I was arrested on the Capitol steps last Monday. I am one of the Democracy Spring 429, the largest number of arrests on a single day at the Capitol in US history. I'd never done anything like that before. I'm glad I did it now. Unless things change, I will do it again. Please consider joining me!
The single focus of Democracy Spring is the fundamental American value of "one person, one vote." This can be restored by, one, getting big money out of politics through campaign finance reform and, two, ending the voter suppression tactics popping up all over our country.
Organizations and individuals like me have joined together in this because we know our particular cause--mine is LGBTQ protections--will not be accomplished until our government is made functional again. The goals of Democracy Spring are the best ways to get government working again for us, the people. We, the people, have to do this.
Right now, that takes risking arrest.
And I felt I had to step up. As a baby boomer, I feel responsible for the dysfunction in our politics. I would be ashamed to hand our present situation to our grandchildren. There were many other elders sitting in front of the Capitol, too, who must agree with me. Democracy Spring was wonderfully intergenerational though the Millenials were certainly doing this their way.
So on Sunday, I took the bus to DC where, that night, I was trained in non-violent resistance. Non-violence is a rock bottom commitment of Democracy Spring, one of the things I really like about it. They are clear that success requires non-violence. On the Capitol steps, I watched as two leaders talked down four young men who did not respond to the commands of the officer to stand and move. The Democracy Spring organizers emphasized that we were to respect the police and that meant obeying their orders. These young men had taken the pledge I took to non-violence. Between the urging of other protesters and stern handling by the police, they eventually complied.
About noon on Monday, I marched with a good thousand others from Columbus Circle at Union Station up to the east side of the Capitol onto the central steps where a barrier and row of police were standing. Those of us risking arrest sat down and the rest moved back under the direction of another row of police to the grassy mall between the Capitol and the Supreme Court at one end and the Library of Congress at the other.
For the whole afternoon, as the shadow of the Capitol dome lengthened, we chanted, "Money ain't speech, corporations aren't people!" and others sayings like that. I enjoyed the beauty of the trees on the mall turning green before our eyes, chatted with the people sitting by me and watched the police mill around, then ask us to stand, eventually in groups of ten, to be arrested.
Arrest entailed being restrained with plastic handcuffs behind our backs and led off to the House side of the Capitol. Over there, we were lined up and searched, then stood waiting to be photographed and told to get on the Capitol police bus for transport to what I'd call the processing hall at a nondescript warehouse near the Nationals ballpark.
I was arrested about 4 p.m., I'd say, arrived at the processing about 5 p.m. and was free to go a little after 9 p.m. There were three steps: background check (I suspect; no one told me what that was) when my ID was taken, booking for "crowding and incommoding" on Capitol grounds, and release with the requirement to show up within 15 days at the police station at 119 D St. NE to "post and forfeit," paying a fine of $50 (exact change). When I did that on Tuesday, I emerged "arrested but not convicted," and that was that.
The most uncomfortable part of the whole thing was this: the cuffs behind my back were pulled so tight that my right hand began to swell, tingle and fall asleep. When I mentioned this to another woman, she urged me to speak to someone so I did. The officer immediately cut the cuffs off and re-cuffed my hands in front and a little more loosely.
Many around me suffered from the inability to go to the bathroom. There was no opportunity until reaching the processing hall and then there was one port-o-john for all of us and each one had to be escorted by an officer.
I confess the tedium and uncertainty of waiting through the processing was exhausting. But this discomfort was a small price to pay if this witness serves to build a movement that reinstates "one person, one vote" to our democracy.
And that's what Democracy Spring and I know is necessary: build a movement -- that includes you!
So we are not the only ones engaging in this. This weekend there is another opportunity to demonstrate our desire for an equal voice for all in our democracy: Democracy Awakening, April 16-18, with more marching, chanting and risking arrest.
One of the chants that energized us was a call and response: "Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!" Actually, repeating this made me very sad. Risking arrest is not what democracy really ought to look like. It is when our democracy is at risk that we, the people, are driven to this extreme. But that is where we are in our country right now. This needs to be what our democracy looks like until we right the wrongs that we all know plague our body politic.
Thank you for giving Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening your prayerful consideration. I trust, if you do, you will find your way to join in, too.