The following statement was read by Garrett Fitzgerald before his sentencing at the plea hearing of October 19, 2010. Without giving a reason why–representative of her childish behavior all along–Judge Teresa Warner refused to allow him to quote the passage below from “The Lorax” in its entirety.
Judge, I have pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Damage Property and you are preparing to judge and sentence me. Acting in your official capacity on behalf of this system, you will stand opposed to any law being broken. But as you pass judgment, by your own rules, you are encouraged to consider my motives and character. While I’m sure I have done things in my life that you would look down on and have ideas in my head that you would disagree with, I can’t help but wonder if beyond the veil of slander hung by the prosecutors and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, there aren’t actions I have taken and paths I have chosen in my life that you may not only agree are good, but–dare I postulate–you may even find noble.
I have dedicated my life to the service of my community. As has been said often already, I work as a preschool teacher. One of the schools I teach at is for at-risk children – kids from families with histories of abuse. Children suffering from the effects of environmental racism: poisoned as infants, and even before, by lead or arsenic. Many of them lack positive male role models in their lives. I teach them that not all men hit when they’re angry. I teach them that they can work out their problems together if they cooperate. I teach them to be proud of themselves and respectful of each other. As part of teaching these things, I must model them. And I promise that if any of the other teachers I work with were called upon, they would say that I do this with great commitment and integrity.
Along with working with kids, I have a long history of working in horizontally organized groups and have recently begun teaching workshops to adults in how to better share power and responsibility when working collectively.
I was back in your chambers, judge, about a year and a half ago while volunteering as a legal assistant on another RNC case. I hadn’t known the defendants before the RNC, but they were in need of help and I was capable of helping them–so I did. It wasn’t a question. I wasn’t paid or traded or promised anything. It was simply the right thing to do.
Throughout my life, I have lived in voluntary poverty in order to spend more time working to better the lives of others around me. In the past year alone, I have been a part of serving free meals to all who would want them, raising funds to provide midwives for pregnant women in prison, and speaking out against racism in my community. I am committed to a life of sobriety; I don’t drink alcohol, smoke or do any drugs. I come from a small family, and over the past months I have been the closest family member in proximity to my Grandmother and have been her primary support.
I broke the law and will serve the sentence you impose. Know, however, that my breaking of the law was not wanton or unprincipled; rather, it is a result of my principles and work for a better world.
Throughout this case, there has been a lot of talk on behalf of the state. From the very first reports coming out of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, the approach to this case has been exaggerated and overblown. Personally, I have never claimed there was no illegal activity, but the state’s response is the equivalent of staking out a street corner for a week to catch a jaywalker or setting up an FBI sting to catch a teenage shoplifter. We openly questioned and debated the authority of the state, and they had 50 million dollars in federal funding to find a way to burn us. That is what makes this case political. It’s not that we didn’t break the law. It’s that we were specifically targeted for investigation because of our political beliefs.
We filed a Franks motion to draw attention to the exaggeration in the story as told by the state and I hope that, in spite of your not granting the motion, some bit of truth was revealed. I have told you in the factual basis for my plea what I am guilty of. That does not mean I am guilty of every slanderous accusation that the state and Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office have heaped upon me.
I am just about finished with my remarks, but to better illustrate my position, I would like to read from one of my favorite books. I read this book with the young people I work with and I believe it is fitting for this situation. The book is The Lorax by Dr. Suess. To set it up briefly, a child has walked to a desolate wasteland on the outskirts of town to meet the Once-ler and hear the story of what happened to the Lorax. The Once-ler begins:
It all started way back…
such a long, long time back…
Way back in the days when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean,
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space…
one morning, I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!
The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.
And, under the trees, I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots
frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits
as they played in the shade and ate Truffula Fruits.
From the rippulous pond
came the comfortable sound
of the Humming-Fish humming
while splashing around.
But those trees! Those trees!
Those Truffula Trees!
All my life I’d been searching
for trees such as these.
The touch of their tufts
was much softer than silk.
And they had the sweet smell
of fresh butterfly milk.
I felt a great leaping
of joy in my heart.
I knew just what I’d do!
I unloaded my cart.
In no time at all, I had built a small shop.
Then I chopped down a Truffula Tree with one chop.
And with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed,
I took the soft tuft. And I knitted a Thneed!
The instant I’d finished, I heard a ga-Zump!
I saw something pop out of the stump
of the tree I’d chopped down. It was sort of a man.
Describe him?…That’s hard. I don’t know if I can.
He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice
that was sharpish and bossy.
“Mister!” he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
and I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs”–
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed–
“What’s that THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?”
“Look, Lorax,” I said. “There’s no cause for alarm.
I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm.
I’m being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed.
A Thneed’s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove. It’s a hat.
But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!”
The Lorax said,
“Sir! You are crazy with greed.
There is no one on earth
who would buy that fool Thneed!”
But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.
For, just at that minute, a chap came along,
and he thought that the Thneed I had knitted was great.
He happily bought it for three ninety-eight.
I laughed at the Lorax, “You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy.”
“I repeat,” cried the Lorax,
“I speak for the trees!”
“I’m busy,” I told him.
“Shut up, if you please.”
I rushed ‘cross the room, and in no time at all,
built a radio-phone. I put in a quick call.
I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts
and I said, “Listen here! Here’s a wonderful chance
for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!
Get over here fast! Take the road to North Nitch.
Turn left a Weehawken. Sharp right at South Stitch.”
And, in no time at all,
in the factory I built,
the whole Once-ler Family
was working full tilt.
We were all knitting Thneeds
just as busy as bees,
to the sound of the chopping of Truffula Trees.
Oh! Baby! Oh!
How my business did grow!
Now, chopping one tree
at a time
was too slow.
So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker
which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker.
We were making Thneeds
four times as fast as before!
And that Lorax?…
He didn’t show up any more.
But the next week
on my new office door.
He snapped, “I’m the Lorax who speaks for the trees
which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.
But I’m also in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots
who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits
and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits.
“NOW…thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
there’s not enough Truffula Fruit to go ’round.
And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies
because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!
“They loved living here. But I can’t let them stay.
They’ll have to find food. And I hope that they may.
Good luck, boys,” he cried. And he sent them away.
I, the Once-ler, felt sad
as I watched them all go.
business is business!
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.
I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth
to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering…selling more Thneeds.
and I biggered my money, which everyone needs.
Then again he came back! I was fixing some pipes
when that old-nuisance Lorax came back with more gripes.
“I am the Lorax,” he coughed and he whiffed.
He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.
“Once-ler!” he cried with a cruffulous croak.
“Once-ler! You’re making such smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans…why, they can’t sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.
“And so,” said the Lorax,
“–please pardon my cough–
they cannot live here.
So I’m sending them off.
“Where will they go?…
I don’t hopefully know.
“They may have to fly for a month…or a year…
To escape from the smog you’ve smogged-up around here.
“What’s more,” snapped the Lorax. (His dander was up.)
“Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp.
Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop
making Gluppity-Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.
And what do you do with this leftover goo?…
I’ll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man, you!
“You’re glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed!
No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.
So I’m sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary.
They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary
in search of some water that isn’t so smeary.”
And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering
turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”
And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the fields came a sickening smack
of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.
The very last Truffula Tree of them all!
No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done.
So, in no time, my uncles and aunts, every one,
all waved me good-bye. They jumped into my cars
and drove away under the smoke-smuggered stars.
Now all that was left ‘neath the bad-smelling sky
was my big empty factory…
The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance…
just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance…
as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.
And I’ll never forget the grim look on his face
when he heisted himself and took leave of this place,
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.
And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks, with the one word…
Whatever that meant, well, I just couldn’t guess.
That was long, long ago.
Bur each day since that day
I’ve sat here and worried
and worried away.
Through the years, while my buildings
have fallen apart,
I’ve worried about it
with all of my heart.
“But now,” says the Once-ler,
“Now that you’re here,
the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
Catch!” calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
“It’s a Truffula Seed.
It’s the last one of all!
You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.”
The Lorax voiced protest. He asked and pleaded with the Once-ler to stop chopping down the Truffula Trees. He appealed to the Once-ler’s sense of morality and ethics, but in the end, the last of the Truffula Trees still fell. The Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans, and Humming-Fish all had to leave. Oh, but the Once-ler was just doing his job, making Thneeds. If the sky fills with “smogulous smoke” and the lake with Gluppity-Glup and Schloppity-Schlopp…well, it can’t be his concern. What we allow and what we don’t says a lot about who we are as a society. In the past few years, I have heard judges, politicians, police, and all the other Once-lers say that it isn’t their job to confront systemic injustice and I have to ask, “Then whose job is it?” It’s our job, and it’s my job, and it’s yours and yours and yours and unless someone out there cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
Tags: Garrett Fitzgerald, teresa warner