$40,000 (!) and My "We Are All Criminals" Story

$40,000 (!)

Hello again, lovely humans! I wanted to share that we are now $10,000 away from our goal!!! My hopes have never been higher and I'm just so incredibly thankful for the surge of donations this past week. Honestly.

I'm about to kick the campaign-ing into its highest gear yet on this home stretch and just, again, want to say THANK YOU ALL for your contributions! You are fueling the progress and I am so grateful!

We Are All Criminals | Emily H. Turner

We Are All Criminals (WAAC) is possibly the most powerful movement I have seen in the criminal justice context to date and I absolutely love its ability to challenge one of the country’s most damaging narratives (the narrative: anyone who has committed a crime is a “criminal”) through the simplicity of storytelling. What a human and non-combative approach to reexamining the norms that have surfaced.

It seems that the sharing of stories, real stories, so often yields common ground in the most unexpected places; amongst the most unexpected populations. With that, I am so happy (though not proud) to share a few of my stories; to discuss some of the crimes I have gotten away with. As Emily Baxter, WAAC’s Founder, so eloquently states: there are so many of us that have violated laws yet have also had the luxury of avoiding an official reminder (i.e., an arrest or a conviction) of the mistakes we have made.

So… here are a few of my (criminal) mistakes. These are not instances that I ever planned on sharing with anyone. They aren’t exactly resume-worthy and I am just so lucky that I don’t have a rap sheet following me around. But the point is: I could.

Public Intoxication | Public Indecency (Age: 25)

I was in graduate school in Atlanta and had met a dear friend and former hockey teammate down in Columbus, Georgia. She had been overseas with the Navy and I was SO excited to see her again! So… we got to drinking. And laughing. And drinking. And laughing.

She had beer and I had whiskey (woops) and there wasn’t a lot of concern about amounts given the fact that our hotel was within walking distance. So we kept things flowing for quite a few hours, caring mostly about the fact that we were finally reunited and had so damn much to catch up on.

When we began walking back to the hotel, I realized that I really, I mean reeeeeally, had to go to the bathroom. My friend insisted I could hold it until we got to our room but I, apparently, didn’t agree. And I was wearing a dress, so I was totally convinced that I could just “pee real quick” along the (very public) median we were walking along.

As I began to transition from squatting to standing, I noticed the police officer who was casting his flashlight on the puddle I had just left. My heart started pounding and there wasn’t a lot that I could do. Hard to talk your way out of a visible puddle.

When he told me he should arrest me, I begged him not to. I told him I was applying for law school and had worked so hard and just could not afford to get in trouble. I started crying and insisted I “truly was a good person.” He was not impressed but, in the end, told me to get back to my hotel room and sober up.

Of course, I laughed about it the next day. Because at that point it was easy to chuckle and chalk it up to being young, dumb and drunk and pretend as if I hadn’t been absolutely terrified in the face of a pending arrest.

One year later, I saw a young (black) man in the French Quarter who was visibly drunk and peeing alongside Bar Tonique across the street from Louis Armstrong Park. A police officer saw and approached him. He was thrown against the wall, handcuffed, and arrested. There were no discussions. No questions. No negotiations.

In that moment, all I could think was: that could have been (and really should have been) me. And suddenly my drunken Columbus episode lost all of its humor.

Driving Under the Influence (Age: 33)