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March 13, 1984 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-03-13

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Page 4

Tuesday, March 13, 1984

The Michigan Daily


Civil disobedience: Amoral


By Jonathan Ellis
Civil disobedience, such as the pro-
test of eleven people who were arrested
on campus last week, is one of the most
dramatic forms of political action, and
one which is frequently misjudged.
Civil disobedience at its best is not an
expression of physical force but of
moral force. It does not claim that cer-
tain individuals are above the law, or
that they should be able to disrupt any
activity to which they object.
Rather, civil disobedience asserts
that citizens have the right, and
sometimes the obligation, to force their
arrest under very particular circum-
stances: (1) when the activity to which
they object is, in their belief, an
especially serious wrong, a grave in-
justice to individuals, or the most
dangerous threat to the community as a
whole, and (2) when other channels
have been ineffective.
Certainly the recent sit-ins in the
East Engineering building meet these
criteria. Whatever one's opinion about

military research, the seriousness of
the matter cannot be denied, and the
regents' disregard of the expressed
views of faculty and student represen-
tative bodies leaves scant room for
conventional political action.
There is little danger that such civil
disobedience will breed general,
lawlessness, as the experience of arrest
and jailing is worth only the most im-
portant of causes-which eleven people
saw first-hand last week. This was no
surreptitious crime perpetrated in the
dark against the prospect of detection.
In the full light of day, those students
said: "You cannot continue planning the
methods of destruction of everyone we
know and everyone we love unless you
first have us carried away."
There are few more noble acts a
citizen can perform. It is easy to brand
such activity as rowdy and reckless,
especially if one has an interest in
discrediting the substance of the
protest. The examples of Gandhi and
Martin Luther King show that such civil
disobedience is most effective when its

adherents succeed in remaining
peaceful and non-violent-no matter
what the physical force used against
them. This is no easy task.
The events of last week also expose
the impact of the proposed new student
code of non-academic conduct if enac-
Currently, a document called the
rules of the university community
outlines rights and responsibilities
which apply equally to all students,
faculty and staff members. Under
these rules, since the protestors were
arrested and charged Iin court, the
University is now prohibited from sub-
jecting them to a second prosecutin un-
der campus regulations.
Even had the University chosen an
internal prosecution and not used the
police to arrest these students, the
campus penalties under the existing
rules for such civil disobedience would
be censure, fine, or work assignment.
The rules of the University community
now in effect permit the suspension or
expulsion of students only for a

violation which "intentionally inflicts
or attempts to inflict death or serious
physical injury."
In contrast, the proposed new con-
duct code would apply only to students,
and civil disobedience could result in

tions and where a second set of
penalties could be imposed after
students had already been arrested and
charged in criminal court.
This concrete example of how the
proposed student conduct code could be

'The examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King
show that such civil disobedience is most
effective when its adherents succeed in
remaining peaceful and non-violent-no
matter what the physical force used again-
st them. This is no easy task.'

penalties for non-violent protest?
The innocence which is alleged in
proposing the code is further under-
mined by reports that University of-
ficials may attempt to have the regents
amend their by-laws to permit adoption
of the code without the approval of
student government, if MSA rejects the
code proposal.
The basic question involved is:
should students be subject to removal
from the University community,
through suspension or expulsion, solely
because they engage in peaceful civil
disobedience? I would argue that the
willingness of such students to make
personal sacrifices in presenting their
message, even to be arrested for what
they believe, strengthens rather than
lessens their claim to membership in
the University.
In my view, that willingness also in-
creases our obligation to listen again to
what they are saying.
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suspension or expulsion if it were judged
to be "grievous." Further, that
judgement would take place in a new
University judicial system which does
not include many civil liberties protec-

used to stifle campus dissent makes
hollow the claim that no such intent
exists. If there is no intent to use the
code against civil disobedience, why
does the code permit these new harsh


Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan


Vol. XCIV-No. 128

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Baby seals and acid rain

THE IMAGE of an adorable baby
harp seal being clubbed to death
by a callous hunter has brought out the
environmentalist and humanitarian in
even the most stoic defenders of man's
right to kill. In fact, public sentiment
prompted the European Economic
Community to ban imports of baby
seal pelts and urged the United States
to threaten a boycott of Canada's $1
billion fishing exports if the hunt
was not discontinued.
In response to such pressures the
Canadian Sealing Association last
week called off the hunt and revealed
the power of public sentiment to force
changes in environmental policy. But
this large public outcry also reveals
inconsistencies and ignorance
surrounding the American public's en-
vironmental consciousness. While
suprising anger is aroused at the
killing of a couple of thousand seals,
the public's back is turned as
legislators, and especially the Reagan
administration, ignore a much more
dire environmental injustice-acid
The problem is that lakes and trees
aren't cute. They don't whimper as they
die, and sulfuric dioxide emissions are
not as symbolically powerful as a
spiked club. Though more subtle and
diffuse, the death of lakes and trees
poses a threat to the ecosystem in-
finitely greater than the killing of young
harp seals. While governors and
congressmen haggle over funding for
measures that would reduce emissions
and President Reagan avoids those
measures altogether simply calling for
more studies, the entire Eastern'
Seaboard is threatened by a severe en-
vironmental sickness.

The acidity of eastern lakes has in-
creased alarmingly over the last few
years and has resulted in the literal
"death" of many bodies of water. In
addition, recent studies conducted by
the National Academy of Sciences and
one commissioned by Reagan's own
science advisor have revealed an un-
suspected, menacing deterioration of
forests throughout the East Coast and
have called for action, not more
"studies" and endless debate. The
evidence exposes damaged foliage and
retarded growth in eastern forests, and
large areas where trees are actually
dead or dying. And all of the evidence
points to acid rain as the cause.
The solution is to cut sulfur dioxide
emissions by one half through the use
of low-sulfur coal or scrubbers in
power plants and industrial burners.
The legislative difficulty arises out of
the cost of such measures and the fact
that acid rain is viewed as the problem
of eastern states, not of the nation as a
But such widespread ecological
damage is not regional and its cost
cannot be couched in monetary or even
social terms. The health of a planet
and its mutually dependent organisms
is at stake.
An end to this poisoning of the en-
vironment should not be put off in or-
der to placate those who are uncom-
fortable with difficult and costly an-
swers. The American public's boycott
of Canadian fish products largely con-
tributed to the end of the seal
slaughter. Large hurdles were over-
come in order to protect cute and cud-
dly baby seals. Large hurdles need to
be overcome in order to protect the
fundamental ecological components
that acid rain threatens.


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Nazis not worthy of


To the Daily:
Once again southeastern
Michigan's small band of Nazi-
Klan terror-mongers has announ-
ced its intention of "demon-
strating" in celebration of
Hitler's birthday at Ann Arbor's
City Hall. People calling them-
selves the "S.S. Action Group"
put flyers on car windshields
parked next to the AnnArbor
Public Library while a Sunday
meeting of the New Jewish Agen-
da group was in progress.
If the "S.S. Action Group"
arrives for its annual bravado
display of murder-politics on the
17th of March, Ann Arbor will no
doubt once again spend thousan-
ds of dollars to welcome them
with mass police protection. The
rationale for this expense is that
we are supporting the right of
Nazis and Klansmen to exercise
their "freedom of speech." I can
only wonder if the police and city
government would offer similar
support to a group publicly
calling on young men to commit
rape to prove their manhood.
Many people are directly at-
tacked . by Nazi propagan-
da - death to Jews, to Blacks, to
gays, and to the rights of labor is
their basic platform. Many feel
strongly enough to try to force the
Nazis to shut up. In both 1982 and
1983 those promoters of genocide
who came to town were attacked
by counter-demonstrators. When

from the justified anger of their
proposed victims. The hate-
campaign of the Nazis is not
mere words, after all.
Michigan's "nightriders" con-
tinue to deface the property and
threaten the persons of local
Jewish and black families and
organizations. I understand a

home off Platt road was vic-
timized recently. And even when
Nazi-Klan aggression is "merely
verbal," its terrorizing purpose is
obvious-they thrust it in the
faces of the people it attacks.
At the least Ann Arbor could
easily stop this annual circus by
not offering sanctuary for

publicity-minded Nazis. If they
don't find police protection in
1984, I'm willing to bet they won't
be back in 1985. A few bruised
Fascists seems a small price for
a community safe from race-
hatred propaganda.


Homosexual rights should concern all

To the Daily:
Hitler started a purge of
homosexuals in 1934, removing
thousands of them from their jobs
and putting them in concen-
tration camps along with Jews,
Communists, gypsies, and
others. Rev. Martin Niemoeller,
a German pastor whom the
fascists imprisoned in Dachau,

said: "They came for the Com-
munists and I didn't protest
because I wasn't a Communist.
They came for the trade-
unionists and I didn't protest
because I wasn't a trade-
unionist. They came for the
Jews and I didn't protest because
I wasn't a Jew. They came for
the Catholics and I didn't protest

because I wasn't a Catholic. And
then they came for me-but by
that time there wasn't anyone left
to protest."
Human rights for gays at the
University is everyone's con-
cern-both gays and non-gays
- Joseph Denny
March 12
by Berke Breathed


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