‘A Presumption of Innocence’

Rose and Sorelle, 2018

By Sorelle R. Berger and Rose M. Berger

In July, I was one of 71 Catholics arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police in the rotunda of the Russell Senate building in Washington, D.C., for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding” while praying the rosary. My prayer was — and is — to end the warehousing of immigrant children in cages, seven of whom have died after being in federal custody since September. More than a dozen Catholic orders and organizations sponsored the event. Seven Catholic bishops sent letters of support.

Before the demonstration, my 11-year-old niece Sorelle tweeted her support. Thus began my conversation about liturgical direct action with a rising 6th-grader at a Catholic school. Below is our exchange.–Rose Berger

Rose: I just wanted to give you all this update. I’m risking arrest tomorrow, Thursday, at the Russell Senate office building as part of the Catholic Day of Action for Detained Immigrant Children. We have legal representation and have talked to the Capitol police. Everything should go relatively smoothly. Likely outcome is that I will sit the a holding cell for 6 hours with a bunch of Catholic sisters.

Sorelle to Rose: good luck I love you and call us when you’re out were so proud of you aunt rose.

Rose to Sorelle: I’m out. Everything went fine. Do you want to write an article with me about my arrest on Thursday? Here are some questions to think about: What happened at the Senate building? Who was there? Why did they do it? What were the responses to what they did? Who did they do it for? What did you think about it? Would you ever consider doing something like this? Why was it important that this event was with Catholics? Would you talk about the event at your school? Would you like your teachers to discuss this event at your school?”

Sorelle: “The Catholic Day of Action. On July 18 at the senators’ building in Washington DC, Catholics were peacefully protesting about the situation at the border. The priests and religious sisters were try to get the Trump administration to view immigration as a pro-life issue. With current American politics, this is a long up-hill fight, but it is one worth fighting. The situation at the border is one that is not only racist towards Mexicans, but it gives all people of color presumption of guilt. The current president doesn’t understand that they are born with presumption of innocence. I think the situation at the border is proof that history repeats itself. In the 1920s, we had to fight for women’s suffrage. Before that we had to fight against slavery. Now in 2019 we have to fight against these border problems. At some point Trump has to realize that we’re all created equal and stop assuming that whoever comes into America is a drug dealer, because he has no right to. At my Catholic school, they are not allowed to tell us about politics or the border. But this [day of action] relates to Jesus loving everybody. It’s important for people to say what they believe. Catholic Day of Action was just that.

Rose: [mic drop]

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