Criminalizing Disobedience: Adam Kokesh, Anti-War Activist, is Arrested

John Glaser
May 20, 2013


Adam KokeshAdam Kokesh got his start in anti-government activism as an Iraq Veteran Against the War. He admirably broke Army rules by protesting the war in his U.S. Marine uniform, and was soon discharged as punishment.

Since then, Kokesh, who had a short-lived television show on Russia Today (now it’s produced independently on his website) has been outspoken on a number of libertarian issues. He’s been arrested numerous times for his non-violent political activism. Something that has gained particular attention very recently is his plan to get at least 1,000 people to march from Virginia into Washington, DC on July 4th armed with loaded guns. He and his followers have vowed to keep it peaceful and after news that the DC police squads plan to meet him at the bridge coming into DC, Kokesh said he plans to simply turn around and walk back to Virginia.

Many in the libertarian movement have caustically criticized Kokesh for his brazenness. Granted, a group of armed libertarians meeting up with DC police squads could be very dangerous, despite promises to remain peaceful. But most of the criticism I’ve seen hurled at Kokesh seems more about criticizing civil disobedience and activism in general, concerned it will reflect poorly on their deferential image. Too many want to regulate the behavior of libertarians and keep things strictly to suits, ties, academic seminars, and writing pedantic policy papers barely anyone will read – as if that’s the only acceptable or productive way to push libertarian ideas.

The state is all about crushing real dissent and punishing the disobedient. No matter how bad things get, no matter how lawless the supposed law-enforcers become, I’m troubled by libertarians who condemn those who refuse to sit up straight and obey the overlords in Washington. Kokesh has consistently refused to be obedient – and I say, more power to him.

This past weekend, Kokesh attended a marijuana legalization event in Philadelphia. Armed with a nothing but a microphone, Kokesh and several dozen others counted down from ten to light up their joints in defiance of the authoritarian drug prohibitions. From the footage, you can see officers marching into the center of the crowd, where Kokesh was, and arresting him. According to many who were there, Kokesh did not himself smoke any weed. But he seemed to be a priority compared to the countless others there illegally smoking marijuana that police briskly walked by without any intent to arrest. You can also see from the several videos taken at the scene that Kokesh did not resist arrest, and instead put his hands up and stood straight while several officers man-handled him.

According to Kokesh is being charged with grabbing an officers arm after being pushed – a “felony assault.” The video doesn’t show any evidence of that allegation, but either way, the arrest is an affront to liberty.

As Anthony Gregory writes today, “Resisting arrest is a troubling derivative crime, whereby the state can basically push you around, and if you even react naturally (or the state says you did), it can haul you away. Putting aside problems of arrest, jailing, and the state itself, there should be no crime of ‘resisting arrest’ in a semi-free society. Either you committed a violation of someone’s rights or you did not. If you did not, you have a moral right to resist.”

Is it possible that Adam is being charged with these offenses in order to obstruct his planned march in July? I don’t know. But in any case, what we have here is a peaceful activist, a non-violent resister, and he’s been thrown in jail not for being harmful to anybody’s person or property, but for being disobedient in the face of unjust laws. The latter is a crime only to those with authoritarian inclinations and a calm respect for the police state.

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