June 19, 2018
Monday, June 18, 2018, I was arrested in Olympia, Washington. The official charge was for criminal trespass, as 26 of my cohorts and I occupied City Hall. Please know that my arrest was uneventful. The Olympia police chief offered well-wishes to the Poor People’s Campaign just prior to being detained. I have a mugshot taken with a cellphone. I held the number “9” to my chest as the picture was taken, displaying my most fierce and serious Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer expression. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Why be arrested? What will civil disobedience achieve? Some ask these questions incessantly, believing there are much more effective ways to make change. There may be; we must all do our work concurrently for the same goal. However the method, of this I am convinced: we must take sides when injustice runs rampant! Each of us are welcomed to understand what Elie Wiesel offered, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
I, along with so many who have put their lives and bodies on the line, am taking sides while standing for justice and righteousness on behalf of the most oppressed.
One of the songs that drives this campaign sings, “Somebody is hurting my people, and it’s gone on far too long…and we won’t be silent anymore.” We cannot afford to be silent. At this moment, children as young as eight months old are being forcibly taken from their parents. A 10-year-old child with down syndrome was separated from her aunt, and has not yet been reunited. Children are standing in the gap, taking care of others while they struggle to soothe themselves. This should sound familiar, for in this country, since the enslavement of Africans, separating children without concern, and without counting the cost of unbearable trauma created by separation is a consistent part of our heritage and history.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helps us move forward. He said, “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” This is a moral movement! All laws are not created equal; therefore, proof-texting Romans 13 cannot stand in the context of profound injustice. May we reclaim our collective voice and welcome a world where every person will be honored and acknowledged for their right to live. Take a side.
—Rev. Dr. Kelle Brown