Wendell Berry: About Civil Disobedience

Source: The Progressive

Last February, in protest against coal mining by “mountaintop removal,” I committed myself to an act of civil disobedience in the office of Kentucky’s governor. In fact, I have made that commitment three times. The first was on June 3, 1979, in opposition to a nuclear power plant then being built at Marble Hill on the Ohio River near Madison, Indiana. The second was in Washington, D. C., on March 2, 2009, in protest, with a host of others, generally against mountaintop removal and air pollution by the burning of fossil fuels, and immediately against the burning of coal by a power plant within a few blocks of the national capitol. The third was on the eleventh of last February: the aforementioned attempt to discover conscience in official Frankfort.

Only one of these adventures resulted in actual civil disobedience and arrest.

After we crossed the fence at Marble Hill, we were arrested and booked—and turned loose.

In Washington, the number of us offering to get arrested—two or three thousand, maybe—overwhelmed the police, who, thinking perhaps of the hours it would take to write down our names and addresses, declined the opportunity to know us better. Or so we thought. We then had to choose between climbing the fence, potentially a felony, or, after far too many speeches, dispersing. We dispersed.

In Frankfort, the governor, somewhat delightfully, outsmarted us. Instead of calling the police, he invited us to camp in his waiting room, which we did, from Friday until Monday morning.

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