Fight like a mother. A woman wearing a shirt with this message stood arms linked with other women as we listened to speakers like Linda Sarsour, Melanie Campbell and Rep. Nydia Velasquez, D-NY, tell us why now is the moment for women to rise up. I myself have long been committed to justice, but feel an even greater sense of responsibility because I brought my daughter into this broken world that is now reaching new levels of ugly.
Linda Sarsour reminded us that freedom is not free. We have to sacrifice for it. Put our bodies at risk to protect the women, children and men under attack by this administration. As we have seen time and again, if we don’t use our bodies to reclaim power, progress isn’t possible.
Marching down Pennsylvania Avenue with over a thousand other grandmas, moms, aunties, sisters and daughters from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, I gained a new sense of hope. From immigrant rights activists to lawyers to Hogwart’s painters, we were all willing to put our bodies on the line or support those of us who were. Hope that, no matter how dark the days ahead are, all of these women, and more, will continue to push back as hard and as often as we can, in every way possible.
We stopped at the Department of Justice where we sat on the street and heard from people directly impacted by the zero tolerance policy and family separation. Mario from Make the Road New Jersey told his story of fleeing violence in his country of origin only to have his brother murdered in retaliation a year later. Two months ago his wife and daughters came to the border and were detained. His 12-year-old daughter was held in a cage away from his wife for five days, sobbing the entire time, where an agent asked her, “Why are you crying? Are you going to cry like this when you get married?” Mario thanked us for being courageous and coming out to demand the end of zero tolerance and family detention.
Once we arrived at the Senate building, our numbers were so great it took an hour for everyone to get through security. When it came time, we sat and began chanting and singing again, our voices amplified reverberating off the marble. We screamed as our sisters hung banners from the balconies. We shut it down. And we got the attention we came for. Senator Elizabeth Warren came to show her solidarity, fist raised chanting from the balcony. Rep. Tammy Duckworth came to the floor with her two month old strapped to her chest to offer her support. And Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-WA and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY sat and were arrested with us. This is what democracy looks like.
Linda told us to hold our heads high when we got arrested, own our power. And that’s exactly what we did. We cheered as each group was arrested and removed from the building. This one was a privileged arrest, we weren't handcuffed or zip-tied and never saw the inside of a jail. We sat outside on the grass in groups of 25 while we waited to be processed. We got to share where we came from and talked about our families, our work. We even chatted up the police officers guarding us. One officer told me while he wasn’t allowed to say anything, I could guess how he feels about 45. I asked if he thought his colleagues shared his sentiment. Without pause he said yes, the majority of them. I suggested that maybe next time he join us.
Because there will be a next time. Yesterday was the largest single act of civil disobedience in this country since 1987. We won’t stop until this administration is stopped. This is just the beginning.