Uncomfortably simple. That was it? So, after breaking the law by camping out on the Commons — a supposedly criminal offense for trespassing — five times and getting cited twice, the consequence was anything but sever: a five minute debrief by the judge’s clerk and a fine payment not unlike checking out at Star Market. But why would we be let off so easily for an offense that we were repeatedly warned against and a law we knowingly broke — multiple times? As we learned from our pro-bono lawyer, the clerk’s office didn’t feel like dealing with over 200 people’s criminal cases.
But perhaps it’s more than that. I talked to the police sergeant who led his troops to our first sleep out. At that time he was slightly stunned by the magnitude of our event and was uncertain what to do. We had a brief conversation, then he talked with Craig and went on his way. We were spared from citations that time — a lucky circumstance that I don’t think we got again. But, when he came back to cite us during second sleep-out, he also brought some words of encouragement. “I looked you up online and I believe in what you’re doing,” he said to us as we were being cited. I remember turning ecstatic by that comment, knowing that he and the other cops were sympathetic to our cause.
Maybe when we sleep-out we are a symbol. We’re the lively personification of what everyone is thinking but what no one has the time or venue to say: without change, our future is looking bleak. When in the sergeant’s day can he force people to weatherize their house? Or turn off their lights? Or when can he arrest our legislatures for sitting on their hands? When can the judge — who should punish us just as he would punish anyone else who breaks a law — scream, “we are boiling our planet!!” In subtle ways these authorities are telling us to keep doing what we’re doing, because deep down, they want us to.