Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Putting My Body Where My Voice Is"

Rosalie writes that

..."The Well Behaved Women," a group of twenty from Chicago and Evanston and surrounding suburbs who were behaving as women should –protesting death-dealing government policies. We were part of a nationwide civil disobedience action coordinated by Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the same folks who as Voices in the Wilderness did such good work against the Iraq sanctions before we invaded them again. The OP [Occupation Project] has tons of supporters, including Code Pink, whose Chicago members were very important to our action. (See either website for great photos and analysis.) I urge you to join this campaign.

Our protest was four-pronged--a meeting with Senator Durbin's staff, an outside supporting protest, a call-in to the Senator's office by others who supported our action, and the resistance action, where four of us were arrested --a poet, a medical doctor, a mother-to-be, and a grandmother--me. Twenty of us made an appointment with Durbin's office a month ago, hoping to meet with him as the Senate is in recess this week. Instead, he was campaigning in L.A. and as we met with his courteous staff, he was telling people he was voting for the supplemental "to support our troops." Even my arresting officer knows better--as we were walking to the elevator, he told me "All those big corporations are getting that money."

After we made the appointment, Durbin's office instituted a closed-door policy, which is clearly an abridgment of our First Amendment rights. We are surmising it's because four other Occupation Project protesters were arrested in his office two weeks ago. Only nine of us were allowed to meet with the staff and instead of going to the office, we were escorted by police to a separate meeting room on the third floor.

The rest of the women and other supporters picketed and leafleted outside the building during the meeting and the occupation action. Hundreds of others called the office voicing their objections to the Supplemental Bill. Or tried to call--apparently the phones became jammed. The meeting itself was wonderful, with each women speaking to a separate reason for de-funding the war--funding VA benefits, reparations for Iraq, needed community services in our own country, etc. etc. Some speakers gave cogent numerical analysis of what the money is earmarked for, one woman read a beautiful poem, and one spoke movingly of her wartime experiences as a child in Germany. At the end of the meeting I thanked the staff for listening and told them we were going to join our sisters who were not allowed into the meeting.

Just before the police ushered us all out of the door, Katie Dahlaw who was not able to get into the meeting, joined Dr. Marjorie Fujara, Laura Bernstein, and me in the lobby. We knelt down and immediately began our protest. Laura would sing the name of an Iraqi and then an American soldier killed in the war; I would ring my meditation bowl resoundingly, and then we would all chant, "Not one more death! Not one more dollar!"

The sound reverberated beautifully and people outside, including lots of media, could hear us. (Media was also able to sneak briefly into the building. I didn't see any of the television, but have heard there was quite a bit of it, including the Spanish language station and Chicago Tonight.) After about 15 minutes […] the police gently arrested us, took us to their office, issued us a citation for "Refusing to Obey a Sign" and released us. We had expected that they'd take us to a city precinct and hold us overnight, so we had phone numbers written on our arms and food stuck in our pockets. But we weren't, thank goodness, and this was surely one of my most pleasant arrests.

Chicago, however, is becoming a lock down. Yesterday, nonviolent protesters from the American Friends Service Committee, 8th Day Center for Justice, and St. Aloysius High School [did she mean Ignatius Prep?] were unable to even enter the doors of the federal building to deliver letters to Senators Durbin and Obama. Everyone should scream loudly about this further abridgment of our civil liberties. First the Senator's offices, now the entire building. Today will Federal Plaza itself be off limits to citizens?


janinsanfran said...

Women will be "dying-in" at the San Francisco Federal Building on next Thursday. That's where Bishop Marc Andrus got arrested protesting the war last December. I do think it is an open question how long they'll let people even congregate in the plaza on Thursdays, though demonstrators have been pretty accomodating.

Hi Jane.

Jane R said...

Hey Jan! Good to hear from you. I was thinking of you as I was writing, and as you see I linked to your blog (and to Bishop Marc's). Thanks for the update. And thanks as always for your thoughtfulness and vigilance.

Algernon said...

So good to see you in the blogosphere!