Last Monday I got arrested.
Yessiree, it’s man-the-barricades time again. It’s Freedom Riders in Mississippi, risking their lives to end segregation. It’s Martin Luther King and the protesters in Birmingham, risking life and limb against the snarling dogs of Bull Connor. It’s Rosa Parks and the 16th Street Baptist Church and the “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.”
Except, it’s not.
Harper’s pathetic description of her moment in the sun makes that clear:
In the shadow of Arizona’s immoral immigration law, I locked arms with 15 other faith leaders, labor union leaders, and two city councilmen. Together we moved into the street and blocked traffic in front of 26 Federal Plaza.
That would be 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan. She didn’t go to Phoenix or Tuscon or Scottsdale to protest the law–she went to the very pulsing heart of Liberal America. There, she didn’t do anything that actually made a connection with the law she was protesting–she blocked traffic. She got arrested for blocking traffic 2500 miles away from place where the immigration law she was protesting was passed.
In the shadow of 12 other states moving toward the adoption of similar draconian measures, 16 soprano, alto, and deep bass voices belted an old spiritual with new life: “We shall overcome!”
In the shadow of politicians who insist on using immigration reform as a political football rather than as a real problem to be solved, onlookers wept openly as one by one these community leaders were handcuffed and loaded into police wagons.
At which point they were no doubt taken to a police station, charged with being nostalgic in public, and released on their own recognizance. And because this courageous display made the protesters feel so good about themselves, they’re going to do it again:
Today, in the shadow of our action last week, three NY Faith & Justice colleagues (a board member, a program leader, and an organizational partner) will stand in solidarity with “the least of these” (the immigrants within our borders) along with a spectrum of interfaith, labor, and civic leaders. They will be arrested today (Monday, May 24) at noon, 26 Federal Plaza. And still more will be arrested on June 1 — same time, same place.
At which point they will be arrested for being a public nuisance with no discernible purpose, and deported to Arizona.
Billy Joel nailed people like this in “Angry Young Man”: