Over two million people participated in this past weekend’s March Against Monsanto in 436 cities and 52 countries according to RT.com, but the arrest of one particular activist is among the more surprising developments of the historic wave of demonstrations.
Kryssi Jones, the leader of the protest in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the University of Michigan, was arrested at the tail end of the march she organized and charged with the unauthorized using of a megaphone. While she wasn’t even using a megaphone at the time of her arrest and many others were before, during and after the arrest, she was singled out by police for her earlier use.
She was then hauled away by local police as protesters chanted, “Let her go, let her go!”
Video and a recap of the incident can be found here.
Many fellow activists wondered on the day of the arrest what exactly had happened and why she was singled out, especially because so many of them (myself included) had used the megaphone during the day to chant slogans in support of GMO Freedom as they walked through the downtown Ann Arbor streets.
Police on the scene said that they “couldn’t arrest everyone,” so they handpicked Kryssi, and now she must face a new court date for her actions during the March Against Monsanto rally, actions that many hundreds of fellow activists also took over the course of the day across the world, and actions that are commonplace during protests as they have been for many decades.
March Against Monsanto Sets a Bad Precedent
While it may seem like a minor thing, the March Against Monsanto arrest is just another in a long line of corporate-government establishment abuses against peaceful protesters.
From spying on protesters using all sorts of intrusive technology to arresting them many times without due cause to making them pay exorbitant costs for permits just to exercise their First Amendment rights, these actions add up and have a strong effect on deterring free speech. They are especially repressive in an era when the vast majority of media is completely toothless and spineless when it comes to covering issues such as the ongoing genetic pollution caused by Monsanto and other companies.
The megaphone arrest is a minor one, a misdemeanor charge to be exact, but it’s just another example of the decline of so many American values we’ve fought so hard for over the years. This arrest is particularly surprising considering what a progressive, green and organic-leaning city Ann Arbor is these days.
Activist Urging Support in Courtroom over March Against Monsanto Arrest
According to Kryssi Jones’ Facebook page and chats with her online, her court date is set for June 19 at 10 a.m. She told the many new and old friends on her page that she welcomes a show of support, joking that they shouldn’t bring a megaphone, but urged them to bring more GMO protest-related signs.
She released the following statement after she was let out of a cell she had been held in for a few hours:
“I want to thank EVERYONE for coming out and doing all that you did. In all my years of protesting, even in Portland Oregon, I have NEVER seen so many people come together and do all of this. You have shown not only me your love and support, you have shown the cause. I even got arrested and, I hear, you all took over and made it the best protest many of us have ever attended. It was a beautiful day and you all informed hundreds of people. Last but not least, thank you for the support you showed me for my arrest. You donated to help my new fees and the police even told me I had at least 30 people come to the station to bail me out. All I can say is wow. I am so humbled. You all are the most amazing group of people. I am truly blessed.”
She also cleared up a misconception that the arrest was over a lack of a permit during the march. She said she had tried to secure a permit well in advance but was denied the night before, and decided to go ahead with the march anyway. The lack of a permit was not the cause for the arrest, however, as use had occurred prior to arrival at the park area where the final stage of the march was held.
Funds raised toward paying the high cost ($1600) of the proposed permit were used to help pay the fines accrued. Two others were ticketed, she said, during the protest.
According to the ordinance that led to the March Against Monsanto arrest, “The operation or use between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. of any loudspeaker, sound amplifier, public address system or similar device used to amplify sounds” is prohibited.
It also later says “The use of any drums, loud speakers, musical devices or other instruments or devices for the purpose of attracting attention by the creation of noise to any performance, show or sale or display of merchandise.”
That last clause makes it sound as if the ordinance is based more on shows and entertainment events than protests and the right to peaceably assemble, but time will tell how this will factor into her court case.
As Jones later wrote on her Facebook in response to a commenter who noted that alarms, bells and similar devices are allowed to alert persons “to the existence of an emergency, danger or attempted crime,” the constant pollution and damage done by Monsanto could well qualify.
The next March Against Monsanto is scheduled to occur on October 12, 2013, also known as World Food Day.