Archive for August, 2010

I’m looking at an expanse of red mud in what used to be a pretty good looking garden here in the high desert of Utah. A big thunderstorm with heavy rain last night did a better job of dirt removal and moving than even the best heavy machinery. It did a pretty good job here, making it necessary for two of us to spend quite a while cleaning things up, using, of all things in the desert, a snow shovel to clear the mud off cement patios. However, the results three miles away in Kanab itself were even worse. Streets, parking lots, and yards were covered with thick red mud. Motel swimming pools resembled the red sea. Workers were out in force trying to clean up all the mess, in some places bringing in large tanker trucks full of water for the cleanup job. Water and mud oozed its way under doors in apartments, houses, motel rooms, and stores. Not pleasant.

Here are some pictures Fran Meadows took early this morning on her way to work.

 Yesterday I bought a book by Craig Childs called The Secret Knowledge of Water. Looking through it this morning, I discovered a chapter entitled “Flood at Kanab.” I’ve always been quite a believer in synchronicity but that was just a little too much.

While looking out at the red mountains behind us tonight, I also thought of friends and former colleagues who have spent two to three days in Phoenix, Arizona demonstrating and participating in actions against Senate Bill 1070. Many of them were Unitarian Universalist ministers and lay people, and a large number were arrested for standing up for their beliefs and for the people who will be most affected by this insane Arizona law. I’m so glad that Federal Judge Bolton rescinded the worst parts of it. However, it still took affect yesterday. One friend emailed me tonight with her experiences overnight in jail. Although I’m still not entirely convinced I’d be brave enough to get arrested, I’m leaning more and more in that direction, realizing it’s more important to stand up for something I believe in than just pretend it will go away or that someone else will do something about it. I feel so proud of everyone who participated and know that if at all possible I will count myself among them next time. 
Lee Marie Sanchez, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim, California, wrote this letter to her congregation about her experience in Phoenix.

Dear UUCA’ers ~

Dawn Usher and I were released from jail today
after spending about 30 hours in Joe Arapaio’s
dungeon… otherwise named the Maricopa County
Jail. We were arrested after taking part in a
Civil Disobedience action at a huge intersection
outside of Arapaio’s office at Cesar Chavez Park.

This experience is beyond words to describe it.
We began the morning by getting up at 2 am to
be at a prayer vigil with people who had been
praying and fasting for 104 days. We marched
to Trinity Episcopal Church for an huge interfaith
and very inspirational bilingual worship service.

Then we walked a couple more miles where we joined
with about 30 other protesters from Puente and
other local organizations but of which about half
who were Unitarian Universalists. Dawn and I had
taken hours of training the night before but nothing
could compare with what happened. We marched
in a solid square of human beings into the intersection
where we were met with police in riot gear. The
scene was like something out of a movie, with literally
thousands of supporters massed down the boulevard 
and hundreds of Phoenix police surrounding us, asking
us to move. We did not comply. The sound was really
deafening as after about a half hour of our peaceful,
but loud, chanting, singing and speaking, the police
moved in to tell us that we would be arrested.

I have to give the Phoenix police credit as they made
every effort to be polite and helpful as they unlinked
our arms and handcuffed us, taking all our valuables
and putting us into police vans.

We were taken to the the Maricopa Sheriff Jail and,
while I was given what I felt was some special attention
as I was wearing my clergy shirt and collar, I am an
older woman and I am white, not everyone was treated
this way. Some experienced rough and rude handling.

When we arrived we were taken out of the vans but
then placed back in as our UU Presient Peter Morales
and Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Church
of Phoenix, along with Puente people and other UU
ministers moved in to blocked the jail entrance. We
watched in horror as the sheriffs inside the belly of
the beast prepared in riot gear, shields at the ready,
and tear gas canisters in hand, scrambled to counter.
Everything broke loose, it was angry, crazy, chaos,
controlled by the overwhelming police force. Drums
were beating, people yelling…like a movie scene.

I will tell you more about the actual jail experience
later. For now, let me tell you it was horrendous.
We occupied several cells, mostly UU’s by this time,
with men in some and women in about three. We had
the lights on for 24 hours, were watched by men and
women guards constantly, no clocks, not enough of
the cinder block seating for all of us. When we tried
to sleep it was without blankets or pillows right down
on the very hard, cold floor! Yes, on the floor, but
not everyone could even lay down, some stood. 

We were joined by several women from the general
jail population, as well as Puente women. We sang,
chanted, tried to share the cramped space, used an
open-to-view toilet and were constantly moved about
from cell to cell to disorient us. Our only food was
peanut butter, oranges, packaged cookies and a little
bottle of sugary drink.. NO cups for the water in
the sink. The 2 phones usually did not work and we
had no idea what time it was or what was happening.
We were “awoken” (those few who slept) at approx
2 am for our cells to be cleaned & we moved again.

That night the UU’s and Puente and others held a
prayer vigil outside the jail and we could hear the
drum beats outside the thick walls. The next day
after hours more of “processing” we were released.

I hope never to experience such an inhumane and
humiliating experience again. Dawn and I now have
a police record, we have pleaded not guilty and have
an August court date to return to AZ. More later…

I thank you all for supporting this action and the
two of us and I hope our church action was a success.
Apparently, we had lots of press, CNN, local AZ and
even the OC Register. More pictures and YouTubes will
be available soon and I’ll send some of them along.

Tomorrow we need to keep collecting our gear which
was all over as we were not allowed to have ANYTHING
in the jail. There are more actions planned. Right now
as I type this Dawn & I are completely exhausted after
2 days with no sleep and a terrible jail experience, 
but our feelings of deep commitment along with the
friends we made with women of many colors & faiths
has left us with a feeling that nothing will ever again…

~ Standing on the Side of Love, feeling an overwhelming
sense of gratitude, & with more stories to tell about our
shared experiences, with love & !Si se puede! Lee Marie

Go here for all the late-breaking stuff happening now!

and here for what was in the OC Register!


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