I was first arrested at the White House when I was 10 years old. My hair was pulled off my face by a blue bandana. I drew a penguin on my sign and wrote: “Reagan: Give Kids A Chance to Live.” My brother, a year younger, was arrested too, along with the activist and pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock. The arrest was a novel experience — the police officers were courtly. Jerry and I kept a quiet eye out for the elderly doctor’s pointy ears. It wasn’t until days later that we realized we hadn’t been arrested with Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk’s half Vulcan science officer.
Over the years, I’ve been arrested in front of the White House many times. As an adult, I’ve always felt a mixture of tension, excitement and righteousness — which is followed by brief terror, before being swept away amid the cheers and solidarity of supporters. Then the emotions switch to a compound of boredom and community-building in the holding areas or cells, as we wait for processing and release.
The beginning of that arrest process over these many years has always been the same: to stand still with a sign along the central stretch of the White House’s south sidewalk known as the “picture postcard zone.”