The Wristy Business of Civil Disobedience on Climate Change.
Three sociologists, an economist, two Rabbis and a Unitarian are riding in the back of a paddy-wagon. No joke. So what do they talk about? Carbon caps and carbon taxes, distributive justice, no-growth economic models, the environmental consequences of war, the state of the Movement, faith-based organizing, monkey-wrenching. Almost everything under the sun and the sun too. An incubator for organizing. Its probably a truism that the process of arrest and time in a cell have made real contributions to on-going organizing. Still true.
All agreed that when Thomas Friedman calls for civil disobedience in a New York Times Op-Ed you would think that the environmental movement was well along a path to mainstream organizing. But while public opinion is increasingly aligned with scientific concerns about global warming and climate change, the use of civil initiative to focus publics like politicians and religious leaders on the underlying moral issues has been slow to emerge. This is the founding principle of the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate coalition (IMAC). (We didn’t see Tom today either – like President Obama, her was out of town.)
It is becoming increasingly clear that numbers are growing and opportunities for civil disobedience increasing. Yesterday’s, “Palms, Matzah , Our Planet and the White House: A Religious Call to Civil Disobedience”, was the fourth event in 2013 to build on the major August 2011 action by 350.0rg that lead to over 1200 arrests. This was the second action organized this year by the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate coalition in which FOR is actively involved. Most of the 100+ organizations and individuals endorsing IMAC (http://www.interfaithactiononclimatechange.org/endorsers.html ) were also among the 35,000+ that marched in Washington on February 17th in the 350.org/Sierra Club event called Forward on Climate. The first IMAC action took place on January 15th and integrated the Kingian premise of urgency into the environmental issues of today with an interfaith service at New York Presbyterian Church and a vigil in front of the White House.
The goals of yesterday’s action were to reiterate a set of core issues currently on the table, including the threat of the Keystone XL Pipeline permit and the moment for a carbon tax initiative as a response to placing responsibility for carbon-loading of the atmosphere on the balance sheet of multinational corporations, and to provide a model for incorporating concerns for the health of the earth into the religious rituals of Easter and Passover. An hour long service on Pennsylvania Avenue was followed by the arrest of 15 religious leaders who stood in prayer, song and a reading of the victims of Super-storm Sandy on the sidewalk in front of the White House. A link to an interfaith Seder was included in yesterday’s post.
Being arrested is a “wristy” business and is done “by-the-book” in precise detail. Photographs are taken as each set of plastic handcuffs are locked on to protect, I assume, against charges of brutality. Personal belongings are handled with plastic gloves and bagged in zip-lock containers, numbered to match the orange plastic hospital wrist-band each arrestee wears. The highlight was a six motor-cycle escort to the Anacostia jail for processing (read paying a $100 fine). It made us feel like celebrities though we would have been happy with a Metro ride to the booking site. For most of those arrested it was neither the first, nor will it be the last time conscience is called to action in the hope of alerting all concerned that the time for action on climate change is now. (P.S. we need some really good music for this work!) (Oh, and did I say it’s fun?)
Photo shows those subject to arrest, including the author in white scarf at left end of the banner.