Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Orange Jumpsuit Brigade

On October 5th, I was dressed fashionably in an orange jumpsuit and a black hood. OK, fashionably for Halloween maybe. The jumpsuit, which I put on over all of my clothes and jacket, made me look like a rather large pumpkin with a stem.
Well, my pumpkinlike appearance was one of the few amusing parts of my experience, which took me from the Supreme Court to McPherson Square to the White House to the U.S. Park Police station at Anacostia (southeast Washington, D.C.). The other amusing part of the experience was Team Torture. This was made up of several people dressed in striped prison uniforms and large heads. The large heads included George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, and Dick Cheney. All of them were wearing baseball caps, but don't think that any of them are ready to play in the World's Series! But they were ready to meet and greet their fans, with Team Torture trading cards, including a rookie card for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld!
These cards make great collector's items and stocking stuffers for the person on your Christmas list who already has everything.
Once Team Torture had finished meeting and greeting fans outside of the Supreme Court, where Sonia Sotomayor was waiting to complete her first first day in her new Big Government Job, the Orange Jumpsuit Brigade marched away. As we were led away, Dick Cheney gave us two thumbs up! I wonder if he gave two thumbs up to the real detainees.
We marched in pairs from the Supreme Court to McPherson Square. We must have been a very odd sight... a long line of people, all dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods. Perhaps people in Washington, D.C., are used to that odd sight. It was kind of a long walk to accomplish when your vision is obscured. Fortunately, there were people to warn us when to step onto a curb and when to step down from a curb.
At McPherson Square, the orange jumpsuit brigade could relax a little and remove the black hoods. We heard speeches and poetry and music from a variety of people, including Emma's Revolution. Emma's Revolution sang "Peace Salaam Shalom" and "One" (about the School of the Americas) and another song (I forgot the title). It helped that the sun was shining and that it was a pretty autumn day. I also enjoyed seeing some of my friends from this past August's Walk for Peace from Camp Douglas to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, including Joy First, Jennifer First, Kathy Kelly, Gerald Paoli, and Joshua Brollier.
At about noon, we had to put our black hoods back on for the march to the White House. We marched right up to the sidewalk. This time, we were lined up with four persons to each row. Before long, we were at the fence. Some of us were able to chain ourselves to the White House fence while others were thwarted by cops, who seemed to be ready for us.
Names of the dead were read out loud. These included U.S. servicemembers, Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis. We called for the dead to be mourned, the wounded to be healed, and the wars to end. Some people tried to deliver a letter to the president at the press gate but, I was told later, the Not-Very-Secret Service forcefully removed the protesters. So much for the first amendment... you know, that part that says that all citizens have a right to seek a redress of grievances from their elected officials...
Well, those of us in the "picture postcard zone" didn't really get much of a chance to seek a redress of grievances, either. Sixty-one of us were arrested and handcuffed with those truly uncomfortable plastic straps. We were thoroughly and less than gently patted down and were driven (in an air conditioned bus!) to the Anacostia police station, where we were ticketed and released.
We actually had to return to the police station the next day to finish our processing and to be given our court dates.
More later.

October lobby day

At eight o'clock in the morning, on October 7th, I joined a group from SOA Watch to stand vigil outside of the Capitol South metro station. The picture here was actually taken during a similar vigil in 2008. I posted this photograph because, during this vigil, I was at one end of the banner that is pictured here, and I didn't have hands for photography.
We stayed at the metro station for a little more than an hour. Some of the people who were heading to work or to lobby at Congressional offices took our brochures and postcards; others did not. I very much appreciate the time that those who stopped to speak with us so early in the day. I know that some of them probably haven't had their morning coffee yet. Not everyone is a cheerful morning person!
After standing vigil at the metro station and watching the hordes of people walk toward their destination, I went to the Rayburn House Office Building to do a little lobbying. In the course of about two hours, I visited fourteen offices, including the office of my own representative in Congress, Louise Slaughter. I talked mainly to receptionists as most of the foreign policy aides were either in meetings or on conference calls. I left information with the receptionists for the foreign policy aides on HR 2567, Rep. Jim McGovern's legislation to suspend operations of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the School of the Americas) and to investigate that military training school. You can find more information about the legislation at http://www.soaw.org.
Visiting Congressional offices is always a good experience. I got two copies of the U.S. Constitution, candies, peanuts, and lots of chances to use hand sanitizer. In fact, in the Rayburn House Office Building, there are hand sanitizer stations conveniently located in the hallways. The hand sanitizer stations work automatically, just by sensing that hands are ready for the fluid. When I left the Rayburn House Office Building, my hands felt very clean.
OK, well, it's good to clean hands to avoid those nasty flu viruses.
At the same time, let's clean up U.S. foreign policy. Call your Congressional representative's office today and ask him or her to co-sponsor HR 2567.