Nobody has actually been arrested and tried for the alleged “crime” of being a “non-resident circulator”. None of the three people likely to be charged later today solicited any signatures in Oklahoma. I guess their crime will be a “conspiracy to violate the law”, but what is really happening here is a conspiracy to violate “under color of law” the constitutional right to petition for redress of grievances of everyone in this state.
This is an issue that transcends the political spectrum. Every one of us — left, right, center, and all points in between — has a dog in this race. All of us may, in good time and for pressing issues, decide in the future to exercise our right to petition for redress of grievance via the initiative petition process. We may want to invite people in other states to come to our assistance. Any limitation on that right is therefore a direct attack on the common good.
The charges will be unsealed at 1:15 PM today (Tuesday, October 2nd), at the county courthouse, 321 W. Park Street. I believe it is on the 7th floor, but it is not known to me at this time whether people will be allowed in for the actual opening of the charges. Even so, there will be a gathering on the ground floor or outside to show solidarity for the people being charged and talk about what can be done about this.
The particular issues these people were involved with were an anti-eminent domain proposal (which I totally supported), and a statutory restriction on state spending (which I did not support).
But the political affiliation of these people isn’t actually the issue. Our problem is that this prosecution is part of an on-going process to structurally restrict our political choices. That’s why the “culture of corruption” has been so endemic in our politics ever since the Klan took over the state legislature and most county governments in the 1920s. One reason our state is in such a political mess these days is because our choices are so limited.
This prosecution stinks to high heaven of good-old-boy back room machinations. “We’ll teach those damn east coast yankees a lesson about coming in here and causing trouble for our back-room deal-making.” The law is likely to be ruled unconstitutional — the case law is pretty clear that for political purposes, your place of residency is the place you “intend” to be your residence. Even so, in the meantime the defendents will be out a large sum of money for the political crime of coming to the assistance of their friends in a different state. If that is going to become a crime, what are we to say about all that out of state money the members of the state legislature and other politicians and candidates for political office report every year?
If you can come to the court house later today, please do. One of the persons being charged is my good friend Paul Jacobs, originally from our neighbor state of Arkansas, whom I have known for 20 years. He is a husband and a father and a grandfather and a good hearted person and even if I disagree with him on a few issues, he is still a friend and a companion on my journey.
Paul Jacobs does not deserve to be the target of political retaliation from corrupt politicians who want to limit the political choices available to all Oklahomans. I consider this attack on him just the same as if it was an attack on me personally, and I invite all to join in that solidarity.
In the future I will probably have some other ideas about how we can defend this important right. By bringing these charges, with such uncertain constitutional grounds, some state officials may be participating in a conspiracy to violate our rights under color of law, which is a serious federal crime. The FBI certainly has considerable institutional experience in ferreting out corruption in Oklahoma governments. Perhaps we should ask the FBI to investigate this situation.
To facilitate organizing support for Paul and the others being charged, I have started a listserv, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/theokiethree/ . Please show your solidarity and sign up for the discussion group.
I am signing this email with my religious affiliation, because I believe that of the various “hats” I wear, it is the most relevant, since this indeed is a moral issue and it is a social justice issue.
Please feel free to pass this information along to others who may be interested.
Bob Waldrop, founder
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City