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Crimes of Dissent

Civil Disobedience, Criminal Justice, and the Politics of Conscience

Jarret Lovell

Publication Year: 2009

From animal rights to anti-abortion, from tax resistance to anti-poverty, activists from across the political spectrum often deliberately break the law to further their causes. While not behaviors common to hardened or self-seeking criminals, the staging of civil disobedience, non-violent resistance, and direct action can nevertheless trigger a harsh response from law enforcement, with those arrested risking jail time and criminal records. Crimes of Dissent features the voices of these activists, presenting a fascinating insider's look at the motivations, costs and consequences of deliberately violating the law as a strategy of social change.

Crimes of Dissent provides readers with an in-depth understanding of why activists break the law, and what happens to them when they do. Using dynamic examples, both historic and recent, Jarret Lovell explores how seasoned protesters are handled and treated by the criminal justice system, shedding light on the intersection between the political and the criminal. By adopting the unique vantage of the street-level activist, Crimes of Dissent provides a fascinating view of protest from the ground, giving voice to those who refuse to remain silent by risking punishment for their political actions.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii-xi

Alain Mabanckou’s novel African Psycho tells the story of Gregoire, a would-be serial killer who not only is consumed by an unhealthy fascination with crime but who also is filled with an overpowering rage toward experts who purport to understand the mind of a criminal. Amid countless literary jabs that critique everything from a crime-obsessed media ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

In the vernacular of activism, an affinity group is a social network that serves as a protester’s primary source of support, encouragement, and solidarity. As both an author and activist, I have been fortunate to have had the support of my own ever-expanding affinity group. I would like to acknowledge these important members whose support has made this book possible. ...

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1. Crime and Dissent

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pp. 1-30

This book is about political dissent that tiptoes gingerly over the demarcation between legality and criminality. It tells the story of the homeless who staged a sit-in at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and converted the headquarters into their home until they were carried away in handcuffs by police. It highlights the war tax resister ...

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2. Society and Its Discontents

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pp. 31-64

That the tens of thousands of people who protested the WTO in Seattle comprised a mix of anarchists, machinists, environmentalists, and steelworkers was inevitable. By the end of the millennium, the totality of effects wrought by globalization was felt by a wide swath of the public. People upset about the outsourcing of jobs and environmental degradation ...

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3. Dissent as “Pure” Crime

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pp. 65-102

In socially diverse and highly industrialized settings where a political consensus is difficult to achieve, individuals unrepresented by a political majority must choose between compromise and conformity on the one hand and resistance and rebellion on the other. Crimes of dissent embody strategies through which political resistance can be manifested. Collectively, ...

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4. Policing Dissent

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pp. 103-139

The location was Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s historic municipal airport, which first opened for business in 1931. Located at the southeastern end of Brooklyn, it is named for the aviator who flew Admiral Byrd across the North Pole in 1926. Because of its long runways and agreeable weather conditions, the airport quickly became popular among pilots who ...

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5. Working the System

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pp. 139-174

They called it “Guantánamo on the Hudson,” but on any given day Pier 57 was an otherwise nondescript three-story building located along New York City’s West Side. Extending some seven hundred feet into the murky Hudson River, the facility normally served as a parking garage for the buses of New York’s public transit system. Yet just as Brooklyn’s Floyd ...

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6. The Impact of Dissent

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pp. 175-206

Sent to the activist group the Honeywell Project in the summer of 1984, the letter represents a small success in a decades-long campaign to end war profiteering, or the practice wherein businesses capitalize on international conflict by selling the tools and services that make war easier to wage. In the letter, the employee describes his work at Honeywell as ...

Appendix: Activist Profiles

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pp. 207-214


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pp. 215-230


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pp. 231-238

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814753477
E-ISBN-10: 0814753477
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814752272
Print-ISBN-10: 0814752276

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Civil disobedience -- United States.
  • Social movements -- United States.
  • Crime -- United States.
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