(Cross posted from www.peacefuluprising.org)
Watching Tim speak in the courtroom, watching him utter words that would be echoed and transported across oceans, seeing him in all his candor and vulnerability, I realized that it’s the most powerful I’ve ever seen him. As he earnestly looked the judge straight in the eye asking him to join him — to join us — I simply could not ignore the eery yet deeply moving sensation that this statement would be one for the history books.
“This is what hope looks like… This is what patriotism looks like… This is what love looks like.”
-Tim DeChristopher. July 26th 2011. Salt Lake City Federal Courthouse (Read full statement here)
On that day, in that courtroom, his invitation fell on deaf ears. Judge Benson did not open up his heart to Tim’s plea and instead chose to respond with the inflexible “rule of law,” the systemic stance that an empowered citizen effectively challenging the status-quo should be contained and silenced.
In those initial nauseating and destabilizing moments, I simply could not process the judge’s words. 24 months of federal incarceration? To be taken into custody forthwith by US Marshals? Chained up like a dangerous criminal? All after making it crystal clear that the prison sentence was the result of Tim’s outspoken political views?
Crushed by the daunting realization that there would be no final good-bye, no last hug, I rushed down the courthouse steps, dizzy and in shock. Despite my personal trauma, the world needed to know, needed to hear Peaceful Uprising’s outrage and our call for a peaceful, directed, and sustained response.
Two weeks after his sentencing, I feel as though I’m finally emerging from a state of shock. Speaking to him through a monitor at the local county jail, seeing his strong smile, I finally accepted the fact that my friend is behind bars and will remain there for another 102 long weeks.
With every supportive message, email and phone call I’ve received, I’m gratefully reminded that this IS what love looks like. Love is an entire community crying, raging, screaming, breaking down, and holding one another. Love is the tough conversations that ensue, the restorative gatherings, the gardening and digging up dirt together, the willingness to stand for one another – despite our mistakes and shortcomings. Even when my knees go weak, even when my body won’t sustain its own weight, I know that someone is there to catch me.
Reverend C.T. Vivian, a civil rights activist, once said that you do not walk away from a movement. A fervent admirer of that era, Tim has often daydreamed of a Climate Justice movement in which every single one of us feels empowered to act, knowing that someone somewhere would have our back.
Tim never ran from the punishment he faced, knowing that his sacrifice could stir something up in us, in our community, in our movement. It has. Witnessing the massive out pouring of support that his unjust sentence has generated, my heart swells and I smile, knowing that it now feels as real as ever.
Our hearts are broken today, as we witness our industry-ruled justice system attempt to alienate us from one another, but we can choose our response – because only WE govern our principles. The best gift we can offer Tim today is a Climate Justice movement that acts on its ideals, committed to an authentic nonviolent resistance.
Every one of us is a powerful agent of change and we are not alone — we are all of us fingers, connected to a mighty fist.
I invite you to take a stand in your community, to develop your vision of a healthy and just world with your neighbors, and act with the full confidence that there is an entire movement standing behind you. Personally, I make a commitment to you, to my community, to honor you and the work that you do, no matter how hard the going gets. Join one of the numerous peaceful, sustained uprisings emerging all over the country these coming months?
Drawing from the movements of the past, we will relentlessly continue to seek a “society that can live at peace with its conscience,” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once called for.