Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is a hero. She filibustered a restrictive abortion bill for 11 hours yesterday without break, without food, without drink, and without more physical support than that offered by a pair of running shoes and a back brace. She then stood or the remaining hour of the special session after the Republican chair claimed that discussing sonogram requirements wasn’t “germane” to debate on an abortion bill. She stood as Democratic senators raised an hour and 45 minutes worth of points of order and arguments largely supplied by people following the debate on Twitter, for 15 minutes more as the crowd made business impossible, and for another 45 minutes or so as the Republican chair claimed the bill had been passed and chaos reigned, in case it was important.
She talked about why safe, legal, easy to obtain abortions are critical to the health of women and the well-being of families and children. She told the stories of people who had had abortions or whose families had been affected by abortions for the better. She talked about the implications of the bill–this being what prompted the chair to claim she was off-topic and declare her filibuster over.
She’s a hero. But I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about that hour that started 15 minutes before midnight.
Senate Republicans were doing their best to ignore parliamentary procedure and rush a vote into place. Several objections had been raised to their claiming that Davis’s filibuster had violated the rules and was, thus, done. Democratic senators were trying to raise more, but they were being ignored by the chair. Then Senator Leticia Van de Putte raised this objection.
“Mr. President, parliamentary inquiry: At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”
She wasn’t very loud, but it was a question that had particular relevance for the crowd in the gallery. They had been chanting, “Let her speak”, while the debate went on over ending Davis’s filibuster. That applause you can hear at the end of this video didn’t die off. It grew until it was all that could be heard in the senate chamber. Then it stayed at that level until 12:01, past the end of the special session.
Then an invalid vote took place, and the people in the gallery were arrested.
They’d been prepared to be arrested. Word had gone out over Twitter and from there, I’m sure, through any part of the crowd that wasn’t already aware. The sentence for this kind of disruption was 48 hours in jail. Here were defense attorney phone numbers. Here were the numbers to call to have bail posted. People watching this are ready to contribute for funds for bail.
They were prepared. They disrupted proceedings. They were arrested.
People on Twitter witnessed the arrests. They tweeted images from within the chambers and described what they saw via the feed.
Twitter also became a collection of real-time testimony on the vote and the aftermath. A huge number of people screamed in protest when they watched the vote be taken and entered after the end of the session. They screamed when the Associated Press reported the word of one Republican official that the bill had passed as fact without attribution. They screamed when the recorded date of the vote was changed from June 26 to June 25 in the legislative computer system.
People screamed last night. They looked up laws and documented what was happening. Armed with those, they stood in the face of a corrupt, incompetent government and a corrupt, complacent press and yelled until they had everyone’s attention. They were emotional, they were organized, and they were ready to stand longer and fight less civilly than Senator Davis or Senator Van de Putte had.
And they won.
That group of legislators–willing to disregard the views of the people they were elected to represent and the rules of body and state that they swore to uphold–gave in to the screaming. They were ready to step outside the power that had been legally granted to them, but the screaming crowd, and the weapons they brought, gave them pause. They admitted the bill hadn’t passed. The screaming won out.
So sometimes you have to ask yourself, “Are you ready to scream?”
@freebsdgirl: Because apparently screaming is what it takes.