1600? How About 5000!

In our last newsletter I wrote about the rising tide of new applications we’ve been receiving at the RFC this year. I noted that this was not surprising given a number of factors, including the growing number of those arrested at protests in each year since Obama took office. I wrote:

“As Bill Quigley, the former legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights reported based on material presented in The Nuclear Resister, arrests at protests are increasing each year. Over 2600 people have been arrested in the United States at demonstrations since Obama took office: 665 in 2009, 1290 in 2010, and 670 in the first five months of this year. If arrests continue at this rate they’ll top 1600 by the end of 2011.”

Events of the last two months show that 1600 was a gross underestimation. 1253 people were arrested in front of the White House in late August and early September non-violently protesting the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. And then the Occupy Wall Street movement began! I do not have an exact count of the number of people arrested at OWS actions, but it is certainly greater than 2000. That means the arrest total for the year is likely already over 4000. Given the continued police crackdown (dozens arrested in Oakland last night) and ongoing resistance of the OWS activists, the total could top 5000 by year’s end! And perhaps once again, I am being overly conservative with even that figure.

I’m elated that so many people have taken to the streets, but its potential impact on the RFC is more than a little daunting. We’ve learned in our 20-plus years of granting that there is often a six-month or even one year lag between when people are targeted and when they apply for us to support their children. But the fact that we’ve received a record number of new requests in 2011, and that all of them were generated by events that took place before either the upsurge of environmental resistance or the Occupy Wall Street movement, means that 2012 may become positively manic at the RFC office.

Of course, not everyone who commits civil disobedience, spends the night in jail, and is under 25 years old or has children younger than that age, meets our criteria of a targeted activist and is eligible for RFC support. However, anyone who suffers serious harm during these demonstrations or is singled out by repressive forces for harsher treatment and falls within the age categories described in the previous sentence, could qualify.

Our fall granting cycle is now closed. We made our first set of fall awards last week and, barring another weather catastrophe, will make our final set on November 9th. Hopefully our year-end fundraising will produce enough so that next spring we won’t have to turn down requests for help from people who fall within our guidelines. We’ll do our best to be prepared for whatever happens and renew our pledge to do everything in our power to help the children of targeted activists and targeted activist youth who ask for RFC support.

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