When I flew to Washington, DC, on Monday, to protest Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, I wasn't sure what my role would be. A number of organizations planned dozens of events and actions, so I signed up to volunteer and help out where I could.
But then I attended an organizing meeting for people who were going to participate in civil disobedience and everything changed.
I didn't make this decision lightly. As the attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild walked us through the possible consequences for our actions, I felt the heaviness of the moment and my conviction was tested.
However, then I began thinking about the people most important to me.
I remembered how my grandmother didn't have the right to vote when she was my age. Thanks to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, I have never missed a single election. But because of Shelby County v. Holder, voting has become harder and just this past spring, I found myself fighting election officials in Tennessee to make sure my vote counted in a municipal election.
I relived the fear and helplessness my family felt when the Supreme Court upheld Trump's Muslim ban in Trump v. Hawaii. My niece, an African refugee who joined our family as a foster child, refuses to wear a hijab. Her older sister still wears hers and regularly faces harassment because of it.
I thought about my godchild, a beautiful, loving five year old who has already endured more than a dozen surgeries and has a lifetime of surgeries ahead of him. If the Affordable Care Act is overturned, he could be denied the care he needs to live.
I couldn’t forget how when my best friend met her wife, it was illegal for them to get married. Since they were in New York, they were able to get a domestic partnership but it wasn't the same. But then Obergefell v. Hodges happened. I stood next to her as she said her vows.
Also, during the organizing meeting I was surrounded by dozens of women and femmes (and a handful of men) sharing stories about why they were putting their bodies on the line. There was the mother whose daughter was born premature, and like my godson, faces a lifetime of health challenges. There was a woman my age who recently had an abortion because her life was at risk. She wanted to carry that pregnancy to term but if she did, she would have died. She was subjected to a forced ultrasound before the abortion. There was a person whose disabilities required them to use a wheelchair. Before the Affordable Care Act, they regularly juggled which bills they would push off paying so that they could afford their medication for the month.
And you know what? After all of that, there was no way I was going home without doing everything I could possibly do to stop Kavanaugh from upending the balance of the Supreme Court and subjecting me and mine to his craven, partisan, and ideologically extreme views. I was ready.
The plan was to disrupt the hearings to the point that the Senate Judiciary Committee would be forced to adjourn -- delaying the process by hours or even days. And considering just the previous week Senate Democrats agreed to unanimous consent to confirm seven more of Trump's judges, we also needed to remind them that we were watching and we would hold them accountable.
Every morning at 7:00 AM, we lined up outside the Hart Senate Building and waited for our tickets to get into the hearing room. Judiciary Committee staffers took us in 23 at a time, reading off a list of rules that we knew most of us would break. We would march in, single file, past security and the Handmaidens in their red robes and line up outside the hearing room, where we waited until we were escorted in.
When I went in, Capitol Police immediately removed anyone with writing on their hands (you can see an example in the picture above). There had been more than a few rounds of protesters by now and Capitol Police were onto us. I hid my hands and sat down.
One by one, the women in my group stood up and made themselves heard. The mother-daughter team from Connecticut chanted "Save Roe. Vote No." An empty-nester from Missouri was dragged out shouting, "Yes equals death." The humanitarian aid worker who lives between DC and war zones told the committee to "stop the sham hearing."
Then it was my turn. My heart sped up, the adrenaline swept through my body and, without even realizing it, I stood up.
"The people dissent! Oppose Kavanaugh! Vote no!"
And then I was pulled out of the room by Capitol Police.
Once I was in custody, things went by pretty slowly. I said good morning to the arresting officer, he laughed and returned the pleasantry. Then he restrained me with plastic handcuffs, which were much too tight, leaving me with bruises. Battle scars.
I was directed to a loading dock, where I met up with my fellow protesters. It was ... joyous! We accomplished our mission for the day and we were all together again, whole.
We were thoroughly patted down by female officers and loaded into a bus to be taken across town to the mass holding facility.
Once we were at the facility, I asked for the cuffs to be removed -- I couldn't feel my hands. The officer was great and asked if I needed medical attention. I didn't.
I was searched again, had my mug shot taken, received bottled water, and then was once again cuffed. At that point, we waited for Capitol Police to check for outstanding warrants.
After passing the background check, I was Mirandized (Miranda v. Arizona) and asked a series of questions that I don't really remember. The commanding officer then lectured us on wasting our time with civil disobedience. He was annoying and really didn't understand we were fighting for him as much as for ourselves. I signed something else and then went back to waiting.
The waiting was, for me, the best part. We were there for hours and Capitol Police were pretty lax with us (benefit of privilege, for sure), so we chatted and sang and enjoyed being in one another's company. I met a culinary student from Las Vegas who has been doing incredible work around the ACA in her community. I had a long chat about unconscious bias in the progressive movement with an anti-racism facilitator who lives in San Francisco. I talked a lot about Daily Kos because as it turns out, a number of my compadres read the site regularly and recognized my name from our emails.
After about three hours of waiting and fingerprinting, I was released. I walked out the doors into the arms of Center for Popular Democracy staff and National Lawyers Guild volunteers. My mission was complete.
I went back into the hearing room a few more times. I occupied Sen. Schumer's office for four hours on Tuesday night. I, along with a number of people of color, were forcibly removed from the hearing room on Wednesday for, as far as I could tell, being people of color. I rallied. I visited Sens. Corker and Alexander's offices. I ran around Capitol Hill to the point of exhaustion. And then it was time to go home.
I'm stuck with the feeling that I haven't done enough. That I should've changed my flight and toughed it out a few more days. That maybe I should've forced Schumer to have me arrested. To be honest, for me the worst part of the experience was the oppressive heat (105 degrees), the cuffs, and the mosquitoes eating me alive. Considering what other people have risked for me to have the life I have, the truth is I got off easy.
But Democrats are fighting back now, and I think the protesters played a large role in making that happen. That's not nothing. And maybe, maybe I'll be able to go back when the vote happens and get another chance to do more.
If you want to do more to fight Kavanaugh, here are some actions you can take no matter where you live: