Last Thursday evening Neil and I went to Washington, DC, for a four-hour training in non-violent direct action. It was our intention to risk arrest at a demonstration the following day, Friday, and we were required to attend the training. This was not our first such experience, but each training is specific to the event so we had to be there, along with more than 200 others, in order to participate Friday.
[As background, two years ago Neil and I were arrested with about 1250 other citizens in front of the White House in a protest against the awful Keystone XL pipeline that was being proposed to carry dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, across the US. Sadly, last week’s demonstration dealt with the same issue. The protest two years ago lasted two weeks, with 75+ individuals being arrested every day. That was our first civil disobedience arrest. The August 2011 protest was an amazingly positive experience for us, and it prepared us somewhat for last Friday. There was a difference this time, however. Two years ago the organizers had arranged everything with the US Park Police, and the arrests and payments of fines and releases ran like a well-oiled machine. Our group sat down in front of the White House at 11am and we were on Metro leaving the jail at 2pm. This time we were not in the territory of the US Park Police and, we knew the DC Metropolitan Police were not expecting our sit-in. So we were pretty sure we would be treated differently.]
The picture posted below in my blog was taken around 12:30 pm. We were the first of the 55 people arrested to be led out to the paddy wagons – greeted by a throng of supporters who chose not to be arrested. You can see our new friend Officer G…. who was so kind – making sure our handcuffs weren’t too tight, trying to keep us together in the same paddy wagon, etc. (When we went back to DC for a rally the next day we saw him! We walked up to him and he said, “I recognize you two! I tried to keep you together, but there were too many women and we had to take the men to a different precinct.” We chatted for quite a while with him and thanked him for his courtesy and helpfulness.)
Neil and the other 23 men were in one precinct and were released around 7pm. I was with a group of 31 amazing women. Nine of us ended up spending six hours in a large cell that had wonderful acoustics. We passed the time doing yoga, singing rounds one woman taught us, telling our stories, learning to dance salsa, and dancing the Macarena with words we made up about the Keystone pipeline. It felt like a college dorm room, except that occasionally an officer would come in to sit down and chat with us as if we were all having tea together. Then around 7:15pm some of the nine of us and a few of the other women were suddenly told we were being transferred to the central jail. Apparently there were so many of us that the notoriously inefficient DC police department had their single background-check computer crash, so this new group of nine women had to go to the other location where we could be processed. There we were kept in two-person cells until 1:30am.
What that meant was that I had the privilege of spending those last six hours in a small cell with a woman I expect to cherish as a good friend for the future. I can hardly believe the depth of our conversation and sharing with each other. Though we had enormous respect for all of the women we had met, we felt strongly that with none of the others would we have experienced such an affinity or have wanted to be locked up! And we later learned that during the hours after the men were released, Neil was with the husband of my new friend!
Both of our husbands and five other wonderful supporters were actually outside the central jail in DC at 1:30 am waiting for us with cold pizza and salads when we were finally released. (They’d been waiting for six hours, hence the cold pizza!)
Neil and all the men have a court date of 8/15 and the women go back on 8/20, so we will be reunited with our colleagues on those occasions. We’re looking forward to that! We hope this took our country one step closer to shutting down the awful tar sands oil pipelines and moved us closer to focusing on eliminating fossil fuels. Where there is a will there is a way, but so far we seem to have a failure of will (since the oil industry is very generous with contributions to election campaigns, etc.). We’d do this again in a minute!
Consider joining us!!