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.”