More than a year ago, I casually attended a seminar about corporate personhood that changed my life. At one point, everyone in the room who had been arrested for civil disobedience was asked to stand. I remained sitting while looking up at the giants whose coat-tails I had been riding my entire life. They had each individually risked their own freedom to demand attention to the needs of society as a whole. The misdemeanors they collected were insignificant compared to the consequences of inaction.
One of the first questions asked after we were arrested April 15 at the Capitol was, “Who is your ringleader?” The question itself implies that the nine of us had somehow been coerced into acting together when in fact, almost the complete opposite was true. I stood up and chose to get arrested in Congress because I wanted 10,000 youth strangers scared to death about our future to know that they are not alone. In fact, there are thousands of us who are serious about taking back our government from corporations and will sit idly by no longer.
- Video of our action in Congress to catalyze the youth at Power Shift 2011
- Video of the occupation of the Department of the Interior that occurred a few days later
Perhaps my ringleader was the five-year old girl whose hand I held after the Chevron pipeline in SLC leaked into Red Butte creek. An event called Hands Across the Sand was organized and the hundreds of people who attended clasped hands together in solidarity while standing on a hill overlooking the spill. I don’t know who the five-year old was, but in her I saw the next generation. These innocent children cannot yet protect themselves from the atrocities being forced upon them by the previous, complacent generation that is complicit to the destruction of a world that does not belong to us.
Every day, corporations break laws. They spilled oil in Alaska ten years ago and have yet to date to pay for the cleanup of their mess. No one went to jail for the BP oil spill in the Gulf — yet eleven people lost their lives that day. It’s been over a year and the wildlife in the Gulf is dying, BP is making record profits and we’re getting ready to drill again in the same area. Coal companies collect thousands of fines every year for violations in the Appalachias that lead to health risks of the local communities and yet no one blinks an eye. What has happened to our nation?
The eight others who acted on Friday and the twenty-one more who were arrested on Monday at the Department of the Interior are part of what is right in this world. They are willing to tolerate a temporary inconvenience to assure a healthy future for us all. My experience was more wonderful and empowering than I could have ever imagined. People from eight states who had mostly never met before came to DC to speak truth to power. The shout-outs from Van Jones, Bill McKibben and Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins were flattering but they’re not what is going to change the reality of where our government is today.
The only one who can help us do that is you.