My brother was drafted and sent to Vietnam at the age of 20 or 21, I don't exactly remember, and he was flying Huey Cobra attack helicopters. Mom had joined Joanne Woodward's organization, Another Mother for Peace, and we were participating in a march. Apparently, no one got a permit to protest.
We were rounded up by the Pompano Beach Police Department and carted off. All of us were scattered across 3 or 4 cells. Just us, no other "criminals". My Dad came to get us at lunchtime after word spread to the car dealership where he was a mechanic.
Pompano Beach was a small town, so news traveled fast. He came to the jail and looked "hard" at Mom and said, "Well, looky here. An honor student and her Mother in jail". You could just see the "thought" bubbles with the things he wanted so badly to say.
The judge dismissed the charges.
No one spoke of it again. I never went to another protest with my Mom. Mom went to a lot of them. A lot. Even after her boy came home. She advocated for other mothers.
I hadn't noticed when she came in that she was walking "funny", but when she got up to get a tissue, it was obvious. When she sat down, I put all of the testing materials on the floor and turned the lights down and started talking with her.
She never looked at me when talking about her mother's new boyfriend. Because the attack took place the previous night, she was still in shock. Just hours before, she told her mother who told her to "get to school and get over it".
I implemented the protocol. Her medical needs were met and then, the legal system took over. I received a frantic call from the assistant district attorney's office informing me that the judge was in the process of returning the girl to her mother. The girl wanted to live with her aunt and her aunt wanted the same thing. I ran to the proceedings.
Have you ever seen Designing Women with Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker? If not, you've really missed something. If you want to see the clip of Julia's classic "rants" about jury duty, check this out. If you go to this link, you'll see five clips of her best tirades.
Anyway, when asked my opinion, I let it rip. I started out slowly, apparently, giving an informed and professional opinion and when the judge appeared more and more disinterested, I upped the ante. I began to channel Julia.
I swear to you, I never heard him tell me to stop talking and sit down which he allegedly did several times. I finally "came to" when the bailiff was moving toward me with handcuffs. Oh yeah, when you're in contempt of court, they go the whole nine yards, at least on that day in that courtroom with that judge...and with me. Oh goody.
I was put into a holding cell with other "ladies". You understand what "ladies" I'm talking about, right? Before I could get my bearings, one rushed up to me and said, "What're you doing in here, school ma'arm"? They all fell out when I told them that I was "back talking the judge", but fell eerily silent when I told them I was trying to protect a girl from being raped again.
Suddenly, I was the Queen of the Cell Block, well, at least that one cell.
I told them about the work that I did and for the next several hours, we talked about parenting and ways to get special education services. Even the sheriff who was "guarding" us, joined into the conversation. "No, you can't have paper and pencil to write stuff down for them". Ugh. Barbarians.
The judge sent the scared assistant district attorney to the cell to ask me if I was ready to apologize. "No, go away, I'm working here." Finally, I got very, very hungry and when the ADA returned, I went with him.
I didn't exactly apologize. The judge and I agreed to disagree, but by this time, the audience had grown substantially. Court staff and attorneys who had nothing better to do had come in to watch the "showdown". They weren't disappointed.
I told the judge that I would do whatever it took to get that kid safe. Yes, I was willing to go back to the holding cell. He acknowledged for the court that I was consulting with prostitutes about parenting. He mocked me. At this point, several medical and legal professionals took up the cause. The judge told me that I was an "exhausting woman". It's one of my charms.
He turned the girl over to her aunt. I had confidence in the aunt. She was a fierce chick who clearly was devoted to this child and had been trying for years to protect her. She hugged me so hard I thought my ribs would break. The boyfriend was arrested and I went home. I smelled so so bad. So bad. Oh, mercy.
The girl ended up at a different school. I got into trouble with the school district administrators (and that's new how, exactly?) and hopefully, she learned to cope with the trauma.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." ...Margaret Mead
We didn't change the world, just her world.
Do the best you can, but never back off, back up or back down from a righteous fight.
PS. Decades later, after my husband heard that story, he would ask, "Need bail money?" whenever I left for work. So far, so good.
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