Beginning on the morning of January 9th, I experienced an astounding 24 hour life-altering event. I had been hoping for a more peaceful and harmonious 2020. Instead, the year began with tragedy. The bush fires in Australia were disturbing, devastating, and overwhelmingly sad. Through Instagram I know people in Australia and their suffering and the trauma to animals touched me to my Style Crone core. I felt immobilized and helpless, and in a moment of desperation I began searching online for something that I could do to relieve my irrepressible anxiety and despair.

Over the past months I had read about  Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement with the stated mission to use nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. I began researching this organization which launched in London in May, 2018. I watched a compelling video on their website, which motivated me to take the next step. From there, much to my surprise, I discovered a chapter in Denver. I immediately discovered their Facebook page and learned that they were participating in an event at the Colorado State Capitol on January 9th in response to Governor Jared Polis’ State of the State Address. After registering online, I received an email from the organization, inviting me to the event, which was to begin with a gathering outside the capitol at 9:30am. I was in without a moment’s hesitation.

Arriving outside of the State Capitol before 9:30am, I observed a group of people gathering with climate emergency signs and banners. For the next half hour I listened in awe as speaker after speaker, mostly young people and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, educated me as to the reality of what was happening in Colorado in terms of climate change, environmental racism, and social justice.  I became aware of the Bella Romero Academy and The Fight Against Fracking and the dangerous consequences of fossil fuel extraction.

Most of the information was new and humbling to me and every speaker was inspirational and passionate. Several presenters were high school students with an awareness about the climate crisis that impressed and motivated me. How could I not be influenced by young people who fear for their future and the strong possibility that they will not inherit a livable planet. Many of the young people were associated with the Sunrise Movement, a group dedicated to making climate change an urgent priority across America, ending the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and electing leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.

From outside the capitol, most of the group that had gathered walked inside the capitol building together. We had been informed that the demands of our action were: 1) Shut down the fracking operations at Bella Romero Academy. 2) Develop a plan to end fracking and all fossil fuel extraction in Colorado by 2025. 3) Declare a climate emergency and facilitate a just transition to a renewable energy economy.

Though I agree with many of Governor Polis’ policies, he has stated that he does not believe that fracking should be banned. Colorado has over 50,000 fracking wells and there have been over 2000 fracking wells approved since Governor Polis took office in January of 2019. My values aligned with the demands of the day and I was proud to be a part of the group that I stood with.

As Governor Polis entered the capitol chamber, according to information that I heard later, a large banner reading “NO WELL AT BELLA ROMERO, NO MORE SACRIFICE ZONES” was draped over the railing while a protester was heard shouting, “Ban fracking now!” The people involved in this action were immediately arrested. I was with a group of mostly Sunrise Movement people, and we began singing and chanting a protest song outside of the chamber. Immediately we were confronted by state patrol officers, directed outside, and our identification information was requested. In this process, as I was descending the steps of the capitol, I was physically shoved by a visibly furious officer who was also verbally angry and demeaning. As I have osteoporosis, luckily the physical force did not result in a fall down the stairs. This form of power and control was acutely observed and not forgotten.

One by one we were arrested outside of the capitol, with charges of trespassing, unlawful assembly and obstructing a police officer. I was instructed to deposit my cell phone, jewelry, scarf, and hat into a plastic bag. I had difficulty taking off my rings, which hold emotional significance. My crone fingers are somewhat swollen at the knuckles due to arthritis.  I was told that my rings would be “cut off” if I couldn’t get them off. Miraculously I was able to remove them after a panicked struggle.

I was then handcuffed and taken to the Denver Detention Center, along with other protestors. There were a total of 38 arrests, including five minors who were released before transport.

I did not feel afraid, which I attribute to white privilege. However, the lack of information about what was to transpire evoked anxiety and uncertainty. Though I had not expected to be arrested, I was proud to align my body (physically, emotionally, spiritually) with my beliefs. Climate scientists tell us there’s no time left on the clock. This new experience was a small price to pay for the urgency of the climate crisis that we are living. I was determined to overcome my anxiety with the intention to remain observant and curious about what was to transpire. My years of practicing meditation and yoga assisted me in this mindful approach.

After arriving at the detention center, our mug shots was taken, followed by hours of interviews, finger printing, and long periods of waiting for the next step. There was a feeling of isolation, with little information about the outside world and what would happen next. I took not that until we arrived, the population held at the center was exclusively black and brown. The environment was different than any other that I have experienced. The staff was distant and appeared suspicious. Limit setting on any small behavior that was not within strict guidelines was immediately enforced. Following orders instantly was the noted game of survival.

After about six and one half hours, two by two, we were ordered to change into jail attire. My internment partner was a wonderful young woman who was a member of the Sunrise Movement. For that I felt grateful. Actually, our outfits were interestingly appealing. If you like yellow and white stripes, orange rubber sandals, and white socks. We were also given two sheets, underwear, a rubber cup, and a plastic spoon. We were strictly informed that we must return every item upon discharge, and the clothing that we had arrived with was packed in a large plastic bag. There were several points along the way when we experienced pat-downs by a female officer.

Spending the night in jail was an event that I will never forget. The cell was “furnished” with a toilet, a sink, and bunk beds. I spent hours talking with my cell mate, which was inspiring, and enlightening. Sharing a cell with someone of similar values and from a younger generation reinforced my belief that intergenerational energy is one of the most potent solutions for ageism. I wasn’t able to sleep, but without the distraction of my phone, I had time to think and begin processing my experience. The processing continues to this day.

Along with my cellmate, I was released at about 6am, which was by now Friday. Thankfully Mr J bailed me out, and I gladly turned in my prison ensemble and left the detention center with a court date set for late February. I was filled with a multitude of thoughts and feelings, as the events of the past 24 hours swirled through my brain and consciousness. I thought of the people who I saw in the detention center and jail, and wondered about their fate. Who wasn’t able to afford bail? What were the stories of those who remained after I left? Would they be safe? How would detention affect their lives? Having worked in emergency mental health, I knew that jail was often an alternative to substance abuse or mental health treatment. I have to this day more questions than answers.

Photos and video by Deborah Hart

I was forever changed by my arrest and detention. Thankfully the charges were dropped last week. However, I know that I will be involved with the climate emergency movement, but at this point I’m not sure how that will look. When I gaze into the beautiful eyes of my grandchildren who are ages one and four, I know that I must act and do everything that I can to affect change. The human heart beats 100,000 times a day. We are at once powerful and incredibly vulnerable. And we are in the 11th hour.

This is the second time since I launched my blog in July of 2010 that it’s been quiet for so many weeks. The first time was after Nelson’s death on April 20th, 2011. I was devastated and grieving his loss. Somehow I managed to continue publishing Style Crone, and found it to be healing and meaningful. It provided a platform for me to express myself through the written work and the creative art of style.

This break from blogging also involves significant grief and loss. Referring back to the first two posts after Nelson’s death, I wrote about the feelings of devastation, disorientation, heaviness of heart, and the daily adjustment to unfamiliar territory.  This loss is much different, but I recognize similar feelings. My denial around climate change and the magnitude of  the desolation to come if we don’t act has filled me with deep regret, shock, and dread. Grieving the loss of a livable planet for my fellow humans and my grandchildren leaves me without the anchor of my former life’s structure. I see that my life as I know it  must change, and that it is imperative for me to acknowledge my empowerment and become actively engaged in the climate change movement. I have been transformed and there is no turning back.

As I complete this post, I realize and understand that I am at a place in my life where participating in civil disobedience can now evolve as my passion. I will be 77 years old next month. I am fortunate to be healthy and without physical limitations. I don’t have an employer or children to take care of and I am responsible only for myself. What do I have to lose? This is not a time for judgement of others or their decisions. Style Crone has always been about the process of my life and my journey through the creative lens of style. And so it continues to be so.

 

39 Comments

  1. Dearest Judith, I didn’t think it was possible for you to inspire me more than you already have, but you’ve done it. I am in awe of your courage and commitment. And your open mind, and heart. You are amazing.

  2. I am 78, and at my age say and do what I want ……as long as I do not hurt others. Extinction Rebellion last year in London caused a situation that immeasurably damaged many thousands. Worldwide, one silly little Norwegian girl has caused mass hysteria among the children who follow her. Surely you can find a better cause, a more worthwhile way of passing your time than this?

  3. I so admire you, Judith. I always have, but you have moved so much more beyond what I could have ever imagined and still you always ring so very true. I feel blessed to even know you. Thank you for everything.

    I’m also trying not to comment on the irresponsible remark left above. But I guess I just did.

    You are everything that is amazing.
    luv pao

  4. Judith, congratulations on your new found passion; I am happy for you. I agree with your feelings of white privilege,it is certainly pervasive in the world. When you become “woke” and are confronted by it daily, read about it and see the ways of the world, do you feel the unrelenting ugliness of what black and brown people face. It breaks my heart. My problem is I have many environmental, political and social justice passions, it’s difficult for me to keep up and be involved in all of them.

  5. Judith – I am in Australia living through the worst bushfire crisis this country has known. We have had months of horror stories of loss, destruction, pain. It has been relentless and we are not through it yet. Yesterday i snorkelled in one of my favourite areas. It was dirty with lots of ash, sediment and devoid of life. I saw two small fish. There is smoke haze today – more of the same. We are all in deep mourning. We will be on a long road to recovery. Mass hysteria? I don’t think so. Like the island nations who are watching sea levels rise, we are experiencing savage change. I am not activist material – a real introvert. But I will show at the next rally for climate change because I can no longer sit inside. I can either weep, or get off my butt. thank you for this post

  6. Bravo, Judith. I’m inspired by your actions and also by all Jane Fonda is doing at 80 in supporting Fire Drill Fridays to promote awareness of the climate emergency. I think Jane recently spend her 80th birthday in jail for the cause.

  7. Judith, you continue to inspire and amaze. What an extraordinary description of your experience and what is going on in the world of climate change. It is unbelievable that more people aren’t responding to the desperate need to act now!! I will look for more avenues where I can be involved. Thank you, thank you! One note…I never thought I’d see you wearing plastic on your wrists!!

  8. As a 70 yr old Australian, I thank you for your involvement in this. You are inspirational and an influencer. They should be afraid, very afraid of radical, aged activists. It is time for a return to the protest movement of 50 years ago and join with the younger generation in their fight for a livable world. The old, white, privileged men need to be challenged constantly. I am so ashamed of our government in so many ways and can only imagine the despair you must feel with your so-called “leaders” especially the president. All held hostage to their desire for power and money. How on earth have we come to this and how do we change it? It is time they recognised our generation will no longer be silent or complacent. You can’t dismiss us as “crazy kids with no idea.”

  9. Bravo, Judith. You so eloquently write what I feel in my own heart.

    To Roz I say, please try to understand the scientific and emotional reasons why Judith, myself, and others, worry about the wellbeing and future of our grandchildren. Thanks to people like Greta Thurnberg, and Judith Boyd, as well as collective groups such as Extinction Rebellion, we are finding truth in science and voices in quiet rebellion to educate people about the immediate and ongoing effects of climate change.

  10. Never commented before…ever! But today your blog forced me to tell you I am proud of you. And to thank you for speaking up. Jane Fonda and Greta will welcome you into their auspicious company !

  11. You enhance your action by providing an inner view of your experience. I follow you because you are authentic and gutsy.

  12. Judith thank you for your action and the calm considered energy that radiates from your post. I too feel devastated by the fires and wildlife destruction, we have to galvanise. Best wishes Sue

  13. wow! You are so inspiring! I love your style and am now thrilled that you are taking action to promote the need for change! Well done!!

  14. As one of your Australian fans, and long time reader, Judith thank you, we have felt helpless as we have choked on smoke and watched our country burn. A billion native animals have perished and my heart is completely broken. Knowing people elsewhere on our pale blue dot care too means the world to me.

    THANK YOU (from Melbourne, Australia).

  15. I so proud of you for getting involved, Judith, and following your passion about this issue. What an amazing story! I’m glad you are all right, and I also wonder about those people who could not afford bail…

    Hugs to you.

  16. Bravo Judith! What a story! I applaud your willingness to get involved. Unlike those on the Titanic that kept dancing and eating…pretending if they just ignored the problem somehow it would go away we know better. Change is necessary. We are only but one species on this earth. We don’t own it and we are ruining it for everyone.

    Suzanne

  17. Oh Judith, as a sister Coloradan (near Boulder) proud Crone and lover of planet Earth, I applaud your courage and appreciate your inspiration! Last year at the national Crones Counsel gathering, I gave a workshop on disenfranchised grief and one of the things we discussed was Eco Grief. It is so real and can leave people feeling sad, lost and disempowered. By speaking to it in a public forum, you are helping others validate their feelings and perhaps find ways to take action and make a difference. Rock on Judith, Jane and beautiful Greta!

  18. To Roz
    What utter tosh!
    I live in London and was on the ground and work right next to where Extinction Rebellion has their last protest camp. Your claim it damaged thousands immeasurably is a gross exaggeration. Yes thousands were mildly inconvenienced by not being able to use their usual modes of transport to travel. It’s hardly immeasurable damage compared to what scientists are telling us will happen in terms of food insecurity, global conflict and mass displacement that climate change will inflict. Have you actually read an IPCC climate change report? Because I can tell you Greta Thunberg (and I) have and she can quote the figures backwards. And it’s not pretty! I suggest you educate yourself about what the science is actually saying before you accuse her and the youth of mass hysteria because I can tell you (as someone qualified in environmental science) that they have every right to be fearful. Even the Governor of the Bank of England’s is now speaking the same language as Greta and warning companies that their investment plans will instigate a catastrophic 4 degree increase in temperatures. The shameful thing is that the kids get it but the majority of the adults are still in denial and corporations and big money are still prepared to sponsor lies and mis truths to keep doing business as usual. At the last London XR protests I spoke to many young disillusioned environmental professionals who spoke about the frustrations of not being able to make a positive impact -about having their environmental impact assessments changed without their consent by their superiors to allow companies to continue their activities unabated. The older generations in power are not listening to the next generation. Until they start to you can expect more disruptive activism to gain ground as many see it as the only way to get the message across to those in power.

  19. Oh Judith! Thank you for caring and doing this and thank you for sharing it. What an amazing story, So many of us often wish there was something we could do to change the direction our earth is taking but feel at a loss. You have shown us what bravery and commitment looks like.
    Peace!
    Cheryl

  20. I applaud your commitment, not everyone has the spirit to carry through with their beliefs. Having a passion is an absolute in my life. Living with passion is my motto. So I am so glad to see people my age taking a stand and being passionate about what they believe in. Climate change is happening, but hysteria about it will not get us anywhere, so peaceful demonstrations and actions are something I wholeheartedly embrace. You are inspiring!!
    At the same time…..I find it a bit surprising that you mentioned White Privilege. It is new concept that I still do not understand. Are we to apologize for everything because we are one race or another? Isn’t this a divisive concept.? We must bring people together, not divide them.

  21. Roz,

    In response to your comment I would like to reflect upon one concept that we have in common, which is ,”as long as I do not hurt others.” After much research I came to believe that my denial was making me silently complicit when it comes to issues regarding the climate emergency. That I was contributing to the pain and suffering that is already happening today (such as the bush fires in Australia) and is sure to descend on all living beings unless we act with urgency and compassion.

    Also, in searching for more areas of agreement, does anyone want more pollution in the world? Is anyone in favor of being left behind in the global transition to a modern energy system? Do we think it’s fair for corporations to pollute for free, while wielding outsize influence over the rules that protect public health?

    I know that I can’t change your opinion, but I respectfully ask you to read the many comments in response to my post that discuss areas of concern regarding the global crisis that confronts humanity.

    Judith

  22. I’m not surprised that you attended the rally, as you are a strong person who makes her beliefs known and supports them through her actions, or that you were arrested, (as that seems to be the norm at these type of protests), but I am appalled at the rough treatment you received, I don’t know that I would have handled being arrested (and almost pushed down the stairs) as calmly as you did. It sounds like an experience that would definitely change someone’s outlook on the world, and be cause for personal reflection of how you want to spend the time you have left on the planet. I have always admired your strength of character and passion and this is yet another example of those attributes in action. Bravo, my friend. XO

  23. Wow, Judith. Whether or not I agree w/ the politics behind this (which I do) I am awed with the step you took into action. I am puzzled however, as to why you and the others were arrested.! Free assembly is protected in our constitution ( “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”.) and it didn’t seem like you all were being hostile or violent.

  24. Why not engage in critical thinking and real science instead of radical extremists?
    I’m shocked you would participate in this.

    “Extinction Rebellion (XR) should be treated as an extremist anarchist group, a former Scotland Yard head of counter-terrorism has warned. Richard Walton, who headed the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command until 2016, said his investigation into XR revealed it had a “subversive” agenda rooted in the “political extremism of anarchism” rather than just campaigning on climate change.

    He said he had uncovered evidence that XR leaders advocated “revolution” to overturn capitalism, mass protest and law-breaking aimed at achieving a breakdown of democracy and the state – an intent many of its middle class and celebrity backers appeared unaware of.

  25. Dear Judith — I found this piece personally very moving. I am scientist who studies climate change impacts on ecosystems, I was born and raised in Greeley, Colorado, I knew Bella Romero growing up. And, I’m very concerned about what has happened in my hometown. Thank you very much for your dedication to the issue of climate change. ~ Laura Lopez Hoffman PS: I never imagined I would find this by following a link from YLF about scarves (which I also enjoy collecting).

  26. Dear Judith, I am appalled at the treatment you received merely for expressing your opinion. What intimidating behaviour from the police. I am the same age as you and have the same concerns for the future of this planet and what life will be like for my little grandson if we do not act now.
    We try to be as responsible as possible in our own home environment, using solar power, an air source heat pump and growing a considerable amount of our own food. Every little helps!

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