After the September peace march and subsequent mass nonviolent civil resistance action at the White House, I can’t help but feel the tide of dissent and public opposition to our nation’s current road to imperialism rise. It now seems as if Katrina has finally exposed our government’s unjust priorities.
Within days America is expected to witness its two-thousandth death from combat operations in Iraq. Popularity for this war and occupation has slumped to an all-time low. A recent CBS poll reports 59 percent of Americans favor a withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible.
And yet the American government stubbornly continues to fund an illegal and immoral occupation of a nation that never posed a credible threat to us. Meanwhile military recruiters routinely lie and manipulate the youth of our nation to sign up for a war of empire, possibly leaving them mentally or physically – or both -- scarred for life.
On November 17th and 18th, students, parents and peace activists will unite to tell our nation we want the war in Iraq to end and for military recruiters to vacate our schools and universities. The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance are organizing these two days of dissent and resistance.
Along with Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq, the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance, was the primary organizer behind United for Peace and Justice’s sponsored nonviolent direct action at the White House on September 26. During this historical action, 374 peaceful protestors were arrested as they requested a meeting with President Bush and hanged names and photos of those killed in this horrible conflict on the White House fence. Among those arrested were Cindy Sheehan, Dr. Cornel West, former diplomat Anne Wright and several religious leaders. The National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance was launched this year and has its roots in the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, which dates back to early 2003.
The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition is a nationwide peace network organized and lead by more than 20 student and youth organizations dedicated to the pursuit of peace. Founded in 2001, the coalition has more recently focused its attention on resisting the presence of military recruiters in their schools and on their campuses.
In recent months, all branches of the military, with the exception of the Marines have reported significant declines in their recruitment efforts. The inability of military recruiters to reach their stated quotas provides the peace movement with a unique opportunity to capitalize on the momentum gained from the anti-war September anti-war mobilization in Washington.
According to reports this month, the Marine Corps achieved 102% of its goal for enlistments in the reserves and 100% of its goal for active-duty enlistments, according to figures released by the Defense Department. However, the Army's figures were 84% for the Army Reserve, 80% for the National Guard, and 92% for its active-duty force. As the nation's largest service, the Army needs to attract a larger number of recruits than the Marine Corps, the Navy or the Air Force.
Desperate for new recruits, Army officials said they were lowering from 67% to 60% the Army's goal for signing recruits who scored in the top half on its aptitude test. The Marines goal, however, remain unchanged.
The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition is officially calling for demonstrations and rallies at schools or community military recruiting stations across the country. They are declaring November 17th “Not Your Soldier Day.” Organizers are suggesting offering alternative recruitment fairs, demanding meetings with school administrators to discuss counter-recruitment demands, as well as other creative forms of protest.
On Friday, November 18th, The National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance, working with students, concerned parents and community activists throughout the country will be promoting and assisting, as much as possible, demonstrations involving nonviolent civil resistance and civil disobedience at military recruiting stations throughout the country. The day is being dubbed “National Stand Down Day.”
This nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience will be done in a loving manner and in a way as to present a moral challenge to military recruiters. Those who actively participate will accept the risk of arrest and realize they may be breaking a law. We understand, as Mahatma Gandhi once said: ”There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.”
NCNR will provide coordination and support as possible, for all manner of protests and demonstrations at recruiting centers. The campaign also recognizes and offers support to soldiers who take great risks to refuse fighting in this unjust war. Leaders of this campaign, including Gordon Clark, coordinator of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance and Stephen Cleghorn with Military Families Speak Out, said it is protestors’ “moral responsibility” to share that risk to the extent that they can, by preventing even more young Americans from being placed in such jeopardy.
Both NCNR and the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition will both be highlighting Section 9528 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001, commonly known as the “No Child Left Behind Act.” This clause is coming under attack by local school boards, because it is putting America’s children at risk by requiring high schools to give military recruiters private contact information of its students.
Numerous articles have confirmed the transgressions by military recruiters across the country: concealing recruits' mental-health histories and police records; giving the military aptitude test without parental consent; enlisting recruits with criminal records and encouraging recruits to falsify drug use, as well as other manipulative and deceptive tactics.
The time is now for the peace movement to continue and intensify its resistance to the militarism of its youth. If you plan to organize an event in your school or neighborhood, please contact the organizers at http://www.nyspc.net/notyoursoldier.php and http://www.iraqpledge.org.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Sorry for the late posting on this historic event.
Three weeks ago, I was detained on a Metro bus with my dear friends Malachy, David Barrows, Midge Potts and D.C.-based Catholic Worker Art Laffin. We had been arrested for protesting in front of the White House and refusing to leave. We were protesting against the illegal and immoral war and occupation of a soveriegn nation which never posed a credible threat to our nation.
This action had been planned largely through conference calls hosted by United for Peace and Justice's (UFPJ) nonviolent direct action working group. The two groups who probably had the biggest hand in designing this momentous act of nonviolent resistance was The National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance (formerly known as the Iraq Pledge of Resistance) and Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq (CALC-I).
Participation in the event turned out to be larger than many of us imagined. The first one arrested was Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war movement's first true superstar. Most news articles written about the event lead with Cindy's arrest and barely mention the other 373 of us.
Speaking in Lafayette Square briefly before the action were Gordon Clark of National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance, Rabbi Arthur Waskow from Philadelphia and an Imam from New York City. The speakers had to stand on a wobbly milk crate. My friend from both NCNR and the D.C. Anti-War Network (DAWN), Pat Elder, and I struggled to support both the rabbi and imam. And as they took turns, the imam helped supprt the rabbi and then the rabbi assisted us in holding the imam steady. It was a physical -- expression of love and unity that buttressed the words in their brief but poignant speeches. I shed tears during this moment. I knew this was a powerful action, one that could lead to a wider movement of resistance and non-cooperation as we struggle to end this evil war and occupation of raw imperialism.
I marched with the group from The Ellipse to Lafayette Square, one group headed up 17th Street, while the other group of us headed up 15th. This gave a brief sense of encircling the White House. Wonderful photographs were taken of this procession, and it was a solemn event, bells were steadily rung, and buddhist monks tapped drums in unison. I saw my New York Friends, Jenna from 1,000 Coffins and Ai Mara with Not In Our Name. This was to be Ai Mara's first time being arrested. It was good to see Jenna who has played a big role in earlier marches and protest events. I also was able to briefly meet Rev. Simon Harak a Lebanese-American Jesuit, also from New York, face to face for the first time. He is a very thoughtful and dedicated practitioner of nonviolence, and someone I see eye to eye with on how we would like to see the movement progress. The Rev. and I had exchanged e-mail and had a phone conversation before, but it was nice to put a face to that voice.
What was most powerful about the event was that we all decided that our opposition to the war was great enough to submit to arrest and detention, although extremely brief. Before stepping into the arrest zone, I met up with my small affinity group who had decided to make the connection of this war to our own government's use of torture in Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay. We donned Orange jumpsuits and black hoods. I was a bit fearful of doing this, I wondered if my compatriots in NCNR would see this as "too radical" or "too angry and unforgiving." Would they dismiss this as more DAWN extremism? But I felt it had to be done, that the people should be reminded of all the pain and shame involved with our nation's evil practices of imperialism and dehumanization of other peoples. But my fear was unnecessary, we were not criticized, and while we were waiting to be taken into custody and processed, others came up to us and thanked us, over and over again.
At one point, we stood on the base of the White House fence, many said we provided a "good witness" to our nation's human rights abuses and provided a very sobering effect to the action. While we stood on the fence's base, a man jumped the fence and was immediately and very violently tackled by 8 or 9 secret service agents. Then were were told by the Park Police to step off the base. We reluctantly did, but after a couple minutes the four of us decided that we would resume our perch and tell them we were not going to make the same leap. We were then roughly snatched off the base and violently stumbled on to the cement. We laid there huddled together for a few seconds, and the crowd become very quiet. We then sat together and decided to be among the very last taken away by the police. We also decided, along with another group mostly from upstate New York that we would not cooperate with getting on the bus and would go limp. We were in this together, and it was an empowering feeling.
It was also empowering to see religious leaders and the extremely brilliant teacher and gifted orator Dr. Cornel West arrested with us. We were held until around 4:30 a.m., and overall were treated well by the Park Police. Many people talked about organizing similar actions intheir home states. Done Mueller was there from Alaska. Others were from California and Arizona. Mubarak Awad, a palestian man and founder of Nonviolence International was with us. A couple decades ago he was exiled by the Israeli government. It was exciting, it really felt like a true nonviolent resistance movement was being born.
So, I wait and wonder what will happen next in this movement? It is being written about in newspapers, online magazines, personal blogs. The word is spreading, it's mroe than just Cindy Sheehan getting arrested in front of the White House. It was in many ways a popular nonviolent action. Can we fill up the jails and disrupt the judicial system? Can we nonviolently shutdown recruiting stations, military bases, cities? What can we do to disrupt the business as usual standard of modern-day warmaking? I have faith that the masses are waking up to the lies which have been sold to them and questioning authority. They are sick of the killing and seeing young men and women coming home wounded and mentally scared for life.
I believe it is time to build the nonviolent resistance and noncooperation movement. We now have the momentum, let's keep it going!