I was thinking about that the other day while reading Marko's post on lawmakers and policy, and was reminded of it again this morning when reading the comments on a friend's Facebook link. Said friend linked the following story and said that she found it distressing:
Police arrest Chapel Hill protesters who occupied vacant business.
A police tactical team of more than 25 police officers arrested eight demonstrators Sunday afternoon and charged them with breaking and entering for occupying a vacant car dealership on Franklin Street.
Officers brandishing guns and semi-automatic rifles rushed the building at about 4:30 p.m. They pointed weapons at those standing outside, and ordered them to put their faces on the ground. They surrounded the building and cleared out those who were inside.
About 13 people, including a New & Observer staff writer covering the demonstration, were forced to the ground and hand-cuffed.
The group, who identified themselves as "anti-capitalist occupiers" moved into the former University Chrysler and Yates Motor Co. building at 419 W. Franklin St. on Saturday night, the police statement said.
The brick and cinderblock building with large windows fronting the sidewalk is owned by out-of-town businessman Joe Riddle and has stood empty for many years. One demonstrator said they were acting in the tradition of working-class squatters' movements around the world that some say inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots across the United States.
The group printed a flier that proposed a possible new use for the space that would include a free clinic, kitchen, child care, library and dormitories, among other uses. The flier acknowledged they were breaking the law by entering the building.
"Make no mistake: this occupation is illegal," it said, "as are most of the other occupations taking place around the U.S., as were many of the other acts of defiance that won the little freedom and equality we appreciate today."
The reaction, unsurprisingly, was not exactly sympathetic to the lawbreakers. I've always been of the opinion that if you're going to break the law, you better have a damned good reason to do so, and "we wanted the building" just isn't a good enough reason.
There was one person, however, who took umbrage. The protesters, she pointed out, were planning to set up a clinic, daycare, and library at the building. They meant well, in other words. Their intent, to borrow Marko's phrase, trumps their results.
Only, it doesn't. Not for those of us who live in the real world. The folks who broke into the building may well have intended good things by breaking the law, but when you break the law, oddly enough the police tend to take a real dim view of your actions. And so do most law-abiding citizens. Breaking into a vacant building and trashing it are things that reasonable people frown upon. No one should be shocked at this.
(On a side note: Most people probably greet their spouse first thing in the morning with a kiss and or by saying "Good Morning". Me? I greet my husband by saying, "You know, if the Occupy folks had more intelligence, they'd use Kelo v. New London as proof of their argument.")