Arrested — again

I spoke at the press conference an hour or so after being released from jail, with Rev. Barber standing nearby. I am so proud to be a part of this movement. Arrest me all you want, I refuse to stop trying to talk to legislators about health care as a basic human right.

 

On Tuesday morning, I got my butt hauled off to jail for the third time in four years.

I wanted to talk to Senate leader Phil Berger, as is my right under the North Carolina Constitution, but when I got to his office, a very large man was standing in the doorway, blocking my entrance.

“You can’t go in there, it’s private,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I said. “This is a public building and the person whose office this is, is a public official. I have a Constitutional right to speak to him.”

“He’s not in here.”

“Well, then, I’ll wait.”

He continued to block the entrance and several of us began to chant, “Health care NOW!”

At this point another man came to stand by the first one.

“You need to be quiet,” he said. “People are trying to work.”

I stared at him or a short moment.

“HEALTH CARE NOW!” I said, looking him straight in the eye, and those behind me joined in the chant.

I don’t like to be shushed in any case, but I get particularly testy when lives are at stake, and they most certainly are here. Some five people are dying every single say because Sen. Berger and his cronies are denying the Medicaid expansion provided for under the Affordable Care Act. This denial leaves a half million people in our state without access to care, and as I said, about five of them die every day, just the way my son did.

I’m not going into the General Assembly Building for entertainment or any frivolous purpose; I’m going in there to try and speak to my legislators about how desperately this Medicaid expansion is needed.

These people call them selves “pro-life” and “Christian,” yet their actions show a callous disregard for human life.

Rev. Barber stood with us as most of us sat down on the floor to wait for Sen. Berger to come back to his office.

We were told we were blocking the doorway, but we were not the ones doing that. We would have gone in and sat quietly and waited, but the door was blocked by his thugs, not by us.

We were told we were making too much noise, but I explained that people’s lives are more important than the ability of Berger’s secretary to hear who was on the other end of the phone line, and that if they would let us in, we would sit quietly an wait.

So, we started singing to pass the time.

“We shall not, we shall not be moved
“We shall not, we shall not be moved
“Just like a tree, planted by the water,
“We shall not be moved.

We’re fighting for our health care, we shall not be moved
“We’re fighting for our health care, we shall not be moved
“Just like a tree, planted by the water,
“We shall not be moved.”

Chief Martin Brock came by with a megaphone and warned us we had to leave, but we were there to address legislative leaders, as is our right under the NC Constitution, and we intended to do just that.

So, we were arrested, 32 of us, for second-degree trespass in a public building while it was open to the public. This is my third arrest for this same thing. The first one was thrown out on appeal. They never even bothered to prosecute me for the second arrest and there’s a petition to dismiss the charges because I never got a court date.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, hoping for different results. Perhaps I am insane for trying again and again to make these lawmakers see that their actions are killing the very people they have sworn to serve. But I will not give up.

We spent an hour or so in a committee meeting room in the legislature building, singing freedom songs and hymns, before we were herded into vans and taken to the Wake County Detention Center, where we were processed and placed in holding cells.

I don’t know about the men, but we women started singing again. An officer told us we had to quiet down, so we sang a little more quietly. We had a contest to see who could stand on one foot the longest. We comforted a very frightened young woman who had been arrested for driving without a license, and we laughed.

We had been without food all day by the time we were released at about 4:30, so we were grateful to find snacks and water, brought by the Movement support team.

And we made it back downtown in time for the 6 p.m. press conference.

I love my Moral Monday Movement family, from our convener, Rev. William Barber, to all the people who stand with him in solidarity, no matter what our issues.

I’ll be honest: I believe this movement and the people in it have saved my life. There have been days I didn’t want to go on without my son, but these good people have held me up. I feel reborn every time I am with them. When I lose hope, someone always reaches out to support me and tell me we will triumph.

Progress is slow. Movements take time. I’m in this until we finish the work or until I’m carried out feet-first.

 

Yes, we do!

Amy and Lauren run Be Loved House, which ministers to homeless and poor people. They take no salary, but live on donations of food and clothing. They want the legal rights and protections that marriage offers. They were among the eight arrested Friday.

I cry at weddings. What can I say? I’m a mush.

But yesterday, I cried because a dozen of my friends were rejected when they asked to make the same legal contract my husband and I made 29 years ago.

The Campaign for Southern Equality sponsored a “We Do!” rally here in Asheville. More than 300 people, including more than a dozen members of the clergy, turned out to support them.

It was a perfect day for a wedding, sunny and warm with just a slight breeze. Spring flowers are in bloom and the couples were surrounded by friends and family.

The only catch was that they’re not full citizens because they happen to love people of the same gender, so they were turned away.

Amy and Lauren run Be Loved House in Asheville. They’ve dedicated their lives to helping people who are homeless.

Elizabeth and Kathryn have been together 30 years and raised two daughters. They were arrested last year when they tried to get a marriage license and then refused to leave the Register of Deeds office. They were convicted of second-degree trespass and fined. So they’re convicted criminals. I tell them often I hope to dance at their wedding on the day they finally are allowed full rights.

Elizabeth and Kathryn have been together for 30 years and have raised two daughters together. Their friends call then The Llama Mamas because Elizabeth rescued two llamas several years ago. They and their menagerie of animals live atop a mountain outside of Asheville.

“I hope I don’t need a walker to get to the altar,” Elizabeth told me. That was a few minutes before Kathryn stepped up to the microphone to sing “You are so Beautiful” to all of us who were there for them.

I told Elizabeth if she’s 90 and in a wheelchair, I’ll wheel her down the aisle.

I’ve known them for 10 years and sang with them in the choir for the first five of those years. I’ve prayed for them and members of their family as Elizabeth went through breast cancer and members of Kathryn’s family suffered the loss of a baby.

I’ve snuggled their dogs, petted their llamas and hugged both of them when they’ve been looked down upon because they love each other.

I think they’re two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met.

And finally, Patrick and Mark. I met Patrick when he was executive director of the Red Cross chapter here. I was working for the newspaper and a former employee was arrested for stealing from the agency.

Unlike most executive directors caught up in something like this, Patrick took my call because he wanted to reassure donors that everything would be OK. In my decades of experience in the newspaper business, few executives had the courage to say anything other than, “No comment.” So I liked Patrick right away.

Mark and Patrick. I'm calling this their official engagement photo.Patrick spent his career working for nonprofits, including the Red Cross. They were turned away Friday when they asked to be granted a marriage license.

He and Mark lived several hours apart and were able to be together on weekends and holidays until Patrick retired earlier this year. Now they’d like to be married. I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t.

I want people to see these faces and know these stories because these are real people who are being denied the right to the same legal protections and benefits I have, and the only reason they’re seen as legally less deserving than I am is because they happen to love someone of the same gender.

These are only six of the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who are the targets of the discrimination the voters of this state etched into their constitution this week. Look at their faces, look at the way they look at each other and then tell me again why I can’t dance (and cry) at their weddings.

 

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