Our Founding Fathers created our government of three co-equal branches: the Legislative branch (Congress) to create the laws of the country, the Judicial branch to interpret the laws, and the Executive branch to enforce the laws. The President of the United States is therefore the Chief Enforcer of the laws of the United States. What do you do when the Chief Enforcer of the laws refuses to enforce the laws “We must look forward, not backward” or, far worse, refuses to enforce the laws only for a tiny percentage, the favored few, but rigorously enforces the laws against the average citizen? There have been zero convictions of rich and powerful criminals in a country that has the highest incarceration rates in the world.
It is this injustice that has spawned the Occupy movement, as average people throughout the country have stood up and protested. The Occupy movement has had good success. They have forced coverage of an issue that the traditional media had preferred to avoid, though that coverage has too often been dismissive. The efforts by the government to quash the Occupy movement has shown us how limited and fragile our liberties are. More surprisingly, and frighteningly, we discovered a militaristic obedience to the State among some citizens, who reacted to Americans exercising the rights with uncalled-for violence. We have seen the videos of police using pepper spray or batons on Americans who are protesting, among other things, Wall Street’s pillaging of police pensions!
So what’s next? What can be done when the power of government is arrayed against you? I propose we turn the power of government around, and use it as the vehicle of our message. I propose we Occupy the Justice System.
We should use the Jury System to voice our discontent. We have a right to a trial by jury, and if the jury were to take the lead of the Chief Enforcer of the United States and decide that we need to look forward, not backward when it comes to petty crimes of average people, then we will have equality under the law, and an unsustainable legal system. For if average Americans are not penalized for non-violent crimes such as speeding tickets, expired licenses, and parking tickets, then that loss of revenue would quickly add up. If a jury were to decide that possession of a small amount of marijuana should go unpunished, then they could state that, yes, we think a law may have been broken, but we need to look forward, not backward. And here’s the powerful part. Almost all juries require unanimous consent for a guilty verdict. It would only take one Occupier on the jury to either secure a “not-guilty” verdict or to deadlock the jury and force a new trial.
I propose that we Occupy the Justice System for the following crimes: parking tickets, expired license fines, possession of small quantities of marijuana, and those who provide and use medical marijuana. We can add to it later to increase the pressure if need be.
The President’s “look forward not backward” is inherently destructive. By Occupying the Justice System we will force a reversal of this fatally-flawed political decision and we should be able to bring justice to bear on the criminals on Wall Street who have for too long acted as if laws are only for the commoners. Jay Gould once famously scoffed, “I can hire half of the working class to kill the other half.” Doesn’t that seem too close a description to our current jury system?
Joe Mullany is the author of ‘In the Shadow of Idols’, a political spy thriller imbued with the hidden effects of privatization and the security state on our individual liberties.