It’s pretty rare in the scope of a nation’s history when something becomes a truly national movement. It happened with abolition, and during the Civil Rights era; it happened during the McCarthy era, and during the push to elect George Wallace president. So, national movements have had their darker moments. This was not one of them.
On Thursday afternoon,Congressional staffers all throughout Congress staged a walkout in a show of solidarity with the Brown and Garner protests that have been raging across the country. And, far more specifically, Washington D.C. itself.
The staffers participating in the walk-out — numbering in the hundreds — were primarily minorities; it was organized by the Congressional Black Associates, Congressional Hispanic Staff Association, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association. Said one participating staffer to CNN:
“I believe it’s important, because what affects one community really affects the entire country. It’s not just one group of minorities that’s affected. How one group is treated affects Asians, Hispanics, women. It’s important that we show our solidarity and come together and really speak out about the injustices that are being done.”
“We’re proud to have this moment of solidarity with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the thousands of peaceful protesters around the country who are telling this country that black lives matter.”
The staffers walked out from their jobs to the foot of the Capitol, where they stood in quiet protest for some time. The Senate Chaplain, Barry Black, gave a prayer for the families of the victims. You might remember Black’s name from last year. On all 16 days of the government shutdown, he opened each session with a prayer and a plea to lawmakers to find peace and end the gridlock that disabled out government. And he drew plenty of controversy for it. He told Anderson Cooper later:
“Obviously, there are probably some people who feel that my prayers should not have been as pointed as they were. My prayers simply reflect the reality of the environment that I am in.”
“Even though we go to work in these prestigious buildings among prestigious people, we go home and we’re still profiled, we still are part of those statistics. It could have been any one of us who was Eric Garner, who was Mike Brown.
We’re coming out here to let them know, no, it’s not business as usual, our lives matter, we’re asserting our humanity and our dignity.”
Said another of body cameras:
“They want to put cameras on police officers, which is a great idea, but the Eric Garner case was seen on live TV; the entire world saw it. President Obama said protests are necessary. This is a necessary protest.”
Indeed, it is. Because as Black said, it’s a matter of the environment we’re in; and we’re all in the same environment now.
Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Innuit…no matter our differences in life, we all look the same in a body bag.