There comes a time when good men, men of conscience, can take no more. They have to rise up against tyranny, cast off the shackles of oppression, shake their fists in the face of moral injustice. They have to use e-cigarettes in public, while trying very, very hard to get a ticket for doing so.
As you may recall, one of Michael Bloomberg’s last acts as mayor, an admittedly silly one, was to sign a ban on the public use of e-cigarettes, adding them to the 2002 Smoke-Free Air Act that banned smoking in public places throughout the city. It took effect April 29, sparking outrage among the city’s surprising passionate, exceedingly aggrieved e-cig-using public.
That’s where Russ Wishtart comes in. He’s whole-heartedly dedicated to “vaping,” the verb e-cig users prefer, so much so that he hosts a podcast on the subject entitled Click, Bang!. And in March, he and other vaping activists joined with smokers rights group C.L.A.S.H.to sue the city to overturn the e-cig ban.
As the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slowly, they’re also planning a little civil disobedience for this Saturday.
Wishtart first announced his plans to organize “mass civil disobedience protests” in an interview with a vaping website at the end of March. (In the same interview, he describes his political evolution into becoming a “card-carrying Libertarian,” one who realized that the same Birkenstocked hippies on campus who harangued everybody about “hate speech” grew up to be committed foes of e-cig freedom.)
Wishtart and his crew plan to show up at Central Park’s Arsenal Building on Saturday at 2 p..m., which is, not coincidentally, the headquarters of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“If they want to enforce this vaping ban, they will have to write tickets to individuals, and we are going to force them to do so in their own backyard,” Wishtart writes in a press release announcing the action. The release also places vaping in its proper moral context by quoting other liberty-loving freedom fighters: Martin Luther King (“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws,”), Thomas Jefferson (“If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so,”) and the famously ascetic Gandhi, who, we are certain, made an exception for a particularly savory e-liquid (“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.”)
But the vapers won’t just vape (a verb which grows more irritating each time I type it) quietly. They’re trying hard to get the NYPD to write them a citation for doing so in public, even going so far as to announce their presence ahead of time. Wishtart adds:
The NYC Parks Department and the NYPD will be notified in advance exactly where we will be and exactly what we are doing. Additionally, there will be a complaint made by a citizen to both the Parks Department and the NYPD to the fact that we are illegally vaping while we in the act of doing so. This will all be documented by a professional photojournalist.
Wishtart intimates that there’s more to the protest then first meets the eye: “I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve that I will not reveal in this publicly shared document, but I can assure you that NYC will have quite a bit of egg on their face if they do actually decide to write citations. There will be ample fodder for the media to ridicule the City – that’s about all I can say for now.”
Someone will certainly end up looking foolish. That much we can confidently say.
The full and highly readable press release from Wishtart is on the following page.