Occupy Wall Street Protester Guilty of Lynching?

by Robert Meeropol

Director's Blog
The Rosenberg Fund for Children

January 20, 2012


This morning I read that an ardent member of the Occupy Los
Angeles movement has been arrested and charged with
lynching.  You might think the protester, Sergio
Ballesteros, attacked and hung someone.  After all,
California's anti-lynching law was designed to protect
minority defendants in police custody from vigilante lynch-
mobs.  But no, the police have used the law which defines
lynching as "taking by means of riot any person from the
lawful custody of any peace officer" to charge a non-violent
activist with this felony for allegedly trying to keep a
fellow demonstrator from being arrested.

I'm drowning in irony.  First, given Southern California's
history of troubled race relations, and the long-term
institutionalized racism of the Los Angeles Police
Department, I suspect that city had its fair share of
lynching in the 19th and early 20th century, and that this
law provided the victims with virtually no protection
because the police did not enforce it.  Second, given the
heroic pacifism of the Occupy Movement in the face of
mounting police violence I doubt any of the cops holding the
demonstrators in their custody could legitimately be called
"peace officers."  Finally, as far as I can tell from the
videos, it was the police, not the demonstrators, who were

But then again, is it really that surprising that a law
designed to protect the oppressed, should be turned on its
head and employed against those who are rebelling against
their oppressors?  I'm sure this isn't news to the OWS folks
whose principle slogan is "we are the 99%."  Like the
lynching law, the 14th Amendment was designed to aid the
newly freed slaves.  However, today its main purpose has
been perverted to protect the "personhood" of the 1%'s
corporate creatures.

I wrote here in early November that: "It is not surprising
that OWS became intolerable to the authorities the movement
refused to recognize.  Such public naming of capitalism as
Public Enemy Number One could not be countenanced...  If the
movement persists and grows, as I hope it will, the attacks
upon it are sure to intensify."

This new felony charge is a manifestation of that
intensification.  Hopefully the community will rally to
Ballesteros' defense.  The police have chosen a target they
may regret.  When Ballesteros is not occupying Los Angeles
he's building homes with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering
at a summer camp for children in Appalachia, studying urban
education at UCLA, and mentoring Los Angeles-area kids.  But
convicting Sergio may not be the prosecutor's primary goal.
This felony charge is designed to scare away those who might
get involved.  However, strong-arm tactics do not appear to
be intimidating the OWS folks.  I hope this attack will
backfire, and attract even more people to "the 99%


This is an appropriate place to reiterate that I had 250
"99%" buttons made in December; 125 were shipped to me.  I
have a couple of dozen left which I am distributing for
free.   The button maker, Donnelly/Clot: progressive
promotional resources, is holding the other 125 so they can
fulfill direct orders.   All have a union label.  The maker
won't charge for the buttons, but will charge for postage
and padded packaging.  The fee to package and mail one
button is $1.84, two $2.30, three $2.76, four $3.22, five
$4.41 and ten $6.38.

If you want any, you can get buttons from Donnelly/Colt, PO
Box 188, Hampton, CT 06247 (phone 860-455-9621 & fax

[Robert Meeropol is the younger son of Ethel and Julius
Rosenberg. In 1953, when he was six years old, the
United States Government executed his parents for
"conspiring to steal the secret of the atomic bomb."

For more than 40 years he has been a progressive
activist, author and public speaker. In the 1970's he
and his brother, Michael, successfully sued the FBI and
CIA to force the release of 300,000 previously secret
documents about their parents. He earned undergraduate
and graduate degrees in Anthropology from the
University of Michigan, graduated law school in 1985,
and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.

In 1990, after leaving private practice, Robert founded
the Rosenberg Fund for Children and now serves as its
Executive Director. The RFC, which recently celebrated
its 20th anniversary with a series of more than 20
special events across the country, provides for the
educational and emotional needs of both targeted
activist youth and children in this country whose
parents have been harassed, injured, jailed, lost jobs
or died in the course of their progressive activities.
In its two decades, the Fund has awarded almost $4.4
million in grants to benefit hundreds of children.]



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