Russell Kanning Summons Spirit of Thoreau at I.R.S. Office

While Russell Kanning never said so explicitly, and I didn’t catch it myself until , the form of his protest — to try to convince IRS employees to reduce their complicity in government wickedness by quitting their jobs — comes straight from Thoreau’s manual of civil disobedience:

My civil neighbor, the tax-gatherer, is the very man I have to deal with, — for it is, after all, with men and not with parchment that I quarrel, — and he has voluntarily chosen to be an agent of the government. How shall he ever know well what he is and does as an officer of the government, or as a man, until he is obliged to consider whether he shall treat me, his neighbor, for whom he has respect, as a neighbor and well-disposed man, or as a maniac and disturber of the peace, and see if he can get over this obstruction to his neighborliness without a ruder and more impetuous thought or speech corresponding with his action.

If the tax-gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, “But what shall I do?” my answer is, “If you really wish to do anything, resign your office.” When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished.

The agents of the Federal Protection Service who arrested Kanning, going right along with Thoreau’s script, charged him with disorderly conduct (see The Picket Line ) — and in Concord District Court, for crying out loud (okay, Concord, New Hampshire, not Concord, Massachusetts, but still).

Kanning was going to try again this week (see The Picket Line ), but his plans were interrupted when he was arrested at his home on morning for failure to appear in court to face the earlier charges.

In court, the government dropped the charge of distributing materials in a federal building (because he had been prevented from doing so), but convicted him on the other charges — two charges of failure to obey lawful orders, one charge of failure to obey posted regulations, and one charge of disorderly conduct.

Kanning declined a lawyer, and for the most part refused to cooperate in the trial — at one point a bailiff seized a paper airplane Kanning was constructing as the trial proceeded. Kanning also said he would refuse to voluntarily return for sentencing, so he is being held without bail . You can send him mail at the following address:

Russell Kanning
c/o Strafford County House of Corrections