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Published June 23, 2013

The Spiritual Experience of Arrest: Gay, Straight, Black, White, and Rainbow Stand for Moral Monday

On June 3rd Moral Monday, I was arrested — alongside doctors, clergy, elected officials, educators, laborers, gay, straight, black, white, latino, veterans, peaceniks, differently abled, and on and on.

That day, 151 of us were arrested (immediately doubling the grand total arrested cumulatively over 4 prior weeks). And 1,600 people were there to support us as we split from the main group for our non-violent civil disobedience act of singing and chanting in the legislature.

I’d never been inside the General Assembly building where our state’s laws are made, and was shocked at the elaborate Golden doors guarding the chambers. But I was most moved in that formal setting by the diverse group’s unified singing of old spirituals and civil rights songs, and prayers of the clergy of many faith traditions advocating for the “least of these”.

After the warnings to disperse were given and those not planning to be arrested left, the police began handcuffing people – arms behind backs – and seeing the vulnerable posture made me feel sick to my stomach.

I was heartened by others beside me choosing the same path, and found comfort looking up to the balcony to a dear friend bearing silent witness.

catherine-arrestI often turn to water as a source of spiritual cleansing and hope and healing. When it finally registered that I was standing next to an expansive low-lying fountain, I bent down and put my hands under the water and brought it up several times to run handfuls over my head. I felt a deep peace come, and voluntarily subjected myself to the loss of personal freedom.

There were multiple occasions that day and night that I had particularly intense feelings of solidarity and peace. One was after we’d spent about four hours handcuffed in the cafeteria downstairs and were getting loaded onto the last transport bus to the detention center.

There was a group of committed supporters standing out on the street waiting that whole time to cheer for every busload of the arrestees. They were standing out in the dark night singing, and at seeing us, shouted “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU”.

The intensity of that feeling of support, unity, and solidarity, was so overwhelming it is hard to explain.

I could tell many more stories; there is one more I will leave you with. When I was released about 3:30am I was completely exhausted, emotionally and physically, and was completely famished. By the time I got out, even though all the police and guards I encountered were polite and respectful towards us, I was still feeling the shame so inherent in confinement.

As the door clanged shut behind me and I realized how unsteady I was on my feet, I heard cheers from supporters, and then immediately a petite older black woman in a sharp navy suit came over and grasped my pale white hand with such strength it surprised me, and fortunately helped keep me standing upright as I regained bearings for free movement.

I had to bring my eyes up from the floor to meet hers, but when I did she so warmly held my gaze and said, “Hi there, I am state Senator Earline Parmon and I am here tonight to thank you for taking this courageous stand for justice.” To come out of the jail at that hour in that shape and to be greeted with such gracious appreciation by someone who had overcome a long heritage of oppression, filled my heart to overflowing with wonder, unity, and hope.

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  • Catherine


  • Catherine is the Peace and Justice Team Co-chair at High Country United Church of Christ, in Vilas NC. She is also a passionate supporter of Moral Monday's. All my articles.

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