We encountered our first delay on the way to Jackson, Mississippi. I don’t know if someone told the police that we were coming or if they just saw the big green bus and couldn’t resist pulling us over. But as soon as we were clear of the Memphis area, the state police pulled us over. A few more state and local police showed up within a few minutes. There was also an unmarked car which Jess insists was Homeland Security. I don’t want to assume like she does, but they were wearing suits, which was strange for such hot weather.
What was the pretense? There was no pretense. I don’t know what they wrote down in their paperwork, but when they talked to us, they didn’t pretend that we were speeding or otherwise breaking the law. We weren’t. They just asked for our papers and demanded to search our vehicles. Jess started arguing with one of the officers, insisting that he had to have “just cause” to detain us and search us. The lead officer got red in the face and shouted back at her that his “just cause” was that we were “a bunch of [blanking] Green Front [blanks] who had no business setting foot in the fine state of Mississippi.” So they checked everyone’s ID, checked the registration and insurance of the vehicles, searched the vehicles [including the boat], and patted all of us down thoroughly. A little too thoroughly, if you ask me.
After they searched us, they held us on the side of the road while they did some background checks and figured out if they could find any excuse to arrest us. We stood out there for about an hour in the midday heat with no shade or water while they waited on word from above. Eventually, the lead officer came back with a sour look on his face and told us that we were free to go.
All in all, it wasn’t too bad. They technically violated all of our rights by detaining and searching us for no reason, but I’ve heard stories of worse. Crossing state lines is a lot more risky than it used to be, especially in the more conservative states. The authorities have a mistrust of outsiders and make a lot of money catching out-of-staters in speed traps, random searches, drug busts, and so on.
Anyway, once we got to our destination, it was like the difference between night and day. The climate action community in Jackson is fairly small but very happy to have out of town guests. We were greeted by an odd pair of allies — an evangelical minister who leads a faith-based global warming group and climatologist who’s researching the effects of global warming on the Mississippi Delta and surrounding areas. Both of them are founding members of the Mississippi Climate Coalition. They apologized profusely for the behavior of the authorities and treated us all to a very late lunch at the minister’s church.
We had planned some other activities for the afternoon, but due to the delay, we didn’t have time for most of them. Jess, Harold, and I all spoke at an informal gathering of climate activists, students, faith leaders, and a few professors, while some of our other people volunteered at a local soup kitchen and food pantry. Then we had a late dinner and turned in for the night. They found actual houses for all of us to stay in! Jess, Ermete, and I are all sharing a spare bedroom in the house of an elderly woman who seems delighted to have the company. She says that she’s been writing letters and signing petitions about global warming since before we were born and wishes the politicians had listened sooner.
Honestly, I wish they had too. But they didn’t, so we have our work cut out for us.
On that note, I’d better get some sleep. We have a long journey ahead of us.