Rabbi Waskow flickr image By TalkMediaNews
Yesterday I stood trial in Washington DC Superior Court for the pray-in last July in which I joined with ten other religious folk in the Capitol Rotunda, seeking to focus Congress on the need to pass a budget responsive to needs of the poor, the disemployed, the homeless. (I was alone for trial yesterday because my cancer and its treatment had made it physically impossible for me to be with the other ten when they stood trial.)
I decided against the "deferred prosecution/ probation" arrangement offered by the prosecution partly because it would have required taking 3 days away from sacred Shalom Center work, coming from Philadelphia to DC 3 separate times to pee into a test tube to be tested for drug use -- and much more because it would have required me to promise not to get arrested in the next months. (I may very well choose to risk arrest again as the movements for social / political/ religious transformation go forward.)
So I pleaded guilty to "disrupting traffic in the US Capitol," a violation of DC law. What I told the judge (Harold Cushenberry ) in my pre-sentencing statement was --
In the late "50s/ early "60s I worked as legislative assistant to a congressman who was a member of the House Judiciary Committee and therefore deeply involved in efforts to pass a vigorous civil rights bill;
While I deeply respected the normal process of debate and principled compromise in the Congress, it became clear to me that it was deadlocked and could not move on civil rights;
So I chose to get arrested in 1963 for the first time, in a sit-in to end racial segregation in an amusement park in Baltimore -- hoping not only to integrate that park but to intensify pro-civil-rights pressure on and support in Congress;
During this past year, I became convinced that again the Congress was at a dead end in regard to passing a budget that would meet the needs of the poor, the disemployed, the homeless;
And that was why I chose to risk arrest in the Capitol Rotunda.
Judge Cushenberry then surprised and very much pleased me by saying that though my actions had broken a DC law, they had upheld the deepest teachings of the Constitution. He required me to pay a $50 fee to the victims' fund in DC that most or all people convicted there have to pay, but said he would impose no other penalty. (It could have been $500 and 6 months in prison.)
Aside from being happy with this outcome, I am joyful that back in July the "Rotunda 11" met and acted together as we did, grateful that Bob Edgar and Common Cause initiated the pray-in, and moved that Rabbi David Saperstein of the Reform movement's Religious Action Center took part in our pre-arrest prayers, even though meetings he had long been scheduled to lead that day precluded his getting arrested.
Both this past and this future are excellent examples of the work we do -- and of how much it helps this work when you contribute by clicking on the "Donate" line below.
Blessings to us all for fuller light in this season when we seek new light against darkness, depression, and doubt.
Shalom, salaam, peace -- Arthur