"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Monday, September 17, 2012

Jail no Bail -- the pros and cons of the tactic

From India/Real Time

Although the Bombay High Court granted him bail Tuesday, Mr. Trivedi refused to exit prison demanding that sedition charges against him be dropped, according to Alok Dixit, a close aide and business partner of the free speech activist.

From India/RealTime (A WSJ publication?)

Mr. Trivedi’s detention sparked outrage among many in India. Markandey Katju, head of the Press Council of India, the country’s main media self-regulatory body, spoke out strongly against Mr. Trivedi’s detention, arguing it is illegal.

One of the most important strategic developments during the Southern Freedom Movement was the idea of "jail not bail."  As Bruce Hartford explains on the Timeline:

At the October 1960 SNCC strategy conference in Atlanta, some activists argue for "Jail-No-Bail" tactics. They take a Gandhian position that paying bail or fines indicates acceptance of an immoral system and validates their own arrests. And by serving their sentences, they dramatize the injustice, intensify the struggle, and gain additional media coverage. There is also a practical component to "Jail-No-Bail." The Movement has little money and most southern Blacks are poor. It is hard to scrape up bail money, and sit-in struggles are faltering — not from lack of volunteers to risk arrest — but from lack of money to bail them out. Moreover, paying fines provides the cops with financial resources that are then used to continue suppressing the freedom struggle. By refusing bail, they render meaningless the no-money-for-bail barrier and by serving time they put financial pressure on local authorities who have to pay the costs of incarcerating them. . . .

. . The "Jail-No-Bail" tactic re-energizes the Rock Hill movement, 300 Blacks attend a mass meeting, and picket lines grow to over 100 protesters. The media resumes covering the demonstrations, including full-page spreads in the Baltimore Afro-American. More SNCC reinforcements arrive from Nashville on February 12 for a weekend of direct action culminating in a Sunday motorcade of 600 people to York County Prison Farm. [BUT] . . . it is not enough to force Rock Hill to desegregate. As exhaustion begins to sap the Rock Hill protests, Gaither proposes a new idea to push the struggle forward — a Freedom Ride through Rock Hill and other states of the Deep South. . . .
There are a number of reasons for "Jail-No-Bail" becoming the strategy of last resort [in the Southern Freedom Movement]: .........
  • ....Drama and media coverage become less important than broad participation and stubborn, long-haul determination.
  • ....organizers and community leaders have to be out in the community organizing and leading — not sitting in jail.
  • ....Mass movements have to include adults as well as students. But adults have jobs to keep and children to care for, so they cannot afford to remain in jail
  • ....[When the movement enters the Deep South,] It is simply too risky to leave anyone in jail if there is any way to get them out.

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