Criminalizing Disobedience: Adam Kokesh, Anti-War Activist, is Arrested

Photo by Maria Izaurralde
Photo by Maria Izaurralde

Adam Kokesh got his start in anti-government activism as an Iraq Veteran Against the War. He admirably broke Army military rules by protesting the war in his U.S. Marine uniform, and was soon discharged as punishment.

Since then, Kokesh, who had a short-lived television show on Russia Today (now it’s produced independently on his website) has been outspoken on a number of libertarian issues. He’s been arrested numerous times for his non-violent political activism. Something that has gained particular attention very recently is his plan to get at least 1,000 people to march from Virginia into Washington, DC on July 4th armed with loaded guns. He and his followers have vowed to keep it peaceful and after news that the DC police squads plan to meet him at the bridge coming into DC, Kokesh said he plans to simply turn around and walk back to Virginia.

Many in the libertarian movement have caustically criticized Kokesh for his brazenness. Granted, a group of armed libertarians meeting up with DC police squads could be very dangerous, despite promises to remain peaceful. But most of their criticism seems more about criticizing civil disobedience and activism in general, concerned it will reflect poorly on their deferential image. Too many want to regulate the behavior of libertarians and keep things strictly to suits, ties, academic seminars, and writing pedantic policy papers barely anyone will read – as if that’s the only acceptable or productive way to push libertarian ideas.

The state is all about crushing real dissent and punishing the disobedient. No matter how bad things get, no matter how lawless the supposed law-enforcers become, I’m troubled by libertarians who condemn those who refuse to sit up straight and obey the overlords in Washington. Kokesh has consistently refused to be obedient – and I say, more power to him.

This past weekend, Kokesh attended a marijuana legalization event in Philadelphia. Armed with a nothing but a microphone, Kokesh and several dozen others counted down from ten to light up their joints in defiance of the authoritarian drug prohibitions. From the footage, you can see officers marching into the center of the crowd, where Kokesh was, and arresting him. According to many who were there, Kokesh did not himself smoke any weed. But he seemed to be a priority compared to the countless others there illegally smoking marijuana that police briskly walked by without any intent to arrest. You can also see from the several videos taken at the scene that Kokesh did not resist arrest, and instead put his hands up and stood straight while several officers man-handled him.

According to Kokesh is being charged with grabbing an officer’s arm after being pushed – a “felony assault.” The video doesn’t show any evidence of that allegation, but either way, the arrest is an affront to liberty.

As Anthony Gregory writes today, “Resisting arrest is a troubling derivative crime, whereby the state can basically push you around, and if you even react naturally (or the state says you did), it can haul you away. Putting aside problems of arrest, jailing, and the state itself, there should be no crime of ‘resisting arrest’ in a semi-free society. Either you committed a violation of someone’s rights or you did not. If you did not, you have a moral right to resist.”

Is it possible that Adam is being charged with these offenses in order to obstruct his planned march in July? I don’t know. But in any case, what we have here is a peaceful activist, a non-violent resister, and he’s been thrown in jail not for being harmful to anybody’s person or property, but for being disobedient in the face of unjust laws. The latter is a crime only to those with authoritarian inclinations and a calm respect for the police state.

Update: It’s important for me to point out that Iraq Veterans Against the War are not associated with Kokesh or his current activities, nor have they been since they parted ways several years ago. IVAW released the following statement:

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) neither endorses nor is affiliated with Adam Kokesh’s ‘Open Carry March on Washington’ planned for July 4th. This event is in direct conflict with our Resolution That IVAW Only Use, Supports or Endorses Non-Violent and Peaceful Actions adopted August 8, 2009 and section C of our Code of Conduct which includes prohibited behavior of members as: “Conduct or threats endangering the life, safety, and/or health of others.”

39 thoughts on “Criminalizing Disobedience: Adam Kokesh, Anti-War Activist, is Arrested”

      1. Looks like they made it private. It was the PA police openly mocking a person who was calling to find out Adam's status. It was outrageous – like something a morning DJ team might do. Except it was real.

  1. Here's what I'll say. Keep in mind that NOBODY has a right to smoke pot or promote smoking pot or use profanity on PUBLIC PROPERTY. Alex Jones says Kokesh was "disappeared". No, he doesn't, or else nobody would know where he is as many people do. What he is doing is NOT smart. I think everything should be kept to suits, academic seminars, and policy papers. The plans for an armed march on Washington are absurd. The way Kokesh disrupted the GOP convention in 2008 was absurd. It's hard for me to not think of him as some kind of provocateur.

    1. "Here's what I'll say. Keep in mind that NOBODY has a right to smoke pot or promote smoking pot or use profanity on PUBLIC PROPERTY."

      Why not? We taxpayers pay for that property. The state doesn't "own" anything. All property is private property, except some of it has been confiscated for the state to use how it wants.

      1. Even from a Rothardian perspective, people don't have a RIGHT to public property. You should re-read Rothbard's views on that. Take, for example, college campuses. People can't do whatever they wish, despite the fact many colleges are funded with tax dollars. You can't go any speed you want down the road. Just because the state took that property by force doesn't make taking it and using it how you wish right. Two wrongs don't make a right. How much did you pay for that and what part of it are you entitled to? That would need to be calculated.

      2. Don't pot smokers and potty mouths pay taxes too? What anybody has the right to do is not be on public private property when there's criminal activity going on.

    2. Im pretty sure the first amendment allows him to say what ever the FUCK he wants unless he's on private property and asked to leave by the owner. And 'promoting' smoking pot? Tolerance is not an endorsement my friend..

    3. Why do you get to decide what can be done on public property? If you want to ignore property rights and steal money from people to fund "public property", you have no business telling the victims of that theft what they can and can't do there.

      Do you know what "civil disobedience" is?!?! It's purposely and peacefully breaking unjust laws so that those enforcing the unjust laws reveal themselves as what they truly are…. tax-feeding thugs in the service of power.

      You should change your twitter handle to @bootlickerecon

      1. Think about this. I'm saying that public property is not a free for all. At the same time, you say it's inappropriate to decide what can be done on public property. However, by doing things on public property, that requires deciding what can be done on public property. So I could make the same accusation against you for supporting Adam Kokesh's conduct on public property. You believe it's acceptable to take property and use it for pot smoking.

        1. Wrong. I'm saying the concept of state-owned public property is not legitimate. Your comment assumes the property has a legitimate owner but it doesn't. If the ownership is not legitimate then their rules are not legitimate.

          I certainly don't believe "it's acceptable to take [someone else's] property". Whose property are you referring to? No one has a legitimate claim on the property we're discussing so no one can legitimately make and enforce rules for said property.

          Come to think about it, not only was this a great protest against unjust laws, it was also a great protest against illegitimate property claims.

    4. uhm Adam hadn't smoked any pot he had only advocated smoking pot….

      Now while smoking pot or possession of pot might be a crime advocating is a form of speech and is protected under the 1st amendment. As are the rights to peaceably assemble and to petition the government.

      I hope you are not advocating the repeal of the bill of rights?

    5. "or promote smoking pot " you ignorant fool… promoting via speech is protected under the 1st amendment … yes Adam, myself and even idiots like you have the right to promote via speech.

    6. and its hard for me to not think of you as a pussy. Don't hate him because he has the balls to stand up for what he believes in and refuses to sit behind a pencil. Provocateur? Good, people these days only know what they see on television, nobody reads anymore.

    7. for every 100,000 that dont stand up for others rights and change one person has too… i am also 1 out of the 100,000…. dont put down someone that is doing what you do not have the courage to do!!!

  2. Adam Kokesh isn't antiwar silly rabbit. He's just like so many other militaristic types –he's about wars he approves of. Such as Afghanistan, but not Iraq.

    I think people should air caution and hose the room down with heavy amounts of skepticism. Because mistaking the man for the cause tends to be what gets the group derailed. Especially when much of the theatrics, staging. PR…punts like self-promotion.

    Apart from the true upstart out of conscripts and volunteers from Vietnam– the first televised war the majority could see., the first real example of aired mass protest of war– there really shouldn't be an antiwar group coming out of the professional armed services today. They should all be weeded out. And guess, what? The great majority 'antiwar vets" of Gen X and Gen Playstation, prove this point. They are by and large, against Iraq War. That's all. And guess what? Had there been WMD there would be few boonies out front giving aging hippies a sense new generation that 'gets it'..

    In fact, I can't tell you the disappointment when coming across former MIL "turned" antiwar talk about wearing their uniform as a form of 'street cred' warning off pro-war protestors from starting anything. Seriously. I kid you not. How cliche. How costumes can give the threat of violence in an antiwar protest should be taken with great reflection when dissecting such methodology. What's the difference between the old redneck Marine down the road talking up self-determination bootstrap diplomacy and fighting in a real war not that sandtrap crap called Iraq. Seriously. Is that' antiwar? No. It isn't. So why so many so-called antiwar vets get a pass when they justify Afghanistan or even Libya…hmm? Or grow their supportive idiot beard sans mustache ? Hmm.

    but I digress into costumes and the cliches that prop it all up….until the antiwar groups do some type of back ground checks dismissing the chameleons you will continue to risk being compromised by covert ops shich entire purpose isn't to imprison, just disrupt. Bankrupt you with legal fees.. Every operative has almost always a background in military. But when one of them show up and say, yeah was a former cop but now see the way, people stop take notice and are concerned about the connection. Former mil? "oh welcome brother"

    "it's murder in a foreign place, oppression of foreign race…." MIA

  3. All libertarians need to have Kokesh's back. Don't expect conservatives or liberals to step in his defense both have an interest in keeping Kokesh locked up.

    When you have both chickenhawks Michelle Malkin and The Young Turks attacking you then you have ruffled the right feathers.

    He didn't win too many conservatives friends when he points out that conservatives cant complain about gun control all the while supporting the drug war and the national security state. In addition to his bashing of organized religion. He pisses off Paleocons when he points out that the concept of race is just a collectivist notion.

    Im glad that has decided to highlight this, it needs more coverage among the libertarian blogsphere.

  4. “…NOBODY has a right to smoke pot or promote smoking pot or use profanity on PUBLIC PROPERTY…”

    i had to google this and finally found it on wikipedia. seems
    there is some quaint first amendment thingy:

    “The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.”

    is it true that the congress is actually considering passing
    this first amendment bill? that would be most awesome!!

  5. Does anyone remember Linda Thompson, a former military officer and self-proclaimed leader in the militia movement about 20 years ago? She reminds me a lot of this Kokesh (hmm, wonder what sort of name that is?) guy. Thompson was a guest on Art Bell's radio show several times and in 1993, after the Waco massacre, she called for an armed march on Washington, DC. It didn't happen of course and Thompson disappeared from the scene after that. I'm not saying Adam Kokesh is an agent provocateur, but these are interesting times we live in and we must be very careful and very discerning about these things.

  6. Adam Kokesh is either an undercover government agent or very, very stupid. A march on Washington DC with loaded or even unloaded guns is NOT going to help save our 2nd Amendment rights… or any civil liberties for that matter.

    What will happen is that a lot of Patriots will get arrested or possibly shot and become convicted felons. How does that help anyone? Not only does a felon lose their 2nd Amendment rights and their right to vote but after that good luck finding a job (employers do background checks) or even a place to live (landlords also do background checks).

    What is Adam Kokesh trying to accomplish? I bet that when the DC police begin the crackdown on the protesters Mr. Kokesh will be the first to run away, in fact he will be nowhere near the front line. This guy is either a plant or a fool, or both.

  7. The idea of an armed march on Washington is – strategically speaking – just plain stupid.

    When will people wake up and stop trying to beat the Fed at it’s own game?

    Like it or not, your real enemy is not the Federal Government. The real enemy here is a lazy, complacent, increasingly immoral population which fears the Fed like it’s some all-powerful boogeyman.

    You want to change things? Then get off your ass and become active in your local and state government. And I don’t mean writing an angry letter to your senator, either. I mean actually networking with real, live people in your community – police officers, state troopers, firemen, judges, teachers, etc. These are not boogeymen, but real people just like you. Talk to them. Discuss your common concerns. Work to improve your communities, to reduce injustices, strengthen individual liberties, and then network with other such communities. Stop making this “the people vs. the government” and turn it into “local communities vs. an over-bloated federal government” and watch as the tide turns effortlessly in your favor. That’s how you take over a country in a peaceful, democratic manner. You don’t plan illegal armed marches on your country’s capital.

    Either smarten up and actively work to build healthy families and communities, or prepare to be crushed by tyranny – a tyranny for which you have no one to blame but yourself.

    "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." – John Adams

    "For avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy . . . the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people." – Gouverneur Morris

    The Constitution was not designed for a degenerate populace, but for individuals who take an active role in governing themselves. A degenerate populace eventually gives hoists a full-blown tyranny upon itself.

    To Adam Koresh, Alex Jones and their ilk: Do something constructive instead of spreading fear and ignorance and goading violent behavior.

    1. Paraphrased:

      "Don't be lazy.immoral fearful of gov or a degenerate..want change; become active in local gov…network…do not be against/protest but be the change you can believe in…"

      Barack Obama came out proposing essentially the same thing and look what he's accomplished.

  8. So is it still considered "arrest" if you are not given the reason for your rest, they haven't told you you are under arrest or read you your rights? Today in the U.S. an arrest means they come up, grab you, throw you down on the ground and if you don't go limp like a rag doll, you're "resisting arrest?" It's not even a legal arrest most of the time these days! One man was charged with assaulting an officer when the officers fists got hurt beating his suspects face in! True Story!!! We have given too much power away! Time to take it back! Viva la Revolution!

  9. Policy papers & suits? These have gotten us nowhere. Endless war on terror stacked on endless war on drugs is a monumental assault on freedom that has accelerated since 2001. The fight for liberty is not about behaving oneself or being acceptable to polite society. It is about pushing limits, forcing authoritarians to over react, to abuse, persecute and martyr the freedom movement. This is how they loose credibility. There is more than one way to crack an egg. You may be uncomfortable with Kokesh’s methods. The fact is, we need people like Kokesh and we need the white paper libertarians both. But it is unacceptable to sit around and right opinions to shared with the choir but few others… with little or no impact in thwarting or reversing the burgeoning totalitarian state. Kokesh caused no harm and is being persecuted under dubious pretenses. This is the only wrong that has occurred here.

    1. I'm in complete agreement wth you, Justin. As much as I disagree with you on, Justin, I've never got the feeling you are an accident waiting to happen. Kokesh, I could tell it a few years back by listening to his rhetoric and watching his antics. Disrupting the GOP convention in 2008. A person couldn't have paid me enough money to do that.

  10. I can give people another thing about Kokesh I never really liked very much. The way he has ran around doing things in his Marine Corps uniform, or even parts of the uniform as he did in 2012 at some rally for Ron Paul. I, too, was in the Marine Corps. Since I got out back in 1999, I've never once worn a single part of my Marine Corps uniforms. I wouldn't want for a few years. I believe it would be cowardly on my part, as though I need to do that to feel legitimate, or that it makes me superior to anybody else in any way. Also, to wear a uniform in order to try to score political points is disrespectful of the uniform.

    1. Doesn't have the right to cuss? You're a fucking dipsh!t … Its called freedom of speech. And if you say freedom of speech comes with consequence for what you say, you are a Nazi …
      Go back to sucking off Kissenger on your twitter feed you moron.

    2. The Marine Corps uniform does seem wrong. It's too much glorifying the power of violence, and in this case yes of course duh that is state violence that it's glorifying – it's the Marines.

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  12. The State doesn’t care if Mr Kokesh is guilty or not. He will be released on conditions. One of those conditions will be that he is prohibited from attending public protests. If he even gets near DC around July 4 they’ll simply arrest him for violating his bail conditions.

    This is how the US police state works. There’s no need to declare martial law or ‘disappear’ people or any of that dramatic stuff. They simply do what they want and call it ‘legal’.

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