by Mike Kinman
As rector of All Saints Church, I don’t have the luxury of speaking and acting publicly as a private citizen without All Saints being identified with my words and actions. In addition, as a leader in a Christian community, it is both my responsibility and opportunity to be clear about not only why I do and say what I do publicly but the scriptural and theological foundations behind it.
On Maundy Thursday, 2017, I was arrested in front of the Metropolitan Detention Center for failure to obey a police order to disperse during a demonstration in solidarity with those being held inside for deportation by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. I participated in the demonstration because my understanding of the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ is that of God standing in solidarity with those who are oppressed, putting one’s body on the line to do so, and loving without bounds. Preventing the deportation vans from leaving and standing in solidarity with those being held inside the facility was, for me, a moral imperative grounded in my faith – as was offering myself for arrest. The citation carries with it a fine of $281.
In deciding what to do about the fine, I spent time in prayer and study of scripture, conversation with church wardens, my family and the leaders of the protest action. This protest action was a coordinated effort of a group of faith leaders and It is important that whatever action I take in response to the arrest and fine is in consultation with and has the support of the group.
After prayer and consultation with the leaders of the action and the wardens, I have asked for an arraignment in front of a judge on this charge at which time I will request that I be sentenced to community service in lieu of a fine. This action has the blessing of the action’s co-leaders, the Rev. Francisco Garcia and the Rev. Jamie Edwards-Acton. At least one other person who was arrested with us has taken this course of action as well. He has already had his hearing and his request for community service was denied.
My arraignment will be the afternoon of Monday, September 18.
I am taking this action for several reasons:
1) Where the money from the fine will go
This is hard to track. Best I can tell, 60% goes to the general fund. The rest goes to various other places. This means the money would go to fund some objectionable things but potentially funds necessary services. Overall, however, paying the fine means an action taken in protest of a system has turned into a fundraiser for the same system.
2) Scriptural testimony.
I found two pieces of scripture compelling from a Christian perspective.
First, Luke 21:12-15
But before any of this, they will arrest you and persecute you, bringing you up before synagogues and sending you to prison, bringing you to trial before rulers and governors. And it will all be because of my name – this will be your opportunity to give your testimony. So make up your minds not to worry about your defense beforehand, for I’ll give you the words, and a wisdom that none of your adversaries can take exception to or contradict.
Going through the system gives you an opportunity to testify and further witness to the cause. In essence, continuing and escalating the action.
Second, Philippians 2:5-8
Your attitude must be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Christ, though in the image of God,
didn’t deem equality with God
something to be clung to –
but instead became completely empty
and took on the image of oppressed humankind:
born into the human condition,
found in the likeness of a human being.
Jesus was thus humbled—
obediently accepting, death, even death on a cross!
This passage is about having the mind of Christ and not grasping onto privilege but emptying ourselves.
Having the money to pay a fine is privilege. We have a system that criminalizes poverty by forcing jail time and further penalties on those who are too poor to pay fines. Paying the fine – regardless of where the money goes – is being complicit with an unjust system and using my privilege to my own advantage within it.
Having the attitude of Christ is self-emptying – even to the point of defying the authorities. And that self-emptying has no end. Standing with an as those who are most targeted and marginalized.
During the action, there were people who were detained (unjustly, I believe) inside who were tapping at us from inside the windows at the detention center. It was, for me, the most moving part of the action and a stark reminder that part of the goal of our action was solidarity with them. They were unable to buy their way out of their predicament.
What does “stand with us in the streets” look like here? What does shared sacrifice look like? What does “taking the form of a slave” (or an undocumented person picked up by ICE) look like? It does not look like paying a fine.
It comes down to this question:
Which decision is best in line with the purposes of the action (solidarity and disruption)?
Paying the fine both separates me from those with whom I am pledging solidarity and it puts money back into the system that supports this injustice. On the other hand, requesting the arraignment allows me both the opportunity to stand in solidarity and to continue to testify (and thus continue the action.) In addition, it will burden that system with my time, energy and witness.
Because of this, in consultation with others, I have decided to:
- Contest the violation so it will give us an opportunity to testify.
- At the suggestion of Juliana Serrano, attend the arraignment alone as most of the people with whom I am standing in solidarity do not have people at their arraignments to support them.
- Accept community service as a substitute penalty, as labor is often demanded of targeted people because of their status and social location.
If this request is accepted, I will seek to fulfill the requirement in a way that will increase my solidarity with those who are being persecuted by ICE and who are incarcerated.
If this request is denied, I will consult with the lawyer retained for the protesters, the protest leaders, the wardens and my family in determining next steps. I am happy to be in prayer or conversation about this with anyone in the All Saints community. It is an honor to be your rector.