Determined to demand the prosecution of George Bush and Dick Cheney for war crimes, I joined in with the Veterans for Peace in the long climb up the “scaffolding” on the façade of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. On Friday night, November 14th, myself and Matthis Chiroux, member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and a war resister who recently announced he will not deploy to Iraq and soon to be court-martialed, drove down to join the vets who were in the midst of planning our ascent and occupation of the National Archives the next day.
An interesting crew, made up of 7 veterans and yours truly, a member of Military Families Speak Out and World Can’t Wait, who really can’t wait for the war to be over since my son is on his 3rd tour and is currently stationed on the border of Syria, inside Iraq. Participants on the ledge were Elliott Adams VFP: 61, Sharon Springs, NY, VFP President and former Army paratrooper, Viet Nam; Ellen Barfield VFP: 52, Baltimore, MD, former Army Sgt.; Kim Carlyle VFP: 61, Buncombe County, NC, former Army Spec 5; Doug Zachary VFP: 58, Austin, TX, VFP staff, former USMC Lance Cpl.; Tarak Kauff VFP: 67, Woodstock, NY, former PFC, Army Airborne; Will Covert VFP: 63, San Diego, CA, VFP lifetime member, former E4 Navy; and Matthis Chiroux IVAW, 24, Army Sergeant, served in Afghanistan, refused deployment to Iraq.
Providing support on the ground were our good friends Mike Ferner VFP: 57, Toledo, OH, former Navy corpsman; Debbie Tolson VFP: 52, Potomac, MD, associate member of VFP; Michelle White MFSO, 24, Clarksville, TN, Military Families Speak Out, wife of Iraq war vet currently serving in Afghanistan; Michael Marceau VFP: 59, Rockville, MD, VP VFP Chapter 16, former Army, Viet Nam; Bruce Berry VFP: 62, Minneapolis, MN, former SPC 4 Army, Viet Nam and Tony Teolis VFP.
Early Saturday Morning We hitched a ride at 6:30 AM to our destination from a Washington, D.C. activist, and we were already tired and needing coffee. But determined to get there by 7:30 AM, we pushed on. Putting on hard hats as to look like construction workers, we walked through the 10 ft. high barriers that were erected right on Constitution Ave. in front of the Archives, where we entered and walked up to the first level, ground floor. All our gear in tow, including 2 banners, one 600 sq. ft. and the other 400 sq. ft., sleeping bags for our determined 2 day stay 90 feet above the ground, water, juice and other necessary equipment, we started the climb. First on a ladder, then up to the first level of scaffolding. Me, being a sedentary office worker by trade, could not imagine doing this climb and watching the agile vets jumping over bars and carrying packs weighing more than me (and that’s a lot), made me realize that I crossed over somewhere from activist to being just plain nuts! But, there I was, so not being the type to back out and run, I grit my teeth and climbed.
We had to weave in and out of poles and construction scaffolding, where the workers had left buckets and their tools in anticipation of coming back on Monday morning, not knowing there would be “visitors” over the weekend. Every level had another set of “stairs”, and I use that term loosely, since they were skinny rung ladders going straight up at a 90 degree angle. We were all wearing our uniform under our jackets: ARREST BUSH sweatshirts in large white letters.
watch the "climb" videos at:
The climb continued for a good part of an hour, and we went up what felt to me like 100 ladders, but I think it may have only been 10. Good thing I am not afraid of heights, because the more I climbed, the smaller things became on the ground. And to make it worse, it started to rain, so the rungs were slippery and the smell of wet plaster hung in the air. We did have a great time, though. We laughed and talked most of the way up, but this was a serious mission, and I became part of our little platoon of those out to demand war criminals must be prosecuted.
After making it to the top, where no birds hung out since there was electric wiring there to stop them from nesting on the gargoyles, I felt relieved, but wondered if I would be able to make it back down! We got to work and found our stuff, planned more strategy and unpacked the main banner: DEFEND OUR CONSTITUTION! ARREST BUSH AND CHENEY, WAR CRIMINALS!
That’s where I let the professionals take over. Elliott and Kim were expert climbers and had their gear on ready to make sure this banner not only got dropped, but was secured properly. They had ropes, pullies, clamps, bungi cords, and stuff I had no idea what it was. I took to the side and in amazement, watched them work. Never being in the military, I found it difficult to comprehend the discipline it took them, but marveled how they did it. Before we knew it, the banner was dropped, and the ground applause was heard. There were various TV stations there, and a videographer.