May each die-in act,
the last moments of the departed,
bind their deaths more tightly
into our national consciousness
and collective commitment to change.
— from “Grief and Struggle” prayer
Faith-based action brought the #BlackLivesMatter movement directly into Congressional space. The House Office die-in was designed to interrupt “business as usual” in the halls of Congress just as the new session begins.
“As people of faith, we are calling on Congress to take action on racial justice and heed the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Stosh Cotler of Bend the Arc said, as she and dozens of other faith leaders left the Longworth House Office building, Jan. 21.
In addition to Bend the Arc, which has NY and DC offices, participants came from Auburn Seminary (NYC), Jews United for Justice (DC), Standing on the Side of Love, and a number of congregations in different denominations as well as unaffiliated Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others in support of DCFerguson and Black Lives Matter.
Although the action’s duration on the Longworth cafeteria floor was short — not quite the planned 4-1/2 minutes, as Capitol Police insisted that the faith gathering disperse — it is hoped the action will inspire further education and action on the part of individuals and congregations across the country… leading ultimately to many needed changes, including Congressional action.
Extend the moment yourself by learning more and following up.
Where the Work Gets Done
This protest came on the heels of the 2015 State of the Union address, in which Obama offered the briefest of nods to the movement, without ever uttering the words “black lives matter” in order. DCFerguson organizer Yasmina Mrabet said she did not “see any reform really happening from President Obama or his administration.” (See Huffington Post.)
“This is where the work gets done, so we wanted to be here, in this place to disrupt things,” said Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice organization. “We showed up today as people of faith to signal that Americans are not backing down.”
The commotion momentarily captivated the busy lunchroom, where many lawmakers and their staffs were eating during one of the first weeks of the new congressional session.
Colorlines: “Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy and people of faith staged a die-in…”
Essence: “Black Lives Matter protestors went to Washington…”
New York Times: “Never come between a hungry lawmaker and lunch….”
Roll Call: with Thomas Williams’ photograph showing a “Cops say legalize pot” jacket becoming, not irrelevantly (however accidentally), part of the protest space.
Ferguson Demands for Congress
If you have representation in Congress — i.e., live anywhere but the last colony — tell your senators and representative that you expect action now on these Ferguson Demands:
A Congressional Hearing investigating the criminalization of communities of color, racial profiling, police abuses and torture by law enforcement:
Congressional hearings investigating the criminalization of communities of color and systemic law enforcement discriminatory profiling and other abuses especially at the local level—including an examination of systemic structures and institutional practices and the elevation of the experiences and voices of those most impacted. Congressional hearings will allow for a continuation of the national discussion about police abuse and it’s underlying causes.
Support the Passage of the End Racial Profiling Act:
Support for the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) which in law would prohibit the use of profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion by law enforcement agencies.
The De-militarization of Local Law Enforcement across the country:
Strict limits on the transfer and use of military equipment to local law enforcement and the adoption of the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014. The federal government should discontinue the supply of military weaponry and equipment to local law enforcement and immediately demilitarize local law enforcement, including eliminating the use of military technology and equipment.
If you live in DC, or visit the city or care about District residents, please learn about this matter, sign, and share:
Stop Jump Outs: Sign and share to stop the racially-biased and dangerous practice of “Jump Outs” (a sort of version of “Stop and Frisk”) in Washington, DC.