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Citizens Demand Smith, Wyden, DeFazio Vote Against War Funding - 18 Arrested

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Message Fraeda Scholz
March 20, 2006. Today the Eugene Civil Resisters group succeeded in shutting down the entrance to the federal building, and local offices of Senator Wyden and Representative DeFazio to make clear their message, "We as citizens demand our congress people vote against any and all future funding for the Iraq war." These efforts were part of a national day of action: From Mourning to Resistance: A National Campaign of Non-violent Actions on the 3rd Anniversary of the War in Iraq, in which similar groups all over the country addressed their congress people or carried out actions in recruiting centers and towards war profiteers.

In Eugene 18 were arrested including seven high school students, one WWII veteran and one Cold War era veteran. The citizens carrying out these actions stressed that in the face of the human cost of the war their consciences leave them no other choice than to take bold action.

In the group's statement to the press they explained the need to stop all funding now in this way:

"Vietnam war history shows us that exit strategies accompanied by continued financial support for war are ineffective- mere illusions of action. In the case of Vietnam congress' refusal to fund the war was the critical turning point. In this war the Bush Administration pledges to "stay the course" and leave military bases in Iraq indefinitely. This is why refusing funding is the only effective means congress has to stop the war and bring the troops home, by making it impossible for the Bush Administration to perpetrate this conflict. As patriotic Americans it is our duty to respond to our conscience by putting our bodies on the line for this."

Two weeks before the action veterans in the group made an appointment with Senator Smith's aide but several days later the appointment was canceled with no clear explanation. The group decided to address Smith anyway by creating a citizens' town hall meeting in the lobby of the Federal Building where Smith's office is located. At 9:30am these citizens occupied the front entrance to the building and began their town hall meeting. They were quickly warned by building security that if they did not leave in 2 minutes they would be arrested. This lasted several 2 minute warnings before the police began taking people away two by two, (leaving the others to continue their meeting) until all had been cited and released.

At 10:30 a second contingent of the civil resisters group and their supporters gathered outside the building housing Wyden and DeFazio's offices which are generally open each day without appointment. The Friday before Wyden's office was called and the group was told by a staffer that the office would be open on Monday the 20th. However, when the group arrived with the camera crews and supporters in tow to deliver their statements to first Wyden and then DeFazio's aids they were met with a sign on US Congress letterhead saying,

"Senator Ron Wyden's office is locked today at the request of the FEDERAL PROTECTIVE STERVICE. Congressional aides are available by phone"Thank you for your patience while temporary security measures are in place."

A similar sign was posted on Congressman DeFazio's door. In both cases staffers and police could be seen working in the offices. The activists knocked, but those inside refused to come to the door. At this point Peter, one of the civil resisters, called Senator Wyden and then Representative DeFazio's office to let them know some of their constituents were outside and would like to talk about the issue of the war. The conversations lasted several minutes as Peter explained that many outside had voted and worked on the campaigns of Defazio and Wyden and had a right to come and talk face to face about this issue, the staffers still refused to hear their concerns. After some minutes the group decided they must stay outside the offices, till the end of the day if necessary, and sat down in front of Wyden's office chanting "nothing to hide let us inside." However, it was obvious they perhaps did have something to hide and continued to keep themselves locked inside. Local activists Karla and Fraeda began reading the names of some of the dead, first an Iraqi name, then an American name. The activists attempted to call each congress person's offices so the aids could hear the names of those killed as a result of congress' votes for funding but were quickly hung up on.

After about 15 minutes the Eugene Police arrived and cited all 8 with criminal trespassing. By all accounts the Police were professional and respectful of the arrestees.

Also at the actions were over 30 people who stood in solidarity with those committing civil disobedience. This included local high school students-in-support, mothers, code pink women, Quakers, and other Eugene citizens with posters, photos of maimed Iraqis and soldiers, three 12' long banners detailing some of the American war crimes, and three flag-draped coffins. The local Civil Liberties group sent a legal observer who carefully documented the activists' compliance with not blocking the entrance, and offered to testify on their behalf in court. Media people from two TV stations, and radio stations among other media were on hand, filming and interviewing.

The adults were cited with criminal trespass (ORS 164.245 - 2), and most of the high school students were let off with a warning.

In a statement prepared for Senator Wyden the group explained their actions in this way,
"Civil Disobedience becomes appropriate and necessary in the face of a government deaf to public sentiment and lawful citizen protest. Over 60% of Americans have spoken in support of swift withdrawal of troops. And after 3 years of diligent peace activism on many fronts it is obvious that truth and sentiment alone will not bring an end to this war of aggression."

Remaining questions: What binds the staffers in the offices to follow the Federal Protective Service notice, if anything? And if the nation is so afraid of real terrorists why spend this kind of energy on citizens who have by all accounts of past actions proven themselves non-violent? Is what they have to say so dangerous?
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Peace and Peak Oil activist in Eugene Oregon. Member of Eugene\\\'s Civil Resistance group.
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Citizens Demand Smith, Wyden, DeFazio Vote Against War Funding - 18 Arrested

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