First, I want to thank each one of you throughout the Sacred Heart Family who held me in prayer yesterday as I joined with 41 other women religious, priests and laypeople in an act of civil disobedience in support of the Dreamers. Although it was my first time ever getting arrested, I found it was a deeply moving experience to spend an entire day engaged in such a well-planned and carefully choreographed act of solidarity.
Listening to the powerful homily of Bishop Stowe and the tearful stories of young Dreamers during morning Mass, singing as we processed from the church to the Russell Office Building, resonating completely with those who spoke at the press conference all gave me courage. When the moment finally came during the last decade of the Rosary in the Rotunda of the Russell Office Building, a young dreamer shouted out her anguished reflection on the fifth sorrowful mystery over the sound of the police bullhorns giving the final warning. I stood there and kept singing and fighting tears as one by one the others had their hands cuffed behind their backs and were led away.
After the drama and intensity of the actual protest and arrests, the rest of the experience was one filled with simple acts of kindness and encouragement as we were “processed.” The Capitol Police who escorted each of us individually to the buses were, without exception, both professional and very solicitous.
We arrived at a big, open garage bay where women officers searched us, removed our crosses, jackets, and other personal items and put them in plastic bags. Then we sat on metal chairs and waited for several hours while background checks were performed on all of us. Eventually, my name was called, and I was asked several questions relating to my right to have a lawyer. I was then given the opportunity to pay a $50 “post and forfeit” fee to have the case closed. Finally, I was fingerprinted, given my plastic bag and escorted to the door.
Now that I have been initiated into the community of those who are willing to put themselves at risk of arrest, I realize in a new way both the power and the limitations of these actions. We were treated with far greater leniency than anyone at risk of deportation. We have no way of knowing if our small symbolic act changed any minds on Capitol Hill.
What I do know is that I feel a renewed and deeper sense of solidarity and empowerment within my own heart, and maybe that is where the real change needed to occur.
By Diane Roche, RSCJ, Director of the Office of Justice Peace and the Integrity of Creation, The Stuart Center