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Stolen Time, Stolen Lives, A "Memorial" in the Rayburn Building

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Tens of Thousands of anti-war activists descended on Washington, D.C. last weekend to express our deep commitment to ending the illegal occupation of Iraq, stop the meaningless death of our military and end the killing of innocent people in Iraq and to head off a war with Iran. All of us spent thousands, if not a total of a million dollars to get to Washington. People from all States, various organizations, and those who have never attended a protest before came. An honest cross-section of this Nation appeared to express how disgusted they were with the leadership of this Country and the direction we are headed. It was truly a moving site, and brought me to tears.

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Labor Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, World Can't Wait, Impeach Bush Committee, 9/11 Truth, Christians Against the War, Palestinians for Peace, Jews for Peace, Buddhists, Baptists and an entire assortment of people who span the generations stood on the Mall for hours holding signs, singing, yelling and listening in solidarity with every single message given from the stage. News media outlets from every Country were assembled on a platform, including a wonderful gentleman that interviewed me from Al Jazeera. He asked me why I was here today and I said "to Impeach Bush and Cheney for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. I want all people of this world to know we are here and want the killing to stop."

The message went to not only our Country's elected leaders, but to any one who may stand in the way of this movement of the masses. On Sunday, much to my amazement, there were hundreds of people still around attending workshops on so many topics. Seminars on "How to Lobby your Congressperson", "How to perform non-violent Civil Disobedience", "Why we should Impeach," and so many others were held in a local High School. These were serious people who meant business. I was there with fellow citizens who gave up their weekend of shopping, movies, family dinners and relaxation to gobble up all the knowledge they could to enter the Halls of Congress the next day and do battle with the people they had chosen to sit across the table from. I called home and told my husband "This movement is better than the 60's. People that are here are savvy, span the generations and come from all over the Country, and they really mean business." I was impressed.

Early Monday morning, I entered the Congressional Building known as the "Rayburn" to see the Halls churning with the same faces I had seen all weekend. Vermont, Oregon, Washington State, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Florida were all in the "House." As well as many other States I may have missed mentioning. For the first time in a while I thought "this just might work." It was exhilarating and exhausting all at once. Democracy at work, that is what I was witnessing. This just might keep my Marine son from going back to Iraq, for yet another tour of duty.

At noon my friends arrived ready, willing and able to participate in calling further attention to the death and destruction that the illegal war with Iraq caused. Our destination was the "reflecting pool" in the Atrium located right in the center of the Rayburn. We wanted to give a boost to the courage and further inspire all those citizens who spent thousands of dollars and so much of their time to visit with Congress members. And we did not want anyone to forget the blood spilled by this current Administration.

Entry into the Atrium was made with the press following us. Many people in the building already knew that we would be conducting a Memorial to "Endless War," and started gathering in the Atrium, and hallways of the building. Our 5 x 20 foot black banner which read "WAR" in white letters was unfurled. Cards with our message of "We Will Not Be Silent" adopted from the "White Rose" underground student resistance movement in Nazi Germany along with 1,200 white roses were laid out in the Atrium to be tossed into the reflecting pool. Seven of us participated in the action, 3 holding the banner, 2 reading the names of the dead marines, soldiers, sailors, and Iraqis, and 1 ringing a chime after each name was read, and 1 tossing roses. We were freezing, tired and hungry, but only thought of those who in far away countries were dying, being executed or tortured and had it so much worse than we did. Names of young soldiers and young Iraqi's, women and children alike, cast a dark mood in this bright, beautiful setting.

Those inside the building were compelled into the Atrium once again in solidarity with our commitment to bring peace to the world. Strangers picked up our white roses and tossed them into the pool of half-frozen water. The white roses floated and bobbed as the names were being read. Envision each individual person participating in this Memorial to "Endless War" without being asked to attend by a flyer, no organizational banner giving any credit to a particular group, and mostly without pomp and circumstance. This was truly a moment of the People.

The Capitol Police were milling around us from the very instant we unfurled that large black banner. The Press kept taking pictures and looked as somber as we did. The Police were determined to stop us by issuing warnings and taking away postcards that announced "We Will Not Be Silent". They snapped plastic handcuffs as they removed them from their belts and bags so we could overhear them. The cold did not make me shake but I shuddered to think of what the Police were about to do. Our little group kept standing there as the names were being read. No one in the Atrium moved. Some held hands, some kneeled in prayer and others sang. The names of the dead were endless. Warnings to "cease and desist" were issued through a bullhorn.

The Capitol Police were then determined to clear the Atrium. First they announced to those that joined us to leave the area or risk being arrested. I watched in amazement as no one moved. Again they announced the looming threat of arrest. People reluctantly started milling away and towards the doors. The Press was told to leave or they would be arrested, which did not make them happy, but they left us there. There we were again, the seven of us, and two who joined in solidarity with us. They came into Congress that morning to meet with their representatives but remained there thinking it was far more important to share this moment.

Nine were arrested in the quiet Atrium that moments before was filled with many, many people from all walks of life. But the White Roses remained in the reflecting pool to honor the dead and dying at that very moment. (see http://aawnyc.org)

This action was not staged, was not part of any one specific "anti-war organization", but a melding of people who believe that the world is in a serious state of danger. We don't have a color associated with us; we don't believe in fundraising, we paid for the entire Memorial with our own money. Those who joined us knew that, you could see it in their eyes, and hear it in their shouting from the hallways and stairs "The Whole World Is Watching" as the Police walked us out of the building. We Nine, although scared, cold and tired, felt proud to be a fraction of the whole group of citizens who, like us, spent their own personal money and time to earnestly seek an end to all the atrocities of war and to bring to justice those who have lied and who keep lying to the masses of People who want these elected representatives to "cease and desist."

 

http:/elaine.worldcantwait.net

Anti-war activist, mother of three combat tour US marine; member of the national steering committee for the "World Can't Wait" www.worldcantwait.net and member of Military Families Speak Out (my opinions do not reflect the national position of MFSO).
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