by Rev. Layne Beamer, First Christian Church of Whittier, CA
As someone who was slated to be a Moral Witness at the Sacramento Action, I have an odd mixed bag of thoughts and feelings about the fact that NO arrests were made at this particular action. I admire and respect the officers who continually eased back and made safe space as we really tried to force their hand and prompt arrests. They kept the community AND US safe while we exercised our 1st amendment rights. BUT, clearly, part of our plan to express ourselves and to go on record was by being arrested – showing our commitment to the causes we were speaking for – so I also feel “cheated” of the opportunity to be “counted” by not being arrested. I’m grateful for the organizers and their attempts to be civilly disobedient in such a way as to prompt arrests and yet I am also grateful for the law enforcement men and women who showed great restraint and refused to “take our bait”.I feel like we were on the horn of a dilemma – just how far should we have gone in our attempts to be problematic? What was our duty to be mutually respectful of the law officials who showed such great respect for us? We were only actually “in the streets” for about an hour…I have to think that MLK Jr. might have stayed out there a few hours more. When we literally and figuratively “folded our tents” and disbanded at 4:15 – I felt very much like our local Dodger’s fans who will leave a no-hitter in the bottom of the 7th to avoid the traffic! (But I also wrestle with how much of my bruised ego is involved here…how much of this ambivalence is due to the fact that I wanted to do something “notable” and important”?)
I remain grateful for all of the organizers, the speakers, the many who worked and will continue to work behind the scenes. I am grateful to our own DOC pastor, Rev. Eddie Anderson for his willingness step into leadership here in California. I am grateful to actor Danny Glover for his willingness to use his celebrity to call attention to the action and for his personal reflections and encouragements. I am grateful for the presence and support of our PSWR Co-Regional Ministers Don and Susan Gonzalez-Dewey. I am grateful for my clergy colleagues of many faiths, and particularly for DOC Rev. Michelle Harris-Gloyer for standing alongside me. I am grateful for the support of my wife who reluctantly “gave me permission” to be arrested for this cause. (And I intend to still use that permission at a future action!)
Ultimately, I fear we were too few to be very “effective” – not a large enough gathering to really inconvenience anyone enough to make waves. Let’s not make the same mistake in the weeks that follow.
Show up. Be counted. Make waves. Be heard. Christ is in the streets; let’s join Him there.
For more stories and resources from the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, click here.