Protest, Scale, and Publicity: The FBI and the H Rap Brown Act

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Abstract:

This paper deals with issues of political dissent and the geography of state power through the lens of a particular law and its deployment by the US state in the context of the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota by American Indian Movement activists and local residents. I explore how the state responded to the highly mediated nature of the Wounded Knee occupation through tactics that minimized the visibility of its efforts to contain the protest. These efforts, I argue, also constituted a broader politics of scale. I begin with a theoretical discussion of the intersection of protest, scale and publicity. I then use the empirical example of the H Rap Brown Act to show how these dynamics were being reworked in the US during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In particular, I place the emergence of the H Rap Brown Act within a context of changing geographies of race and state power, more specifically as they were articulated around the unrest that was engulfing American cities. I then analyze how the law was deployed by the state during the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of what the case of the H Rap Brown Act has to tell us more broadly about our theoretical understandings of the geographies of public protest.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1467-8330.2003.00347.x

Affiliations: Department of Geography, Miami University, Oxford, OH, USA;, Email: darcusb@muohio.edu

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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