Protests, Washington, political, bus ride, marches
20190902 00109a 20 minutes Drawing the line, first round.
Going to Washington was the only option.
Buried amongst the myriad of e-mails I receive each day was an innocuous looking note about a march in Washington in a few days’ time. It was to protest the treatment of the children and parents at the Southern border, a subject which really had hit a nerve for me.
Recently I had been given a check for my birthday by one of my daughters, so my usual excuse that I couldn’t afford it, didn’t hold water: I’d like to go, I had the time and I COULD afford it. Scarey. My last “demonstration” was against the nuclear bomb, probably in the early ‘80s, rather a long time ago. I’m not a regular who turns out every time there is a demonstration. The information started about the enormous Saturday demonstrations across the country, including a local one in White Plains, and continued with information about the smaller Womens’ March in Washington on Thursday. To go or not to go? And if so, which one and when.
The one on Saturday in D.C. promised to be very big. Exciting, definitely, but to go alone at my age didn’t sound sensible. Not that I’m renowned for “sensible.” But sometimes it behooves one not to cause problems for other people. The weather was also a consideration. Bad on Thursday, worse Saturday. The Thursday event in Washington sounded less threatening, and I could also go to the Saturday event in White Plains. Proving substantial local support for innumerable events around the country, as well as support in Washington from voters from diverse locations, are both important considerations. I decided on Washington on Thursday and White Plains on Saturday.
On reviewing my conclusion I questioned why I wanted to go. The recent behaviour of our government, and elected representatives, not stopping it, had so enraged me that I was ready to “do something.” Something beyond over-stuffing e-mail boxes so they overflow. Something beyond calling our elected representatives. Something significant, that they would have to notice. What I didn’t know. And now this e-mail appeared in my mailbox, and suggested getting arrested in Washington! Timing. Everything depends on timing. The time was ripe. I would go!
The organizers were not exactly top of the line in communication. Once I decided it was a go I contacted Am Track and researched return-trip reservations, NYC-D.C. Not cheap. Scarey. Haven’t been on a train in eons. The organizers had suggested being there before 7 a.m. and staying in a church(!) overnight. Since money was definitely limited, that sounded good. I figured if I was going, I might as well stay as long as possible and see a little of our capital city while I had the chance. One of the considerations was that the fine for being arrested couldn’t be paid within 24 hours, must be paid within 15 days, and must be paid in cash and in person. They definitely don’t make it easy. I thought of staying over, in the church, and paying the fine before I left, so made the Am Track reservations for Wednesday morning, returning Friday late. Sounded exciting. An adventure.
Then I figured I should find out the address of the church where I’d be staying, and who to contact for details of scheduling etc. I spent ages trying to get something on-line and came up with nothing. Zero. And began to wonder if it really was legit. I couldn’t find anything else about the march so eventually cancelled the Am Track reservations, with penalty, and decided it is easy to dupe people.
Later, a little before midnight on Tuesday, I got a new e-mail with scheduling details, several names for contact, and information that there was a bus with seats available to transport us to and from the event, from NYC to D.C. I replied immediately and the event was back on again. My daughter, when I contacted her, agreed to take my dog; and the cat would be fine in the apartment for one day. He’d survived the two weeks confined in the apartment when we moved recently. He prefers being outside but is fine with being inside if necessary.
All signals were “Go.”
The intervening time, Wednesday, was spent getting organized for the trip: gas, and parking within easy walking distance, for the car; clothes for blistering sun, and cold in air conditioned buildings; a hat for the sun; food and water to keep me going through possible unknown hours of detention, (I intended to get arrested, remember?); proof of identity – driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, cash for fine, etc.; printouts of parking lot map and receipt for payment; details and schedule of trip with address of bus pick-up. Nothing to be left to chance.
We were scheduled to leave NYC at 6 a.m., that meant leaving around home by 4 o’clock, so an early bedtime was indicated. Needless to say it didn’t happen. Three hours’ sleep was reality, with most items on the list checked. I’m not known for 35 mph in a 65-zone, but it was pouring rain so speed was unwise. We, my car and I, did the trip in as good time as conditions allowed and the GPS worked its magic to find the parking garage. They didn’t want to acknowledge my paperwork but eventually found me in the computer. I almost ran to the bus contact place, arriving at 5.55 a.m., out of breath and fingers tightly crossed. Then discovered 6 a.m. was the suggested meeting time, leaving scheduled for 6.30! But I had made it. But wasn’t on the list for the first bus. Another bus hopefully would arrive soon. Eventually everyone was told to get on the bus, up to seating capacity, and they listed everyone aboard. We left 1 minute late. Incredible. They had only started organizing the march a couple of weeks earlier!
Between construction and rush hour traffic, we were in the D.C. environs around 10 o’clock. But then the driver got lost. We were going on a no-bus road, so he tried to turn around. Then he obviously was going round in circles and going the wrong way on a one-way street. Either he didn’t have a GPS or didn’t know how to use it. We arrived at 11 o’clock, and I promptly got separated from the bus group. Never having met any of them before or knowing their names made life tricky/interesting! So I played lemming and followed others who looked like maybe they knew what they were doing. We were supposed to be going to Freedom Plaza, wherever that was. We soon arrived at what I hoped was Freedom Plaza. People were giving speeches, there were medics and lawyers to answer questions in tents, food on tables, and forms for filling out for people who expected to be arrested. Sounded like the right place. After the speeches we walked to the Department of Justice, passing the Trump hotel, where we slowed down and chanted “Shame” with raised arms and clenched fists! In front of the DoJ, those who expected to be arrested sat in the road, in the broiling sun, for more speeches. Eventually I realized that if I stayed much longer sitting in the road the sun would give me sun-stroke! (my hat was still in the car!). Not a good idea. So I got up, picked my way among all the sitting figures, and found my way to some shade under a tree where it was still hot but not broiling.
Eventually we got up and walked to the Hart Senate Office building. It’s big. Very big. We ended up in the lobby, with the enormous metal sculpture. It takes up lots of space but isn’t my type of art. Well, under its shadow, those who intended to be arrested grouped in one area – a large area – and sat down. We all draped ourselves in mylar blankets like the kids, waved our placards, and continued what we’d been chanting along the roads. The one I liked best was “This is what democracy looks like.” Very true. Very messy.
Eventually the police started to remove the demonstrators, in groups of approximately 12. It took almost two hours to get to the last bunch, of whom I was one. They cleaned up the mylar blankets as they cleared the people, but I kept mine as my “badge of honor.” We were initially kept in our groups and taken out to an open grassy space under trees, and lay on the grass and waited in order for each group to go to tables where other cops indicted each member of the group. Then we were free to go, with our vital statistics in the keeping of the USCP, and a fine of $50, to be paid not before 24 hours, but in person, in cash, within 15 days.
Our bus waited for the last person who wanted to return to NYC that night. We left around 8.30 p.m. Food was provided – pizza, and bagels with various toppings. And water. Lots of water.
The return journey was relatively uneventful, apart from the fact that there was no water to flush the toilet, which caused a smelly problem. Otherwise, we returned to NYC around 1.30 a.m. and I got home around 3 o’clock. A long day with no lunch and fitful sleep on the bus coming back.
But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. We made our statement and 575 of us were arrested. Two Senators came down and joined us, and Elizabeth Warren came and greeted us from one of the galleries. Apparently over 1,200 attended the rally which did get national coverage. I met people from many states, including the West and Mid-West. Very heartening.
The Saturday rally in White Plains was similar but much, much smaller: speeches, walks in the blazing sun, and experiences from people who had personally been separated from their children. The sun was very hot but it was a much shorter duration. The microphone wasn’t working so they used a bullhorn which, when it was over, a woman from the audience took and also gave a speech. When she finished I took the bullhorn and told the few remaining participants that the previous speeches were great, but they talked about “they” and “them.” I said it should be “we” and “us.” “They” will only do what we allow them to do. It is our responsibility to make sure we keep their feet to the fire and make them do what is uncomfortable but right. We can’t let them get away with doing atrocious things in our name. We have to put pressure on our elected representatives and each of us must take the responsibility ourselves to ensure that what they do in our name is something we can be proud of. We can’t stand by and ignore what is happening. There are too many similarities to Germany in the ‘30’s. But this isn’t Germany, and we aren’t Germans. This is America and we are Americans. And we have to behave like Americans and build an America we can be proud of. What is happening now is not that America. We have to vote and make sure free speech is maintained. Anything else and we will deserve what we get. And trust me, we will only get what we sow. If we don’t fight for everyone’s rights, ours will be stripped away too. Bad things happen when good people do nothing. If we make enough noise and cause enough disturbance they will eventually hear and begin to listen. But they will only do so if each of us makes them. There is power and strength in numbers, and each one counts. The last straw is only the last straw because of all the others that have its back.
So, man the barricades. Take the responsibility and do your share towards maintaining a happier and more equitable world, where children are not wrenched from their parents in our name. A place where none of the basic freedoms, that we are so proud of and are envied by other people, will be in jeopardy.
Get out there and vote. Make sure our lesser brethren are properly taken care of, not beaten up or chased from our shores when they have a perfect right to be here. Be careful of their rights because only then will yours be safe. VOTE.
A couple of people came up to me afterwards and said they liked it!