“If Not Now, When?” Midterms are around the corner. Be sure you register to vote and make your vote count.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This was a post that was originally published on a contributor’s personal Facebook page, and republished here with his permission. In light of the recent, controversial confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, I felt the need to share his experience in D.C. protesting the day Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed. While I am man, many of Blurred Culture’s contributor’s are women, and I felt it was important share this experience with you. The text has not been edited at all, and as such is all [stet].
– Derrick K. Lee, Esq.
WASHINGTON D.C- In the new ongoing segment: Check your privilege, I had quite the adventure yesterday. So like many of you, or anyone that is sane, its been a really tough week. I mean, lets face it, its been a tough couple years, but this last week I just couldn’t stop being angry and feeling helpless. I can’t even imagine how difficult this was for survivors, just stacking more shit upon shit. But I was also in a strange place of having to be in Delaware on Friday and catch a flight in NJ on Monday and having nothing to do and no place particular I lived in between. So I thought: Hey, lets go to DC.
When I woke up Saturday morning and started driving over, I looked up the Women’s March site to see if they were mobilizing, and they were, so I met up there around 9 AM, with the intention merely of protesting, but after hearing the organizers speak, I was super moved into action. As these women put it “If not now, when?” There were hundreds of people already there, from all walks of life, all ready to risk arrest to make their voices heard.
At around 11 AM, we were all sent off to get some food, pick up some bail money (gotta use cash), and then to meet back to march. So around 12:30, a large group of us headed to the steps of the capital, cheered on by other protest groups. When we arrived at the steps, the police weren’t ready yet, they hadn’t anticipated protests until the votes got closer around 4. So the leaders shouted for us to take the steps, and we did.
I can’t quite explain the feeling of standing on the steps of the Supreme Court, shouting for justice, surrounded by 300 other like-minded amazing people, mostly women of all ages and races, while we had a crowd of what started small and turned into thousands rush to support us. The protestors that had been at the Capital started running over in a trickle then droves until the entire area was full of a sea of angry, dejected, but determined voters.
After around 20 minutes, the cops were in place, setting up barricades and the warnings began. You could tell they had played this game before, and they were courteous and respectful, just going through the motions of something they see probably more often than they should. They gave a few verbal warnings, and on the last, probably about 100 of the protestors with me took that as their cue to leave. I was tempted, did I really want to spend the rest of the day missing the vote while in plastic handcuffs? With a mark on my record? But then I looked around at the people near me: the young female students who are surrounded by frat bros who don’t see the problem in drinking, drugging, and assaulting them, the older women who hadn’t been arrested since protesting in the 70s, the people who had turned this into their weekly ritual to keep the pressure on those in power.
As the protestors were dragged off, the crowd cheered for us loudly, exhorting “Thank You”, and it was one of the most empowering moments you could feel: knowing that while the small civil disobedience might not have changed the outcome, but that you weren’t alone in your anger, pain, frustration, that we are in this together and we will continue to fight. I was one of the last few people on the steps, and the cop came up to me and simply asked “Do you want to leave or be arrested?” Even at the last minute, one of the last people on these stairs, I could still just walk away. I didn’t.
We were lined up in front of the thousands of chanters, supporting us as we were shackled (pro-tip: if they ask if you want your cuffs in front or behind you, or if they are too tight, don’t be a tough guy like me…my hand is still numb), and walked away. On the side of the steps, we were searched, our possessions taken away. And then walked to the paddy-wagons while the crowd still chanted. There was a momentary problem with my ride, I was the only male in my group of protestors and we weren’t allowed to mix gender, so I was moved to a smaller group, and rode on one of the divided sides of the van while a group of 5 females were in the other, constantly yelling through the partition to ask how I was doing over there.
Finally, we were rounded up into a big warehouse where they finally took off the bracelets, and then moved them in front. I want to reiterate, every officer we came into contact with went out of their way to be nice. They didn’t want to be there, and I am sure many of them were pissed as well, but hey, you don’t get to choose what police actions you want to partake in when its your job. They got us waters, kept the mood light, and were never combative. We all took our seats in this warehouse, and by the end, there were around 200 people in it: 15 males. This was so discouraging, and we all talked about it.
Let me be clear, this is NOT a female issue. For all my male friends out there, get out and speak your mind. Don’t let shit slide. Speak out. Show your support.
After an hour or so, my name got called to talk with an officer. They read me my rights, and appropriately enough, the part about lawyer used the pronoun “him”. Basically, for 50$, I would walk out of there today with an arrest on my record that is basically a little more than a parking fine. in a few months, assuming I don’t get arrested again, it will be wiped clean. It also isn’t a guilty verdict, just notes that I was arrested, and no court date happens. Its like an athlete that badmouths the refs, knowing they are gonna get fined but that they can afford it.
The whole ordeal lasted around 4-5 hours, and I was walking back towards my car, I talked to a young clergy leader who was one of the leaders of the march, one of the first two arrested. We noted how privileged we were, we can afford to get arrested. He had been arrested 5 times these two weeks, and was sad to see it end this way, not just for the vote, but the loss of a community of protesters he had spent so much time with. He also spoke out against the democrats for standing for so little, clearly upset at the status quo, and we debated that a little.
As we headed back, we walked by the capital, heard the chanting still going on, and said “Well, we probably shouldnt go get arrested again, right?” and then of course walked directly to the action. On the steps of the Capital, at 6 PM, there were still hundreds if not a thousand people, still yelling and cheering. People were getting arrested one at a time crossing the barricade and going up the steps. Finally, one woman in yoga attire went to the top of the steps, did a yoga pose, and it signaled everyone to rush the steps again. The cops just walked away, knowing the protest would die down soon anyhow, the vote was done, but once again, we were a force, rabble rousers, losers, getting off the mat and getting ready for the next round.
There were counter-protestors by that point, about 20-30 deplorables. A family from North Carolina near me all looking just pleased as pigs in shit, hovering at the edges. A smattering of folks in MAGA hats, hiding together, including the gentleman throwing the white power dogwhistle into his selfies. A couple young men of color talking in dulcet economical tones about how they think this nomination will help their bank accounts. And of course the old crazy guy with the signs about abortions causing cancer and giving teachers guns to protect kids, or the middle aged hicks with “Abortion is worse than slavery” shirts.
This is America. What did I learn? That as a middle aged decently well off white guy, I can afford to get arrested. I can speak for those that can’t. That more of us need to take a day off watching college football or seeing the leaves change color, and really show what the fight is about. That this is what privilege is, and that its not necessarily a bad thing. It’s all about what you do or don’t do with it.
Midterms are around the corner. Be sure you register to vote and make your vote count.