Photo by Valerie Jean
Can I Get a Witness?
Testimony on the Commitment of Rashida Tlaib
By Sara Habbo
The Detroit and Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) fields many requests to provide legal observers to the demonstrations of union workers and other political organizations. On February 13th, 2020, before we knew there was a global pandemic that would shut down our lives, as the current President of the NLG, I got a call from someone at Unite Here Local 24. When I received this call, I assumed it was related to Unite Here’s plans for nationwide protests against poor treatment of airline workers and the failure to provide sick time for food workers.
“Hey, I know you planned on observing, but we actually just need another person willing to get arrested tomorrow. Do you think you can do that instead?” I paused and asked a few questions, but ultimately agreed to participate in the direct action.
The following day, I joined the airline caterers who were out picketing Delta Airline’s poor treatment outside Detroit Metro Airport. As we marched and chanted, I noticed that Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and her two staffers had joined. She went around talking to everyone who came up to her, seeming to know each person.
As the time came to begin the planned blocking of traffic near the Delta Airlines terminal, Congresswoman Tlaib’s staffers asked her not to get arrested. They all laughed together, but then a staffer repeated, “We need you to get home tonight, please.”
About eight of us, consisting of the union president, a union steward, and members, stood in the road, blocking traffic to the terminal. As we remained in the road, chanting, “One job should be enough,” Congresswoman Tlaib came to each person and gave us a hug, saying how proud she was that we were doing this.
Wayne County Sheriff’s officers approached us individually, asking whether we would be willing to leave the road. When we each declined, they arrested us and placed us in their vehicles. The majority of our group was put into a van. Though the officers did not arrest her, Congresswoman Tlaib somehow got herself into the van with one group of the demonstrators. She refused to allow us to be arrested without her being present the entire time.
I’ve been an observer with the Detroit NLG Chapter for about four years now, and have observed around 100 protests and actions in that time. I’ve never seen an elected official so willing to fight for people in their community. During a time when she could have easily shown up for a photo-op and left, Rashida Tlaib stood next to us in the protest, stayed in the vehicles with us during our arrest, and did not leave until each person had been released.
Rashida Tlaib has always been an advocate for her community, ready to speak out against harmful policies, and ready to call out “impeach the motherfucker” about the 45th President long before other elected officials had the courage to do so. During the current session of Congress, Tlaib has sponsored six bills and co-sponsored 255 bills. The bills she’s sponsored create just laws for people in debt, call for water affordability to clean water, provide funding to allow families to keep their water on during the pandemic.
In a time where too many elected officials spend their time posting on social media proselytizing about their values, the 13th Congressional District is lucky to have a representative who lives her values and breathes them into each piece of legislation she puts forth. When voters are considering candidates, it is so important to look beyond what candidates post on social media and in their flyers and look at how or if they have consistently shown up for their community.