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David Swanson: Civil Resistance at the White House

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I got to the White House around noon and found hundreds of people gathered awaiting the arrival of marchers who planned to get themselves arrested protesting the war.

I ran into Mike Ferner of Veterans for Peace, who showed me the paperwork from his arrest early this morning at the Pentagon. He said he was going for two in one day. He said he'd been one of 41 people arrested between 6:30 and nearly 7:30 a.m. at the Pentagon. Three Veterans for Peace members had joined others from the War Resisters League. They'd shut down an entrance and the Pentagon Metro stop. They were swiftly booked and released, charged with "disobeying a lawful order" and given court dates in federal district court in Alexandria in January.

For a while people milled around in the street and the park in front of the White House. Around 12:30 or so, members of Code Pink stretched a giant banner out along Pennslvania Avenue, reading "Mothers Say No to War." As they did so, the media swarmed and filmed every movement. Code Pink members sang a number of songs, including "The Day the Music Died," but with lyrics something like this:
Bye bye, Mr. President, bye
You didn't fix the levee
Now the water's too high
You started a war based on a lie
You don't care if poor people die"

Another went:
We are Code Pink and we are proud
We are sisters and we are loud
We are many and we'll be more
And we'll end this bloody war

A SWAT Team truck was parked on one side of the park. Large numbers of police were lined up in front of the White House fence. Guards inside the fence on the White House grounds carried large sticks, and one led a dog on a long leash.

When the group of civil resisters arrived, organized by United for Peace and Justice, they gather in one side of the park to prepare. Representatives of military families and veterans groups, and of Clergy and Laity Concerned made brief remarks. Bill Mitchell spoke, who lost his son in Iraq. There was a brief reading from the Koran, some remarks in Hebrew by a Rabbi, and a Christian minister who said "When we go over there, remember that that's not the power. They have the violence, but we have the power. Who do they represent? We represent 60 percent of the country."

An organizer advised people to participate only if they were ready to risk arrest and trained in nonviolence. A woman in the crowd next to me asked another "Will you risk arrest?" "Yes." "Good, we'll be together."

Around 1 p.m. a delegation of leaders walked to the gate of the White House to request a meeting with Bush. Cindy Sheehan, Cornel West, and Rev. Sekou were among the leaders, with Sekou shouting at the media to get out of the way. A wall of TV cameras walking backwards slowed the walk and blocked it for a while from reaching the White House.

A crowd gathered, as the delegation made its fruitless request. There were thousands on hand at this point. The chant was "Liar! Liar! Say it a little louder!"

That and "Media, Step Back!"

The crowd also sang "Give Peace a Chance."

With the delegation at the gate for about 10 minutes, a loud chant of "The Whole World is Watching" caught on.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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