As Republican members of the US Senate, in the iron vise grip of Donald Trump, prepared to acquit the president on February 5, dozens of members of the ad hoc direct action group Remove Trump planned one final act of impeachment-focused resistance.
Having secured tickets to the 12:40 p.m. tour of the Capitol, the group — which when asked by security staff whether they planned any disturbance denied any such intention — followed their guide until the visit reach the historic Rotunda. Having scoped that space out ahead of time, the activists knew that the center of the room was cordoned off — making it a perfect spot for 10 of their members to stage a sit-in.
That’s how activist Donna Aceto, a photographer for Gay City News, set the stage in explaining how she and nine other women — from New York and elsewhere — ended up sitting in a circle with locked arms facing the tour crowd that filled the Rotunda. The activists were surprised that it took Capitol Police more than five minutes to arrive on the scene, and another few minutes before they issued three rapid-fire warnings and began arresting the protesters.
According to Aceto, the police “couldn’t have been nicer to us.” When plastic handcuffs didn’t work in restraining Aceto, her arresting officer used metal cuffs, but made sure to check with her to see that she was not uncomfortable. The officers included men and women, but it was female officers who searched the 10 women protesters.
In addition to arresting those sitting in, police also cleared the Rotunda, which included many of the protesters’ allies.
The arrestees were held for a couple of hours, with most given “catch and release” treatment for “crowding, obstructing or incommoding,” with a fine of $50. Several activists, however, who had additional arrests by Capitol Police during the recent weeks of Remove Trump activism, will have to appear in court at a later date. Aceto said she has been to Washington several times during the Senate trial for Remove Trump actions but the February 5 arrest was her first related to that activism.
By the time the “catch and release” activists were back on the street, the Senate had voted for acquittal. All 47 Democrats supported conviction, and all the GOP senators, with the exception of Utah’s Mitt Romney on one of the two impeachment charges, stood with Trump. When senators were leaving the Capitol, Remove Trump activists, including Laurie Arbeiter were outside making clear that they did not share the Republicans’ indifference to the president’s lawlessness.
In addition to Manhattanite Aceto, the women arrested were Tricia Cooke, a mother and film editor who is also a New Yorker; Jenny Fisher, a mother and former civil servant who worked in the Reagan White House; Lisa Fithian, an organizer and author from Texas.; Barbara Schulman, a New York designer; Carla Boccella, a DC-area nurse; Karen Ziegler, a retired hospice nurse from North Carolina; Myra Slotnick, a writer from Provincetown; Linda Morelli, an American-born activist who now lives in Venice, Italy; and Wendy Brandes, a jewelry-maker from New York City.
Americans should thank these 10 women for their service.