THE UNIVERSITY JUSTLY arrested protesters outside the Fogg last Friday evening. These protesters obstructed freedom of movement and violated trespassing laws. Consequently they deserve to be prosecuted.
Mr. Graham is correct to point out the illegality of the protesters' actions, but the real issue is whether they are justifiable as civil disobedience. The doctrine of civil disobedience does permit the use of extra-legal means to accomplish praiseworthy ends, but the protesters in question have crossed accepted bounds. Only peaceful forms of protest which break no laws, or those that break immoral laws are justifiable. These protesters, however, clearly broke laws of crucial value, as a ploy to get publicity.
The majority opinion and Mr Graham's dissent do demonstrate that the extreme measures to which the protesters have been driven is indicative of a larger problem--the lack of real student input into important University decisions. The Corporation's high-handed closed-door governance has caused the divestiture debate to degenerate to the level of this recent protest.
Despite this degeneration some level-headedness remains. As a testimony to rationality the Undergraduate Council, the Southern Africa Solidarity Committee(SASC) and a host of other organizations and individual students sent letters to the Corporation urging a meeting between the seven-member body and students. Even though the request was refused, the negative publicity desired by the activists was generated using wholly legal means.
Although the actions of the protesters are understandable in light of Corporation apathy, I cannot support their violation of the rights of innocent people in the name of the greater good. But I cannot go as far as Mr Graham in categorically condemning any actions of civil disobedience. In this specific instance the protesters were wrong, but that does not mean that all acts of civil disobedience are unjustifiable. If the goal is for the University to divest completely, then activists should choose forms of protest both more expedient and more justifiable than trespass or illegal restraint to accomplish it.