Sunday, January 11, 2009

I was arrested while mourning those killed with our tax dollars


On Tuesday, January 6, about 80 anti-war protestors came to Capitol Hill to remind elected representatives of the death and destruction they continue to fund. Laurie Arbeiter and her colleagues in the Activist Response Team (ART) organized another performance of the March of the Dead on the first day of the 111th Congress, followed by dramatic banner drops and arrests for nonviolent civil resistance later that day.

The protestors did not gain much media attention, although plenty of cameras were on the scene. It appears at the end of the day their producers and editors only had time for Mr. Burris, the man appointed by a defamed governor to take the president-elect’s seat in the senate. However, Bill Moyers picked up on it and commented on it during his TV show. The rest of the media did not have time for the names of the dead slain by our military, or our proxies the Israelis.

I marched in this somber procession of remembrance that rainy day, and I took part in the nonviolent civil resistance afterward inside the Hart Senate Office Building. The action was powerful and poignant. In side the building, senate staffers came to the balconies overlooking the atrium and saw us in the death masks and saw the huge banners produced by our New York friends in ART.

I carried the name of Iman Muhammad al Aju. She was a four-month-old girl from Gaza killed in her mother’s arms. I was arrested minutes after calling out her name inside the atrium; inside these shiny halls of power. There were 17 of us arrested. Five for disorderly conduct because they hung the banners that read: “The audacity of war crimes,” “Iraq,” “Afghanistan,” and “Palestine,” as well as “We will not be silent.” Why were they disorderly? Because our message of truth caused some distress in those halls where truth is often not desirable?

On the ground floor 12 more of us were arrested because we would not be silent, we continued to read the names of those senselessly slaughtered. We were charged with unlawful assembly. I wondered what made our assembly unlawful? Surely we were not blocking anything, and we were not louder than most tourist or school groups. One arresting officer told us, through a bullhorn, “Cease your criminal activity.” What was the criminal activity – us honoring those tragically killed in wars of aggression, or those in the offices who continually fund them to the tune of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars?

Most of us arrested are planning to go to court. We hope to turn this around and place the real war criminals on trial. I know when I appear in court for my arraignment on February 5th, that when my name is called, I will respond: “My name is Pete Perry, I am representing Iman Muhammad al Aju, a four-month-old girl killed in her mother’s arms. I plead not guilty, because she was truly innocent.”

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