't answer... 'do you want to know what I REALLY think," I asked. "Yes, he said... dead serious, without hesitation. "Don't hold back... is it too late, is the system broken? " I'm so tired I can't remember exactly what I said.. something about how angry I was with Gov. Rendell and the PA Supreme Court... that they were all bought-and-paid-and for, that Mayor Nutter had been blackmailed into giving in to the state because of the economy and the city budget crisis-- or the city wouldn't get the funds we needed to avoid bankruptcy.. He asked again, "is the system broken." I said. "Close, very close--but it’s not broken yet. We're here as proof to that. As long as citizens are not afraid to speak their mind, to stand up and fight for what we believe, there's still hope. " 
The whole case came down to intent. No conspiracy (1st charge) without criminal intent, (2) no disorderly conduct  ... D.A. and  civil affairs cop showed the judge a video of the whole thing. The D.A. at one point wanted to fast-forward and the judge said, "no no, pointing to Jesse Brown (my cell mate), with his black suit and clerical collar-- an image you could imagine in  Life Magazine from the civil rights movement... "No no, I want to see the reverend get arrested!" Says this with devilish smile. Picture this judge... Judge Dugan. Big guy.  Type: working class Irish, pro-labor Democrat(?) 
No one resisted, of course--it was clear (the D.A. went to pains to point this out-- several times she seemed to be on our side!)…  that the cops were the ones blockading the entrance, not us!... "So.. says the Civil Affairs cop who arrested us.. “so  they wouldn't slip through into that huge construction site where we'd have to chase 'em like turkeys."  No disorderly conduct in evidence.  So everything came down to our intent: why were we there? To be arrested? To cause trouble? Or to deliver a clear political message? Our purpose was written on our shirts. "The words," our councel emphasized, "The words on the shirts. The words they were chanting. The words we gave to the press--who we had called, of course.... to make sure our message got to the public. 
The D.A., poor thing, was lost for words. She made a sad effort to find a counter argument... something about, even with legal intent if impinged on the rights of others.. "What rights were being impinged?" The judge asked. "Like at the Republican Convention..." Councel: "Where 400 were arrested and all charges dismissed?" "May I site a relevant case, your Honor?" "Please do." ... she fumbled through her papers... "there was a church.... protesters at a church. And they impinged on the rights of the members of the congregation. They claimed the right to protest... and were found guilty." What were they protesting?" the judge asked. .... she stood there, reading the page she had in hand, searching... searching... 
"Something about bringing them... something about scrap iron ... I think." 
The judge looked at her. Perfect comic timing. 
"I find in favor of councel." Got up and left. 
The courtroom was packed. Had to move to a larger courtroom. 
That's it. 
Now--this CNN piece. This is some kind of feature. Not evening news. Have to keep an eye out for it. Seems to be an issue that's catching on around the country. A city like Detroit--major casinos in the center of the city. 22% unemployment. The revenue they were to bring in? The City of Detroit has had to advance the casinos 3 million to keep them from closing their doors. Lotteries and casinos have reached saturation for their markets—why, then, do they keep being built? This  has become a real question... why do states keep pushing them? Who's getting paid here? Paid off? Casino-Free Philadelphia has been taken up in other cities across the country. The kind of grassroots actions they've been doing here for 6, 7 years is catching on.
 Very moving, humbling... to be a part of this.  
Democracy is up to us!
 For more information, visit Casino-Free Philadelphia

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