Ground Zero, Day One: National Day of Non Compliance
The title is a little misleading; while this was day one for many who stood on the side of love that day, my community has been living under SB1070 for two years this coming February… under 287(g). Please note that when I say my community, I don’t mean my county or even my city. I mean, MY NEIGHBORHOOD. The student body at my son’s high school is 71% Hispanic, 22% Black. 4% White, 2% Native American, and .6% Asian. When Sheriff Joe “Bull” Arpaio does an immigration sweep, it’s not in Scottsdale or Paradise Valley, it’s in neighborhoods like mine that are going to give him the biggest bang for his buck… the highest numbers of “suspected” illegal immigrants for his media whoring.
Unlike PurpleCrayon, friend and member of my church fam, I was neither shocked nor surprised by the show of force from the good Sheriff. It’s funny to me that the Sheriff’s Posse always seems to strike in the hours just before & after dawn or dusk, but there’s nary a Posse to be found in the wee hours of the morning as I lie in bed listing to what I hope is random, rather than intentional, gunfire. Don’t worry about those gangs of urban terrorists Joe… you go on and russle up some landscapers and day laborers instead, cowboy.
I have been trying for a couple days now to sort through everything that happened during the National Day of Non-Compliance and throughout the weekend. How do I summarize all that I witnessed, everything I felt? There are so many different facets that I’m struggling to organize them, and I’m starting to think this might be a multi post series.
I think I’ll start off with how I felt about my participation and the role I played, which is probably what the readers of this blog are wondering most about anyway, since many of you know that I was extremely committed to going to jail. Not only had I attended a non violent direct action & civil disobedience training, I identified myself to organizers as being willing to risk arrest, I also indicated I would be willing to be part of a second, smaller, and more intense (read, intimidating) act of civil disobedience. I had several people on stand by to help take care of the curly crew, and quite a few more who indicated they’d act as “community ties” contacts in case legal needed it to reduce or eliminate bond in the event I wasn’t cited and released. I had spoken to my kids in detail about my decision to risk arrest.
The short version is, I twittered and gave interviews. It started off innocently enough… in an attempt to keep myself out of trouble (aka, busy) I’d posted a couple pictures and a chant I really liked to my face book & twitter feed. A friend commented that she’d love to see more of the activity and what was happening…which is when I morphed into the alter ego I didn‘t know I had, Cyndi Witness-more, UUCP on the spot reporter…
I didn’t come up with that on my own… it‘s what I was dubbed by a fellow member of my congregation who I’ve always enjoyed, haven’t known very well, but have grown very fond of and felt very close to this last week.
I took about a hundred pictures & I think I twittered every chant done by the protestors. I was talking to Gini Courter, UU moderator
Side story… I was walking in the march with the kids and saw her ahead of us… squealed, “That‘s GINIIIIII“ and practically ran her down and tackled so I could tell her how much her moderator’s report had touched me and to thank her for giving my family a voice.
when a man who appeared to be of Central or South American descent approached her and asked if he could interview people from our group for an independent documentary. I interrupted and introduced myself, explaining that I was local and would love to tell him about how living under 287G/SB1070 had affected my family. I don’t know if that opened some kind of link to the universe or what, but a little while later a young lady from a Filipino student radio program asked if she could interview me.
I saw one of the organizers and we spoke for a few minutes and I joked about my tweets being out of control and that I’d probably been interviewed because I was always standing at the edge of the crowd doing nothing. What I assumed was just a fellow protestor meandered over and joined the conversation… I don’t recall what city in Mexico he said he was originally from. We were all chatting when it began to rain, and he asked if we could go stand under the awning of a building a couple yards away. I jokingly asked, “Are you going to melt?” and he responded that he’d like to interview me for the documentary he’d mentioned.
(Y’all know immalilslowsometimes.)
As I followed him, I looked at the organizer over my shoulder and said, “See what I mean about getting interviewed for standing around doing nothing?” I continued to spend the day taking pictures of and with and talking to other protestors, and on occasion an observer who didn‘t exactly support our action. I’m terrible with names the first (and sometimes the second and third) time around, but I’ll never forget their faces or their incredible energy. I met people from NH, FL, LA, CA, IL and that’s just the states I remember… Black, White, Mexican, Native American, Japanese and any combination of the above and more… we all stood in solidarity, together. I was asked several times by fellow protestors what was up with the yellow shirt people and why I had decided to protest. I shared my experience and listened to theirs. The man in this picture hugged me and said, “I don’t even know your name but we will always be connected.” Of course I introduced myself and he did the same… and I’ve already forgotten his name and he’s probably forgotten mine, but I will never, ever forget him.
It was quite some time before I was able to confirm that there was not going to be a later action, and that it had (unexpectedly) wound up happening earlier.
(like I said, immalilslowsometimes)
Needless to say, I was really disappointed. I know there is no part of a protest that is more heroic than another… whether we do direct action, act as supporters or observers, we all assume a variety of risks. But when you couple how deeply committed I had become to putting my money where my mouth was (and while you might assume that decision was a no brainer for me, I prayed on this (which to a UU means I thought about it really, really, really, REALLY hard) for nearly a week) with the fact that I used one of my remaining 2.5 vacation days, which won‘t roll over till January, it’s not like I was going to have another opportunity to participate at that level for a while.
I was chatting with another organizer who had kinda talked me through the worst of my disappointment, when I was approached by a reporter & cameraman from An affiliate of/a station in Mexico & asked for an interview. At this point between the adreneline high of the organized protest followed by the stress of the the public witness I participated in afterwards to the collapse of my expectations, I my emotions were very close to the surface. I’d tried to be keep my comments brief and to the point in other interviews, but in this one after I made my points about how short sighted the law is, I also something to the effect that it’s what I would do… whatever I had to do for my children, I would do. Afterwards, I turned towards the women I’d been speaking to and said something like, “I just don’t get it… I think that was my fourth interview.” She responded that she’d been me talking with people and while she knew how disappointed I was not to be in jail right now, “You were called to a different purpose today.” And I guess she was right, because later that night I wound up fielding a number of questions about the demographics of the UUA and the Standing on the Side of Love from a reporter for a Mexican newspaper.
I didn’t scale a crane to drop a banner or temporarily block Arpaio from terrorizing our communities, and I didn’t go to jail, but I still feel like my participation in this protest and the vigils that followed is one of the most important things I’ve done in my life. It seemed small at the time, but as the weekend went on, I found out what it meant to other members of my congregation and beyond as my tweets and facebook updates and pictures were retweeted and posted by others. So many people told me that they felt like they literally felt like they were with us in spirit though they couldn’t be with us in body. In turn, I felt, for perhaps the first time, that I stood in solidarity with m;y congregation at large, rather than feeling as though I stood in solitude. I hope that sharing my story with the reporters who approached me leaves at least one person, even if it’s just the reporter, with the sense that we were not only there to support them in their struggle, but that we recognize that it is our struggle too. One of us is fighting for dignity, and the other is waging a war to reclaim our humanity.
One love, one blood, one people
One heart, one beat, we equal
Connected like the internet
United that’s how we do
Let’s break walls, so we see through
Let love and peace lead you
We could overcome the complication cause we need to
Help each other, make these changes
Brother, sister, rearrange this
The way I’m thinking that we can change this bad condition
Wait, use you mind and not your greed
Let’s connect and then proceed
This is something I believe
We are one, we’re all just people