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UUA President Peter Morales was arrested in front of the U.S. Capitol during a peaceful demonstration

Morales arrested in D.C. during immigration protest

Interfaith demonstration calls on Congress to pass compassionate immigration reform.
By Michelle Bates Deakin

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The Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, was arrested in Washington, D.C., on October 8 during a demonstration in front of the U.S. Capitol calling on Congress to pass compassionate immigration reform.

“Our laws are more than broken, they’re evil,” Morales said at a rally earlier in the day.

Morales was arrested along with about 200 protesters, who included religious and community leaders as well as lawmakers. They blocked traffic in front of the Capitol, urging legislators to end the government shutdown and partisan gridlock in Congress and pass immigration reform. At the same time, nearly 20,000 protestors convened on the National Mall, demanding immigration reform.

Prior to his arrest, Morales spoke at a prayer service on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building. He said, “I’m here on stage with 50 clergy from 40 states. Across the country, another 10,000 people of faith are praying and fasting in support of immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship now and to stop the needless deportations hurting our communities. The time is now. The consequences of inaction would be devastating for millions of people living in this country.”

On the morning after Morales’s arrest, he published an essay in the Huffington Post explaining why he was arrested with other faith leaders. “We stood together, were handcuffed together, and led away together for one purpose—to tell Congress to get back to work on compassionate immigration reform. We hope that by momentarily suspending our freedoms, we give voice to the millions of people denied theirs every day,” Morales wrote.

In an inside-the-beltway irony, Morales and the other protestors confronting the gridlock in Congress were charged with “blocking passage,” a misdemeanor. They were released from jail early the next morning.

Tuesday’s arrest was Morales’s second for civil disobedience calling for immigration reform. In 2010, he was arrested in Phoenix, Ariz., protesting that state’s anti-illegal immigrant law, SB1070. Morales was found guilty of misdemeanor charges of failing to comply with a police officer and sentenced to a day in jail.

The rally’s primary organizer was the Alliance for Citizenship. Church World Service organized a summit of religious leaders prior to the arrests. Eight members of Congress were also arrested: Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Rep. Al Green of Texas, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

On the weekend prior to the Washington protests, UU congregations across the country, along with other faith communities and civil rights groups, took part in the National Day of Dignity and Respect, to call attention to the plight of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Photograph (above): UUA President Peter Morales was arrested in front of the U.S. Capitol during a peaceful demonstration October 8 calling on Congress to pass compassionate immigration reform (Dea Brayden). See sidebar for links to related resources, including other photographs from the day’s events.

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