Arrested for Peace – A List of Thousands

Reprinted from The Common Good, No 37, Pentecost 2006

As Iraq descends into greater chaos and moves closer to civil war, tens of thousands of people across America have dedicated their lives to ending the war and the illegal occupation of Iraq. In the almost complete absence of peacemaking reports in the corporate media, we wish to point to ‘another America’ which stands for justice, peace, sustainability, decency and an end to violence and war as a way of life.

Below we bring just a small number of the many non-violent peacemaking actions which have occurred these past months. Many of them are by Christian people, inspired by the Gospel and the Church’s social teachings. Many are Catholic Workers. Those mentioned below are only the tip of a mass movement that continues to sweep across the U.S and across the world. We wish to acknowledge some of those who have been arrested for building peace, for standing up to violence and the destruction of life. At the time of writing, there were 32 peacemakers in prison for sentences from 3-6 months for ‘crossing the line’ at the School of the Americas in Georgia. This is the 20th year that people have been sentenced to imprisonment for protest at this military academy which teaches torture techniques to its recruits.

Washington DC – The ‘winter of our discontent’ anti-war campaign sustained a liquids only 34 day fast and vigil on the steps of the US Capitol from 15 February to 19 March. Supporters came to vigil with them from across the country, including a 15 member group organised by the Catholic Worker in Des Moines, seven of whom were arrested for displaying a banner in a no-go area which read ‘ God Forgive America’. A week later as the House Appropriations Committee was taking up another $67 billion bill to fund the on-going war in Afghanistan and Iraq, protestors slipped into the committee room and disrupted proceedings.

Baltimore, Maryland – Sacred Earth and Space Ploughshares – Three Dominican nuns, still on parole for symbolically exposing and disarming a nuclear missile silo, have offered an alternative plan to the court-ordered restitution imposed by the sentencing judge. Sisters Carol Gilbert OP, Jackie Hudson OP and Ardeth Platt OP have refused to pay money to the state on conscience grounds. The alternative involved offering $595,969.50 promised by friends to various community organisations in the names of the three nuns. The restitution offer has been refused.

St Patrick’s Four, New York State – Four Catholic Workers, all parents, from upstate New York were recently sentenced to four to eight months imprisonment for protesting the war on St Patrick’s Day in March 2003. Their court hearings had lasted for three years as the state tried to convict them of pumped up felony conspiracy charges. A jury finally acquitted them on the serious charges but convicted them on misdemeanours. Clare Grady, Teresa Grady, Peter DeMott and Daniel Burns had defended their non-violent action under the laws of the Gospel, international justice and the necessity defence.

Washington DC – White House – On Ash Wednesday, 75 people dressed as Guantanamo guards and prisoners processed through Washington, DC. More than two dozen of the group had gone to Cuba in December, walked to Guantanamo, and vigiled outside the isolated US Naval base where the illicit prison stands. At the White House the group read passages from Scripture and placed ashes in the form of crosses on the sidewalk. Fifteen people were arrested for demonstrating without a permit.

Portland, Oregon – On 19 March, 10 000 people marched through downtown Portland. The following day 19 people including students, retirees, professors, nurses, a priest and a retired social worker were arrested at a senator’s office. The group’s statement included that ‘we are heartsick, appalled, dismayed and disgusted by the actions of our government in its pre-emptive attack on and occupation of Iraq.’

Washington, DC – White House – At a vigil on 26 September 2005, 370 were arrested outside the White House. Prior to this, 500 had marched from the local Methodist church and joined 500 more who marched to Lafayette (Peace) Park near the White House where thousands more had assembled to hear Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan, a soldier killed in Iraq, demand an answer from the President as to what ‘noble cause’ her son had died for. There was no response.

Augusta, Maine – More than 2500 marched through cold steady rain on 26 October in a statewide anti-war rally.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – On 12 December more than 1000 people protested in freezing temperatures outside a hotel where President Bush was speaking.

Tucson, Arizona – Six people were arrested at the Raytheon Missile Systems plant on 20 March. In the last seven months, the local plant which employs 11 000 people has received nearly $1 billion in domestic and foreign military sales contracts.

Santa Cruz, California – On 11 April, 150 students marched at the University of California to confront military recruiters on campus and through a sit-in prevented them from carrying on with their recruitment.

Edina, Minnesota – Trial began 8 March for 42 defendants charged with trespass at Alliant Techsystems, the state’s largest war contractor, whose primary products include cluster bombs, rocket motors, depleted uranium munitions and land mines.

Valley Forge, Pennsylvania – Around a theme of Mourning to Resistance – Not Another Death, Not Another Dollar, the Brandywine Peace Community blockaded Lockheed-Martin’s facility in Valley Forge. Eleven were arrested.

Syracuse, New York – Ninety people marched to the military recruiting office on 20 March. Nine entered the building to discuss their concerns with the authorities. All were arrested.

Lansing, Michigan – Several peacemakers were arrested when they entered the South Lansing Marine Recruiting Centre on 20 March carrying banners reading ‘Recruitment for lies, based on lies’, ‘33% of veterans are homeless’, and ‘87% of Iraqis want U.S. out of Iraq’. All were eventually fined.

Times Square, New York – More than 250 peacemakers processed to the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square. Seventeen people were arrested. NB In an earlier action at Times Square, 18 Raging Grannies were arrested and will go on trial shortly.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – More that 2000 people marched 18 March defiant in the face of the recent news that members of the Thomas Merton Centre, organisers of the march, have been targets of FBI surveillance.

(Thanks to the Nuclear Resister (nukeresister@igc.org) for the information relating to those arrested).

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