Last Saturday, while listening to the “Why Direct Action?” panel at the Midwest Rising Convergence, I whispered to my close friend Todd sitting next to me, “I think I’m going to risk arrest on Monday.” He responded, “Why shouldn’t you?”
While making my mental pro-con list, I realized that Todd was right. My con list was short: I might have a record, which as a college student with the unknown in front of me seems reason for concern. However, the pro list was much longer. I would be fighting the corporate powers of Bank of America, Peabody Energy and so many others found in St. Louis in ways that my years of rallies, protests, phonecalling and voting had never done.
My privilege was the most notable item on my pro list. I knew that because of my socioeconomic status and my community of friends and fellow activists I would be bailed out of jail quickly. Using my privilege as a white female with enough money seemed like one of the biggest services I could provide where others in the movement can’t due to the unequal realities of our legal system. As activist Lisa Fithian said, “It should be our rich white kids risking arrest.”
When 15 of us, the Midwest Rising 15, sat down in the downtown St. Louis intersection, Peabody Energy on one side, Bank of America on the other, we linked arms and chanted. Looking around the circle at the strong, determined faces surrounding me, I knew I had made the right decision. We spent 10 hours in jail, charged with street demonstration and failure to obey police orders. The last one released, I exited to fifty people cheering and waiting for me.
The love I felt reminded me of how lucky I am to be part of a group of people fighting for a more just world, and some unexpected pros worked themselves onto my list. First, my arrest had inspired others. It had invigorated not just me, but those waiting outside. For all of us who work so close to burnout, seeing new tactics used is inspiring and makes us feel alive again. Second, getting a brief look into the legal system reaffirmed my commitment to fighting systems of oppression. The convergence had already linked economic and climate justice movements, but hearing stories of people held overnight with no food or water reminded me that movements working together are even stronger. I was both depressed and inspired when I reminded myself that in the United States we are innocent until proven guilty.
We must all continue to think strategically to fight for justice for people and the planet. As sixty sit in jail, sixty more risk arrest today and hundreds others gear up for action regarding the Keystone pipeline, as Tim Dechristopher spends two years in prison, I am humbled to be a part of a growing movement realizing and exercising the power of civil disobedience as a tactic for change.
If you are willing and able, I ask you to contribute to the bail funds for the Midwest Rising 15 here.