UUs in Louisville, KY, including the Rev. Dawn Cooley of First Unitarian Church, joined in an event called “People Not Profiles: Kentucky Says NO to Arizona’s Unconstitutional Law” on July 29. Sponsored by over a dozen Louisville social justice organizations, the campaign kicked-off with a protest rally that was followed by a street theater action in solidarity with people facing anti-immigrant attacks in Arizona.
Dozens gathered in front of the immigration offices at the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse and Custom House for brief speeches from diverse sponsoring organizations. Participants then marched to 4th Street Live, a dining, entertainment and shopping location in the heart of downtown, for a “Show Me Your
Papers, Please” action during the lunch hour. Costumed participants stopped unsuspecting individuals walking through 4th Street Live to ask them to, “Show me your papers, please,” and engage them in conversation about the Arizona law.
An article about the local event appeared on the local newspaper’s web edition, sparking discussion in the comments section. The local NPR station reported the event briefly. Television coverage of the event was extremely limited. One local 5:00pm TV news broadcast aired a short mention, including a
brief glimpse of one Standing on the Side of Love t-shirt. Two other local stations posted short write-ups on their websites, but no other air time has been discovered.
Sponsoring organizations included: ACLU-KY; Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research at the University of Louisville; Carl Braden Memorial Center; Fairness Campaign (GLBT Rights); Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR); Hispanic/Latino Coalition; Jefferson County Teachers’ Association; Jobs With Justice; Kentuckiana Interfaith Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean; Kentucky Alliance Against Political and Racist Repression; La Casita; Louisvillians In Favor of Equality (LIFE); Students for Peace and Justice, University of Louisville; Women In Transition (WIT) Members from a local UU congregation were present at the rally.More >
My deep gratitude goes out to everyone who has been part of our efforts here in AZ. I sing praises to Puente and the Catalyst Project and the Ruckus Society and the Standing on the Side of Love team. I sing songs of joy for the members of the local UU congregations who provided so much support, for the UUs from across the country who came here to be a part of this witness, and for the UUs everywhere who have been with us in spirit these last long and intense days. I offer special songs of gratitude to my partner Ellen who has managed tech support for me while caring for our foster children, our family members, especially Ellen’s mother Ellie who traveled to OH to help Ellen and my family members who have been driving me all around Phoenix, and the members of my congregation for their support.
Participating in the civil disobedience action in front of the Wells Fargo building on Thursday, I felt completely grounded in the values of our faith. In the beginning we chanted loudly proclaiming our support for human rights for all. In time the chanting gave way to song and then songs and then finally to one song which we sang over and over and over agian. “When I breathe in, I breathe in peace. When I breathe out, I breathe out love.” I could see and hear the UUs on the support team standing on the sidewalk behind the curtain of police singing with us, sending us love.
As I was being loaded into the police van wearing my clerical collar and with my hands cuffed behind my back, I coud hear another chant erupt on the side. “Arrest Arpaio, not the clergy!” Later as I sat in the jail awaiting booking I met the man who was responsible for leading that chant. Miguel (not his real name) asked me to tell his story. He came to be part of the support team in Phoenix. He was not intending to get arrested. He stood on the sidewalk chanting and cheering while those of us in the Wells Fargo intersection action were arrested. Once the last person was taken away he ran over to the 4th Street jail to cheer those involved in the action there. The police issued an order for people to disperse and before he could move he was grabbed by several officers. They held him hard and directed him toward the jail entrance. He was hurting so he started yelling loudly “I am not resisting arrest” over and over again. They told him that he was and once they got into the jail builidng and out of the eye of the cameras and the crowds, they threw him to the ground and kicked him repeatedly in the ribs while one of the officers yelled racial epithets at him.
By contrast, when I was arrested, the officers could not have been more courteous. They gave us warnings over a period of time. Before they began arrests, they told us they understood we had a point to make and they wanted us to understand they had a job to do, but if we complied they would try to be gentle and orderly in the process. What is the difference? Granted we were arrested by diffeent authorities, but it seems obvious to me that I was the beneficiary of white privilege while Miguel was the victim of racism.
During our long night in the county jail we talked with many women in the general prison population. Over and over we heard stories of racism leading to arrest and subsequent mistreatment by the police. We even witnessed some of that mistreatment with our own eyes. We saw prisoners being denied their medications even when they pled for the drugs they needed. We saw a woman attacked by a gaurd when she swore at an officer in frustration. We exprienced their tactics of marching people from cell to cell every few hours in what seems a stategy of disorienting, intimidating and fatiguing the prisoners.
There is no denying that jail is a mean place. The cells are cold, brightly lit cement tanks which are clearly designed to be as uncomfortable as possible. The place is dirty. The food is bad. But those of us who were arrested in the protest were keenly aware that we were there by choice and that our confiement was temporary. We had the benefit of support from our fellow protestors. We knew there were people outside rallying and praying for us and that lawyers were working on our defense. We knew we would soon be returning to our families, our jobs and our ordinary lives. We sang together and told jokes to pass the time. In the morning we prayed. Holding hands we offered a prayer of gratitude for every single person who dares, in whatever way they are able, to take a stand on the side of love. And we offered a prayer of humility, knowing that Latinos/Latinas and other people of color would continue to targeted with increasing vigilance here in AZ after we all go home.
Our actions here in AZ were imporant. I believe we made a difference. But the work must continue. With faith we will stay strong. Together we will keep on bending the moral arc of the universe a little bit more towards justice. Si se puede!
Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent
The struggle is long and hard. I wonder, will my presence make a difference? I am in Phoenix as a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau in Garden City, New York. I am also a volunteer at Cabrini Immigrant Services in Chinatown in New York City, which provides social services, immigration counseling, a food pantry program and an ESOL program to immigrants of Hispanic, Chinese and other nationalities. St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, the first American citizen to become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, is the patron saint of immigrants.
I act in the hope that when enough drops of water fall on granite, sand is made.
I reflect on a choir warm-up exercise (learned at GA choir a number of years ago) where a person hums a note. Then the hum is passed on to a second person, building a larger sound voice by voice. Each voice changes the sound of the choir. I see my presence as a voice in the choir of justice.
Mickey KranzMore >
Here in Minnesota, the protest at the State Capitol was led by Native American activists, who drummed and danced to reclaim their sacred land. One speaker said, “For many of us, it’s not that we crossed the borders. It’s that borders crossed us!”
About ten folks identified with Standing on the Side of Love, including the Revs. Victoria Safford and Kent Saleska, and SSL’s former campaign manager Adam Gerhardstein were in the crowd. As ever, many asked questions about our message, and said how much they
appreciated love coming to the rally!
-Rev. Meg RileyMore >
I have settled down after much adrenaline continued to pump through my veins after an emotional and exhilarating couple of days in Phoenix. I don’t want to recap or do a play-by-play but I feel compelled to relay some thoughts on this experience.
I can’t begin to express how humbling it is to be a part of a movement of such sacrifice, emotional desire and demand for wholeness. The people planning and implementing this week have done so with great care and vision, but also with such hope. Growing up just after the Vietnam era and the great struggles for peace and equality (both racial and gender) of the 60’s, I have never truly felt a part of a great struggle for human rights that has moved my soul. Now, with the struggle for marriage equality and for basic human rights in Arizona, I feel so honored and called to do whatever I can to play a part in these movements. It is one of the main reasons I went into nonprofit work although nonprofit really never reached this level of fulfillment. The desire to do this work is one of the primary reasons I felt called to the ministry. To stand side-by-side with strangers and friends on behalf of love during these last few days, has moved me deeply. This week I have wept with sadness but also with great hope and joy.
I feel this is a turning point for Unitarian Universalism. There we were, in our orange-ish yellow shirts, in mass, with the giant word “love” on our chests. Excuse the old marketing guy in me, but there it was, our brand, we were being called “the love people.” It was phenomenal to be a part of a coordinated effort of civil disobedience with Unitarian Universalists from every corner of this country. Lay people, ministers, administrators, association staff, all coming together. People from all over the association, linked arm in arm with brothers and sisters in the struggle and with our president leading the way, I was so proud. I was proud of our joint effort, our cooperation with local organizations and the visible power we had being there together. We were supporting each other as members of a faith, a faith steeped in the power of love to change hearts. We can do so much together as an association. Yes, we are congregationally based in our governance but when we work together and realize the power of UU as one strong body, our efforts are electrifying. Together we are a joyful, singing, force of love.
Finally, as I stood on the street corner watching those who had volunteered to get arrested stake their claim to the street, I heard a young African American girl turn to her mother and say, “what are they doing?” Her mother replied, “Do you remember what I told you about Dr. Martin Luther King, that is what they are doing.” I broke into tears. I looked around at the police, sweating in the three digit temperatures with their black uniforms and riot gear, I looked at the white faces, the brown faces, the black faces, and I thought what pain, what unnecessary pain. But I also thought there is a theme to Dr. King’s efforts, the current efforts for marriage equality and for this sweaty hot work in the streets of Phoenix; this is not about a debate on immigration, it is about the need for basic human dignity. The efforts on the streets of Selma, on the canyons of San Francisco and on the baking pavements of Phoenix continue the stream of dignity vs. oppression, cooperation vs. control and love based human sustainability vs. fear based action.
During the course of these two days in Arizona, I was personally thanked so many times for being there I couldn’t begin to count. The desk clerk and maintenance person at the hotel. Someone on the mayor’s staff I met at the Starbucks counter in city hall. People in the street. It is a community steeped in brokenness and pain and in deep need of healing. Is this really the best way for us to make policy? Is this really the best way for us to live together on this planet? Is this really the best way for us to treat each other with basic human dignity and kindness? It is not about one law, in one state, in one country. As I stood passing out water to sweating police officers and people about to be arrested, I couldn’t help but think, we have come so far since the days since Dr. King and yet we have so much further to go.
It did feel however like there was a power shift. After so much power and oppressive behavior being controlled by the Sheriff and his supporters, it felt like the agenda was finally set by someone else. The sheriff and his supporters were now reacting in a way that highlights the fact that love and nonviolence demonstrate despotism like nothing else can.
I will continue to rely on, hope and pray for the power of love to conquer the fear of change and fear of the stranger. I will continue to believe that the power of love can touch deep within even the most hardened soul to recognize the divine in the other. I will continue to pray that by living and acting in love we can save each other, heal the divides and build that beloved community of all souls.
Filled with deep gratitude for being a part of this act of love, and still with much hope for our future,
Rev. David Miller
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito
Solana Beach, Ca.