Shortly before his arrest on Thursday outside the White House, famed whistleblower and Marine Corps veteran Daniel Ellsberg leaned in and declared "This is the first arrest of the rest of our lives." Around him, protesters chanted loudly "Whose house? Our house!"
Whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg stands at White House fence - photo by Cheryl Biren
Within an hour, Ellsberg was cuffed and taken away by police. His bare hands, exposed to below-freezing temperatures, formed two peace signs behind his back. This was, according to Ellsberg, his 80th arrest.
Daniel Ellsberg under arrest flashes peace sign - photo by Cheryl Biren
Mike Ferner, president of Veterans for Peace, said that Thursday's event was an opportunity for a "rebirth and a new boost to the culture of resistance."
What does that mean? It means that the arrest of 131 activists, reportedly two-thirds of them veterans, is just the beginning in a wave of civil resistance against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what World Can't Wait director, Debra Sweet, called the "secret wars in Pakistan and Yemen."
Earlier in the day, Daniel Ellsberg told the snow-covered crowd of about 500 that it was his belief that the war in Afghanistan would continue unless there was increasing civil resistance against it.
After millions of protesters gathered around the globe in February 2003 in an attempt to avert a war of aggression in Iraq, Ellsberg said that he did not blame people for questioning the utility of rallies.
He noted "You people have not lost that hope. The civil disobedience has not been tried the way it should have been in the last nine years against the atrocities and the lawbreaking that's been going on."
Looking forward, he added "Let this be the start of a wave of civil disobedience. We will not, just by being here today or by the next action, we won't end this war by ourselves. We can't do that, the people here today. Only the American people can do that. And, if it ends, it will only be because the American people have used their ability to do that."
The 79-year-old former military analyst said that President Obama should get the message that, "Yes, you can keep them over there, uselessly dying and killing, endangering us by creating hostility throughout the Muslim world, recruiting for Al Qaeda, giving aid and comfort to Al Qaeda who would like to see us killing Muslims forever. They can't do better than that when it comes to their recruiting and it endangers us directly. For that purpose we're spending 100 billion dollars a year in Afghanistan."
"But," he emphasized, "We can say by being here, no longer does this war go on silently with the appearance of universal consent. We withdraw our consent to carry on this war. You must do it over our bodies."
Mike Ferner, who served as a Navy hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War said that he was there to resist because he had seen enough of the "true cost of war to last me a lifetime."
Mike Ferner of VFP engaging in civil resistance - photo by Cheryl Biren
Ferner added that the support for the day's action had grown exponentially in recent weeks and that people were planning to be arrested in dozens of cities including San Francisco, Albuquerque, Boston, and New York.