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A Reading List for People Planning to “Occupy” Public Property


Short of performing a bundy-ectomy (formerly reserved for Al or Ted), let’s get another view of this particular cathedral. Here is an old Law Librarian’s take on protest and occupation:

Read a Book, Read the Law:

The history of protest goes back to the beginning of human time (check out the Flintstones if you doubt me).

So, if you plan to protest, march, occupy or maybe sit-in (and I highly recommend someplace with a cafeteria, a library, public computers, showers, and good wifi), expect a lot of time on your hands. Here’s a reading list to help you while away those hours – and you’ll be a lot smarter and maybe even wiser in the end. (Remember this excellent short story? “A General in the library,” by Italo Calvino, which you can find, among other places, in this collection: “In the stacks: short stories about libraries and librarians,” edited by Michael Cart. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2002.)

Some useful background reading to start you off:

Then, how about a little History of the United States (and I recently read this riveting book, by Peter Stark: “Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival”) about truly fearless explorers who wanted to make the United States bigger and better.

You might also want to read about armed conflicts that lasted decades, centuries, and ended only with negotiated agreements, and the literature on terrorism and diplomacy. Remember, greater minds than yours (way, way, way greater) have struggled with this for eons, so listen up, read, and learn about: Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and many other armed conflicts that used to look the way current ones still do.

Perhaps you can start with the bibliography in this book, “How Terrorism Ends” or read and listen to Lawrence Wright, another highly readable war and peace scholar whose book and article bibliographies should remind you just how little you know now about what you think you know.

Now let’s move on to the literature of protest and law:

In addition to the usual suspects, Alinsky, Thoreau, and other memorable and creative practitioners of Civil Disobedience

  • FBI Crisis Intervention and Response LibGuide: Books, and a few other research tools, pertaining to all aspects of crisis intervention.
  • Burns Paiute Tribe: You need to know who really has a claim on the ground beneath you
  • Civil Disobedience and Protest literature. Search online: civil disobedience activism protest revolts civil rights, anarchy, revolution, etc.
  • Read federal and Oregon law, including statutes, cases, and regulations. (I recommend asking a law librarian for a tutorial if you’re not an experience legal researcher.)
  • The U.S. Constitution and constitutional law treatises. The Library of Congress has an annotated version, which will save you a lot of time.
  • Oregon and U.S. history, including pre-statehood materials. The State of Oregon Law Library is a good place to begin, but remember that not everything you need is online.
  • U.S. Supreme Court cases on the constitution and federal and states’ rights. Back to the Law Library since the U.S. S.Ct. doesn’t have a searchable database, at least not for the public.
  • Native American law and legal treatises. And again, back to the Law Library and professional Law Librarians. You can search for guides, like this one at Georgetown Law Library.
  • Sentencing law, especially the history and practice of sentencing guidelines. Learn how and who makes laws, especially, who wrote the sentencing guidelines. Guess what, it’s back to the Law Library.
  • Local government law, especially on sources of state and local government authority, including what home rule means. Back to the Law Library (there are some excellent treatises, not online of course, at least not unless you have a lot of money). For example, here’s a research guide from USC.
  • Local and national newspapers are running lots of interesting and informative articles about all of the above, written by people who did their homework and didn’t just make stuff up. You can go online for these, unless you need to do a thorough search, in which case you need a newspaper database. Start with the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Oregonian.
  • Some radio programs have interviews with experts, e.g. Jefferson Smith’s X-ray program on January 8, 2016, had an interesting interview with Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director with Audubon Society and Michael Blumm, Professor, Lewis & Clark Law School, during the 7:30-8 a.m. segment. And here’s a lecture given in Salem on the Willamette campus not long ago: 2015 Salem Peace Lecture, by Erica Chenoweth, on Nonviolent Resistance, who has also given a TED talk
  • Sorry, but we have to get back to The Law: Don’t forget tax law. If they don’t get you on the other stuff, when all else fails, there’s always those darn taxes, unless of course you are rich enough to hire the best tax lawyers in the country in which case you just pay them.
  • Let’s not leave out an entire body of federal criminal law, maybe also starting with the Oregon’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is where the Hammond re-sentencing appeal decision originated, under the mysteriously vanished and now vanquished former Oregon U.S. Attorney, Amanda Marshall.

Did I leave out anything? Huge amounts (did anyone say Legal Research is Easy?), but in the meantime settle in with these research, reading, and learning tips, grab a snack, and start taking notes. And don’t forget to call home once in a while in addition to keeping up with current international news. Lots of protesters, many of them children, in other countries are also on the march. It never hurts to put all humankind’s trials and tribulations into perspective.

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