From Midwest Rising to the Tar Sands Action, Civil Disobedience as Tactic for Change

299829_249447385078042_110187279004054_800891_2991324_n Last Saturday, while listening to the “Why Direct Action?” panel at the Midwest Rising Convergence, I whispered to my close friend Todd sitting next to me, “I think I’m going to risk arrest on Monday.” He responded, “Why shouldn’t you?”

While making my mental pro-con list, I realized that Todd was right. My con list was short: I might have a record, which as a college student with the unknown in front of me seems reason for concern. However, the pro list was much longer. I would be fighting the corporate powers of Bank of America, Peabody Energy and so many others found in St. Louis in ways that my years of rallies, protests, phonecalling and voting had never done.

My privilege was the most notable item on my pro list. I knew that because of my socioeconomic status and my community of friends and fellow activists I would be bailed out of jail quickly. Using my privilege as a white female with enough money seemed like one of the biggest services I could provide where others in the movement can’t due to the unequal realities of our legal system. As activist Lisa Fithian said, “It should be our rich white kids risking arrest.”

287313_10150406254657598_724207597_10626687_418132_o When 15 of us, the Midwest Rising 15, sat down in the downtown St. Louis intersection, Peabody Energy on one side, Bank of America on the other, we linked arms and chanted. Looking around the circle at the strong, determined faces surrounding me, I knew I had made the right decision. We spent 10 hours in jail, charged with street demonstration and failure to obey police orders. The last one released, I exited to fifty people cheering and waiting for me.

The love I felt reminded me of how lucky I am to be part of a group of people fighting for a more just world, and some unexpected pros worked themselves onto my list. First, my arrest had inspired others. It had invigorated not just me, but those waiting outside. For all of us who work so close to burnout, seeing new tactics used is inspiring and makes us feel alive again. Second, getting a brief look into the legal system reaffirmed my commitment to fighting systems of oppression. The convergence had already linked economic and climate justice movements, but hearing stories of people held overnight with no food or water reminded me that movements working together are even stronger. I was both depressed and inspired when I reminded myself that in the United States we are innocent until proven guilty.

We must all continue to think strategically to fight for justice for people and the planet. As sixty sit in jail, sixty more risk arrest today and hundreds others gear up for action regarding the Keystone pipeline, as Tim Dechristopher spends two years in prison, I am humbled to be a part of a growing movement realizing and exercising the power of civil disobedience as a tactic for change.

If you are willing and able, I ask you to contribute to the bail funds for the Midwest Rising 15 here.

5 Responses to “From Midwest Rising to the Tar Sands Action, Civil Disobedience as Tactic for Change”

  1. 1 Kait Aug 21st, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable. ~Louis D. Brandeis

    Here’s to you and the other Midwest 14, Arielle.

  2. 2 Patti Haynes Aug 22nd, 2011 at 3:28 am

    This unbridled destruction and pollution of land and water for profit by Mega rich Corporations and Banks must be stopped. They say it is safe while highways and homes explode and flames shoot out of the spigots in people homes! Our government gives these Oil barons permits to frack on peoples’ personal land and they have no to voice in it! Since when is a persons land not their own? When was a law passed that Oil companys have the right to come on your property and set up shop to drill, using hundreds of cancer causing chemicals in their quest to find natural gas? Who makes a profit from this? Not the people who own the property! Not the government, because these companies don’t pay taxes, yet they do get subsidies. Yes, they get corporate Welfare while they decry foul that the poor in the this country don’t pay taxes.

  3. 3 Pat Aug 22nd, 2011 at 7:10 am

    You are an inspiration! You mention being a college student with the unknown in front of you. Hopefully fighting for the environment will at least provide a clean living space for your future. You are absolutely right that it’s time for the young people to take charge and tell these dirty corporations and the politicians they buy that we won’t tolerate their destruction any more. It’s YOUR future speak up for it! My hope is that more young people will get involved and active. In my day we protested the war in Vietnam. Fighting for the environment is your generation’s war. Thank you for your activism!

  4. 4 angie Aug 24th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    great article!

  1. 1 From Midwest Rising to the Tar Sands Action, Civil Disobedience as Tactic for Change « It’s Getting Hot In Here | Ikkevold Trackback on Aug 23rd, 2011 at 1:36 am
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