College Protesters Should Embrace Being Arrested

Acts of civil disobedience by definition imply that a person knowingly is breaking the law and is willing to accept the legal consequences. When Rosa Parks took a seat at the front of that bus in Alabama and was arrested in 1955, she set off a legal battle — which eventually resulted in the striking down of the segregationist law as unconstitutional — that ignited the modern civil rights movement. Photos of Parks being fingerprinted at the police station galvanized Americans everywhere (well, except in the Deep South) and made her an icon of the struggle for justice and equality. Just a few years ago, the 1960s peace activist Jane Fonda, now in her 80s, was at it again, being arrested on the steps of the Capitol building weekly, this time to protest the lack of action by the government to tackle climate change. Being arrested has been a badge of honor by protesters for whom being placed into handcuffs represents the ultimate act of defiance of those in power. But the students today who are occupying college campuses in violation of university policies want to have it both ways: They want to defy the authorities, but feel that they are entitled to have carte blanche to do so without any consequences. Admission to a prestigious school does not entitle a person to special treatment when it comes to laws that apply to everybody. Yes, the students have a right to protest. But school officials also have the obligation to keep their campuses open and safe for all students. When these protesting students break the law and the rules of their campuses, they should be willing — with defiant joy — to accept the consequences. Unless these students are willing to have some skin in the game, so to speak, their moral outrage amounts to nothing more than a frivolous exercise.

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