Clergy and Laity in Civil Disobedience Against Jeff Sessions, Separation of Families at the Border, and Lack of Due Process for Refugees and Immigrants

I wanted to have this all in one place, a clear timeline of my witnessing of civil disobedience.  I’ve been to more protests in the last 17 months.

Today’s protest was smaller and more targeted (versus the Women’s Marches, Union Rallies, and the March for Our Lives, which I did not attend due to National Boards).  It was organized by C.L.U.E. and other organizations.   In response to the separation and incarceration of migrants, refugees, and immigrants at the border, there have been ongoing actions at the Federal Building downtown.   Pastor Allison, the interim pastor at North Hollywood First United Methodist Church, introduced me to CLUE and asked if I wanted to get arrested on Tuesday.  I said I would witness.

I arrived around 8:45 and there were lots of cameras and a nice size crowd gathered around speakers I could not see.

I found Pastor Allison who introduced me to her friends so I would not be alone as they were soon going to start the civil disobedience.  As I explained to someone who was unfamiliar with this, it is a planned action and everyone involved is sort of taking part in a script, though that does not mean it is not real and the significance of it is not real.  But it is an established tradition of democratic ideals of freedom of speech and peaceful protest.  The clergy and laity who chose to participate stepped out to block traffic on Spring St. and formed two or three lines of joined hands.   Here you can see Pastor Allison Mark, her husband, Andy, and fellow clergy and laity take to the street holding hands. 

The police blocked both ends of the block and re-routed traffic.  I expected them to come up to start arrests, but rather, organizers (in addition to CLUE there were people with CHIRLA and Bend The Arc) invited people onto the street.  It was a bit unclear to me what or why so I stayed on the sidewalk since at this point I lost the friends Pastor Allison introduced me to and was able to participate in the chants and holding of signs.  There was a drum and chant circle and lots of activity.  The protest got louder and all was peaceful. The police seemed to be holding space for us to protest.

After about 30 minutes of chanting, drumming, marching, singing, the organizers started telling people to get off the street as it was now declared an unlawful assembly.  The police did not move from the blockades at the end of the street so they must have been closely communicating with the protesters.  Everyone not taking part in the civil disobedience moved to the sidewalks again.  Two police vans arrived and there was a sort of formation of officers waiting at the south end of the block.

The protestors lined up again holding hands and started singing.  The organizers quieted everyone as the police issued a warning to disperse from the street (not sidewalks) or be arrested. Everything moved very slowly.  The first group of officers walked to the center of the block and made a wide circle around the protesters facing the observers. (Note: I think the shame on you was part of the Sessions chant, not toward the officers, though the video does not show this — generally there was not much tension between the officers and the crowd, in fact people were chatting with the officers, and the one who seemed to be coordinating would ask those sitting if they were ok and I heard him say “you are great to work with.”)  The protestors now sat and waited.

Witnesses and protestors lines both sides of the street.  The police approached the protestors in the street in a pair, with one who (per Rev Allison)asked if they understood the violation and consequences and if they wanted to leave and another videotaped each interaction.  When they said no, as each did,  two offices came to help them stand if needed, place them in zip tie cuffs, and escort them to a van or station (I could not see where they were taken) at the other end of the block.  There was a lot of waiting and from the first arrests to final arrest was somewhere between 15 to 30 minutes (I didn’t time it).  Here is the video of Rev. Allison and her husband Andy.  


By time I got home and made lunch, Rev. Allison texted that they were released.  I was also able to catch coverage on the Channel 9 News at Noon which also included coverage of continuing protests outside the Biltmore where Sessions was speaking to a group that members described as “anti-ACLU.”




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Um … about that American Libraries article we wrote

A disappointing report on the influence of corporations in intellectual discourse.

Stewart Varner

As a professional rule, I try to keep things positive. I like to be a cheerleader for all the great people out there and avoid boosting the signal on a bunch of negativity.

However, situations compel me to devote this one post to something totally crappy.

TL;DR: Patricia Hswe and I wrote an article for American Libraries and the editors added some quotes from a vendor talking about their products without telling us. We asked them to fix it and they said no.

Because American Libraries refused to clarify what happened, we decided to clarify it ourselves. What follows is our second (and hopefully happier) attempt at collaborative writing. This little blog does not have quite the reach of that big glossy magazine so please feel free to share as widely as you want. As always, let me know if you have any questions!  ||  @stewartvarner


If you are a member of…

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Gratitude is Bullshit

I agree that we often try to wash away unpleasantness, which keeps us from feeling our full range of emotions and moving through them so we can be not just grateful, but better (whether that means healing of wounds or a more just world).

What Monkeys Think

There is a disturbing trend among liberals to talk about gratitude. Everyone’s encouraged to have gratitude for the abundance in their lives. Everyone’s supposed to be grateful for all their blessings. On the surface, it’s a lovely sentiment. People should be mindful of the fact that they live privileged lives, and use that awareness to inform their interactions with people who are less privileged.

But it never goes that deep. It stops at “be grateful because you have it good.” The new Gratitude encourages insularity – think hard about what you have so that you aren’t thinking about people who don’t have anything. Gratitude is selfish. Being grateful for what you have invites the desire for more – more stuff (more friends, money, recognition) equals more gratitude, right?

This year has been full of horror: while the world was outraged at 12 people killed in attacks on Paris, thousands have died in Nigeria…

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The Scent of Death

The Citron Review

Patrick O’Neil

I’m in a dark, trash-filled alley between tall brick buildings. Two men stand in shadows. I can’t see their faces. I hand one of them money and he gives me a balloon of dope. I look up, there’s a light coming from an open window. I hear music, someone is crying. I’m happy I’m going to get high. I’m in a room stuck facedown between the bed and the wall. I hear someone coming. I want to yell, but I can’t. I’m having trouble breathing. I try to move. Behind me a door creaks open. I can’t turn around. I know they’re standing there. I scream…

Gasping for air I sit up in bed and check to see if I still have the dope in my hand. The room is quiet, the lights are off, the TV is on with the sound turned down. With an annoyed look…

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Women Who Host: Ashley Perez on Hosting a WWS Submission Party

Women Who Submit

AP WWS Submission Party

By Ashley Perez

What a blast it was to host a WWS party at my home on July 11, 2015. I had only been to one WWS meeting before and due to a constant conflicting schedule, I knew the only way I would get to another one would be to host it. I have also had little chance to have people over to my new digs so it served a dual purpose.

The main things I took out of hosting are the two primary words out of this group: WOMEN and SUBMITTING. It felt really good to be among a group of women who are amazingly smart, talented, and funny. It was an amazing atmosphere of solidarity and encouragement.

The second part is submitting. I was working on a huge grant application so I did not submit any stories but a friend of mine who came to the meeting, who…

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Dancing Girl’s Buffy Release

This is a pretty amazing video I wish I made myself.


I’d like for this post to count as two – it’s Day 5 of Lent and I’m a bit behind on posts. But, no! I’ll just have to double up tomorrow. Which is fine. I totally can. Do it.

On Saturday 2/21/15 Book Show, a newly opened book store in Highland Park, CA served as the venue for Lisa Cheby‘s chapbook, “Love Lessons from Buffy the Vampire Slayer” published through Dancing Girl Press.  It was an Antioch University extravaganza – Seth Fischer handled MC duties, readers Ashley Perez and Tisha Reichle dropped some pretty fantastic prose, and the lady of the hour, Lisa, read from a labor of love that was 5-ish years in the making.

I’m digging readings lately.  For me, they don’t (yet?) have that air of “networking” the way other arts communities/scenes do. It really is just as simple as going to support friends and colleagues…

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The Truth of the Matter Is

The truth of the matter is fleeting.  The truth is I don’t know.  And this why I normally avoid writing that purports to know, like essays and stories.

I just finished an essay I have been working on for about a year. (In writing time, that is not so long.)

Now it is done and undone.

With creative non-fiction it feels as though as soon as it is done it is false.  That slice of moment of the self that was writing it is gone.

This is true for poetry, but somehow poetry seems okay with being an artifact of the moment, like peeling off a layer of skin, maybe from your thumb where you can spare some thickness of skin, and placing it in a collage of other items, framing it for viewing (no glass as the reader needs to be able to touch and smell the objects) and that is all it intends to be … a slice of a moment to remind us to see those slices.

An essay, however, asserts itself, with all those complete sentences and direct tellings and the bravado of saying, “I know something, so listen.”

A poem says, “I don’t know, so try to figure it out with me.”

See, that is already false.  I can already think of one argument of how that is not true: 1. Writing this essay was necessary to work out my own obstacle, as if I needed to be given permission to be freer and more joyful.   Another is:  2.the wonderfully lyrical essays of Jacqui Morton, who is able to transcend form and invite us in to share her figuring out living (she does a damn good job of it).

So, I wrote this essay, which may or may not hold true, but it holds something that is important to me, so tonight, I am going to send it out into the world because maybe it holds something that someone needs to hear.