August 23rd, 2011 is a day I will remember forever. At approximately 1:30pm I was being
released from jail in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day, with 60 new and dear friends, I was arrested in front of the White House, frisked, handcuffed and put in a police van for the civil disobedience action of “standing” in front of the White House and not moving when directed to by DC Park Police. We were part of a larger movement, where over the course of 2 weeks, 1253 people were arrested – more and more each day – for the ‘crime” of standing together in protest against the eminent construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
About 20 minutes after my release, I was on the DC metro, on my way to meet up with my children, who were safely waiting in Baltimore with a dear friend. As the metro stopped at multiple stations on it’s way to Union Station it became clearer and clearer that something was terribly wrong. On arrival at Union Station, where 1000’s of people were milling about, we were both dazed and relieved to learn it wasn’t a terrorist attack as many of us were beginning to believe, but rather an earthquake. Washington had been “shook” hard by a 5.8 earthquake, which damaged the Capital and the National Monument but all in all the damage was limited, and no one was hurt badly.
A memorable day, all around I would say. For those of us in the climate movement, these two weeks in August 2011 were a seminal time. This was a moment where we all came together very publicly and collectively to draw our line in the sand and say no more. To this day, the Keystone XL still hasn’t been built. It remains a symbol of our collective ability and combined will; reminding us of the success and importance of non-violent direct action.
Sadly, and in fact, many, many pipelines have been built since then, are under construction, and on the planning books today; but collective action against these pipelines at the local level remains strong. These local actions around our country and around the world may in many cases not be as visible in the media as our KXL protests were, but they are as or more successful and are incredible powerful – inspiring and empowering us all. Most of these protests are slowing down pipeline construction and many have resulted in pipeline postponements of many years. Some have in fact stopped these “powerful ‘snakes” in their tracks. One of many, many ongoing protests that deserves and needs more attention is the Bayou Bridge Pipeline protest in Louisiana. Learn more about the brave men and women who fight daily to protect their homes and ours.
As these oil and gas pipelines grind their way across our country they transport in their bellies destructive, dangerous and deadly poisons. Many, many people have since been arrested and face longer and harsher sentences then the ones we faced over those two weeks in Washington, DC. We must remain cognizant and on alert as many, many states and our national government are currently looking at ways to limit and curb public protest and the very ability of people to gather and express our free will and free speech. We must stay vigilant of these facts and fight against them. Our nation was built on the right for free speech. This must remain a foundational pillar.
Today however I am taking a moment, and I am smiling. I am celebrating the dear and lasting friendships I made over these few weeks in 2011, and the moment we created that helped galvanize and strengthen our community; turning many of us into life long climate activists. Below is one post I wrote the day after my arrest. Here and here are a few links to more of my thoughts and feelings leading up to and including that day, 7 years ago today. If you look back on our blog and search through 2011, you will find more thoughts, ideas and musings.
Time goes, and our world continues to show us in increasingly chaotic and damaging ways that she is out of balance, sick and getting tired of our abuses. Will she survive, of course she will. She has been around for over 4 billion years. Will we survive, that is another matter entirely and depends in large part on us…
To my fellow arrestees, and to all our dear Climate Mamas and Papas, thank you for all you do everyday,
your Climate Mama
Why a Bra Makes a Good Purse in Times of Imminent Arrest: The Tar Sands Action, August 24th, 2011
As of August 24, 2011, close to 300 people have been arrested in the largest civil disobedience action in the American environmental movement’s recent history. I am honored to say I am one of those people. Women and men from all walks and circles of life are “stepping up” and saying no to the XL Keystone Pipeline, which would carry Tar Sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Texas, crossing over and through environmentally fragile zones and important aquifers; threatening our land, our water, our wildlife, and our way of life.
So, you may ask, how does one prepare for an “imminent” arrest in Washington, DC? In my case, carefully and with much help from my friends! My experience with the TarSandsAction support team has been incredibly positive. Not only did they prepare me for what would happen, and be there to support me every step of the way, but they also introduced me to a group of caring individuals from all over the country who are now my friends and jail mates. (Not too many other individuals I know can fall into this particular friend category!) Many of these people, like me, are “middle age” (ouch!) and opening themselves up for arrest for the very first time. We Elders have found our cause and are taking our place along side students and young people who have been holding the “mantle” on environmental protests for us, by themselves, for long enough.
This new page in my personal history book begins at “civil disobedience training” the night before my arrest where we were told NOT to bring anything to the protest that we could NOT afford to loose, including cell phones and wedding rings. Do you know how hard it is to get a wedding ring off your finger that has been there for 15 years? We were also told to “dress dignified” like we were going to a business meeting. I had packed a skirt and top, neither of which had pockets, and didn’t think through how I would carry my ID and $100, the two items we were told TO take to jail – ID, so we could be properly booked, and $100 which was our “get out of jail” card. Our hope and best case scenario was that whatever our charge was, we would be given the opportunity to “post and forfeit” which would allow us to pay a fine and then leave jail that same day.
So, this is where a bra comes in handy, another useful piece of information from my TarSandsAction support colleagues. That morning as I dressed, I put my driver’s license, $120, and a metro card in my bra, which now effectively served as my purse! I did move these items to the waste band of my skirt just prior to my arrest and the handcuffs going on me, so that it would be easier for the arresting officer who frisked me to remove them. Yes I was frisked, in fact several times, and yes I had handcuffs on from the moment of my arrest until my release at the jail. I also road in a “paddy wagon” with a motorcycle escort through the streets of DC past the White House on the way to the Anacostia Jail. Many “firsts” for me to write down in MY personal history book. I am surprised to tell you that I wasn’t afraid. I was with more than 60 of my new “best friends” and we were all in it together, for the planet, for our children, and for ourselves.