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51 Arrests at Pentagon On 3rd Anniversary of War

Fifty One Arrests at Pentagon Highlight Nonviolent Resistance Actions on Third Anniversary of War


By Gordon Clark, Coordinator, Iraq Pledge of Resistance - AfterDowningStreet.Org

As part of the protests occurring around the country during the third anniversary of the Iraq war, local groups working with the Iraq Pledge of Resistance’s National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance escalated opposition to the war and ongoing occupation by mounting nonviolent resistance actions in a number of cities yesterday, highlighted by a major action at the Pentagon.

The resistance actions around the third anniversary got rolling the previous week, when a number of individuals working with the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence joined with activists in Washington DC to disrupt a meeting of the House Appropriates Committee as it took up the $67 supplemental funding bill for the Iraq war. The committee meeting was interrupted twice by activists who spoke out from the audience, calling for an end to the war. Some were simply removed from the hearing room and escorted out of the building, but two were ultimately arrested by Capitol Police, with an arraignment scheduled for March 28.

Yesterday’s action at the Pentagon began next to the Lincoln Memorial on Monday morning. Joe Mulligan, a Jesuit priest who has spent six months in jail protesting the School of the Americas and who came from Nicaragua to join the action, discussed the new Global Call for Nonviolent Resistance against the war. Bruce Gagnon, a Vietnam veteran and member of Vets for Peace, described nonviolent actions in his state of Maine challenging members of Congress there who continue to vote to fund the war in Iraq.

Following a litany of mourning and resistance, the group of more than 200 nonviolent resisters processed across the Memorial Bridge to the LBJ Grove, near the Pentagon, carrying a ceremonial coffin covered with pictures of those who have lost their lives in the Iraq war. Before the action, four more speakers addressed the group, including "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son Casey in Iraq in 2004; Veteran for Peace Mike Ferner, who has been fasting since February 15; Michael Berg, whose son Nick, a civilian contractor, was killed in Iraq in 2004; and Laura Costas, a member of Military Families Speak Out whose brother has been suffering from the effects of exposure to depleted uranium since his return from service in Iraq.

The group then continued on to the Pentagon in an attempt to meet with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (following on previous requests for a meeting), and confronted approximately 100 Pentagon Police and extensive steel fences which had been erected that morning to prevent access to the Pentagon. After requests to be allowed to pass were rebuffed, 51 of the activists climbed over the fence to continue the procession to the Pentagon, and were promptly arrested.

With at least two of the arrestees being released without charges, amid descriptions of extremely friendly treatment and whispers of support from members of the police, the other 49 are scheduled for arraignment in dates ranging from June through August. A number of the resisters came from as far away as New Mexico and Alaska and informed police that there would refuse to return for the court date or pay any fines, but were released anyway.

Media coverage of the event was exceptionally strong, with NPR announcing the action several times that morning, and reports of the action carried by the AP, USA Today, ABC News, and a number of international news agencies.

In other nonviolent actions held yesterday as part of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance:

Portland, Oregon – Nineteen civil resisters were arrested after shutting down Senator Ron Wyden's office from 11:30 until 5pm, during which time they called on him to stop voting for further funding for the war. A court date is set for June 2. (In an amusing twist, a Homeland Security officer ended up arresting the professor of an "Introduction to Nonviolence" class the officer is enrolled in at Portland State University.)

Los Angeles, California – Eight activists were arrested for performing a nonviolent die-in and blocking the doors of Senator Diane Feinstein’s office.

Norwich, Connecticut - Roughly 60 activists working with the Global Call for Nonviolent Resistance gathered in mourning attire outside the office of Rep Robert Simmons. After delivering a statement to Rep. Simmons, they then carried five coffins, representing the five soldiers that have died from their district and the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis that have died, in a funeral procession to the Norwich Military Recruitment Center. Fifteen of the activists delivered one of the coffins to the Recruiting Center and knelt in mourning and prayer. Officials decided not to arrest anyone, even though the activists were able to shut the recruiting office for over an hour.

Syracuse, New York – Approximately 100 activists gathered at the federal building for a rally and hung paper dog tags and photos of Iraqi children from a sculpture in the plaza. They proceeded in a march through the downtown area, with plenty of support from workers emerging from their offices, and ended at a recruiting office where 9 activists entered to hand out information and speak with military recruiters. Officials here were not as benign as in Norwich, and all nine were arrested for trespassing. As with many of the other nonviolent actions described here, there was significant local media coverage of the event, and the arrests.

Tucson, Arizona – With approximately 40 supporters holding signs and banners, six nonviolent resisters, ranging in age from 30 to 76, blockaded the road leading to Tucson's Raytheon Missile Systems plant. They stretched yellow "Caution" tape across the road near the plant's main gates; two of the blockaders standing in the middle of the road holding a long banner which read "Stop the Killing," while the other four sat on the pavement in front of the banner, holding signs which said "Road Closed to War-Making". All six blocking the entrance were arrested, and released nearby about an hour later after being charged with unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct, obstructing a highway, being a public nuisance and being a pedestrian on a roadway. Each were given different dates in mid-April to appear in court. The Tucson demonstration came on the heels of nearly $1 billion in new contracts awarded to Raytheon/Tucson over the past six months, and a growing awareness that as the war grinds on, the bombardment of Iraq with Raytheon/Tucson's products continues and is on the rise.

New York City, NY – On Sunday, March 19, seventeen protestors from groups including Students for a Democratic Society, Catholic Worker, and the War Resisters League were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after they separated from a larger anti-war funeral procession through midtown Manhattan and sat down to block Times Square The marchers carried cardboard platforms draped in black cloth that held white bundles meant to evoke bodies in burial shrouds. All 17 arrestees were released and have an April 17 court date. As reported in the NY Times, one of the first to sit down in the street was Alice Hendrickson, 56, of Manhattan. "The war has been going on for three years now," she said. "And it's still wrong."

As of this writing reports were not yet available from civil resistance actions at congressional offices in Eugene, Oregon, at a Lockheed Martin plant outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and several other locations around the country.

###

Gordon Clark, the former Executive Director of Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots peace organization, is the Coordinator of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, which is organizing the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance. www.iraqpledge.org

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