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An Act of Civil Disobedience: 5th Anniversary of Iraq War

By Sharon Kufeldt - Veteran For Peace  Posted by Woody Powell (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   No comments
Message Woody Powell

There comes a time, when the heart is moved by compassion, to join the likes of Daniel Ellsberg and his wife, Fr. Louis Vitale, Ying Lee, and others. Good company all. My personal mission this day was to experience the first stages of civil disobedience. I wanted to sit - or actually lay - in the street with a gathering of others - for a few minutes to explore the edges of this phenomenon. It was a photo op for my friends, the Raging Grannies, who were mourning the dead: mourning Granny Sharon, a dead veteran, and lying in the street at noon in front of Senator Diane Feinstein's office.

My intention was to get up and leave when the police announced that anyone who did not want to get arrested must leave now. I believe I was awake and conscious and listening for the entire time for this message. I did not hear it. After a time it became obvious that either it was not given or I had missed it.

I sat up, finding us surrounded by a circle of police with batons standing nearly shoulder to shoulder, facing inwards towards us. Looking up at all of those batons and uniforms was quite an experience. It was clear at this point that we could not leave, as that would be resisting arrest. So I pulled out my Native American Flute and began playing Taps for the "dead" around me and those really dead in Iraq and Afghanistan. My flute was blessed in India by Sri Amma.

As I played taps, we were taken one by one from the circle and arrested for exercising our rights as citizens to non-violently protest the actions of our government. We were causing no harm to people or property. They began on the far side of the circle from me. I played a long time. I was a bit fearful of tapping the moisture out of my flute as it might be seen as a weapon. I continued playing with a wet flute until it made virtually no sound at all. I rested and began again after some minutes. This sequence happened many times.

Eventually it was my turn. The officer walked up to me; I put my flute away in my backpack. He told me I was being arrested and asked me to rise and come with him. I did. I handed him a flower which he threw on the ground. He carried my pack. We walked with him holding me by the arm over to be processed. Asked for my ID, I gave my VA card; another officer asked if I received money from the VA. A strange question, I thought. I said no. Then they applied the white zip handcuffs. I was photographed with the officer. After a bit I was placed in a locked cell in a van with two other women; we had seating for two. The youngest crouched on the floor. Neither woman had heard the command to leave or be arrested. One of the women had come with her husband and daughter who had also been arrested. The other cell in the back of the van was filled with six other women - one, who had resisted arrest, was roughly treated.

We were driven away and sat in some driveway for a long time. Although the cuffs weren't really tight, my shoulders were burning and my hands were numb well before we were taken out of the van. Eventually they moved the van again and we were called by name and taken out. Finally we were given the opportunity to use the port-a-potty. We were placed in open pens behind the station. Some folks arrested earlier were being out processed. They were taking elders first, 90, 80, 70, 60. I made my way to the front and was cited and released. I am to report to court on May 7 at 8am. Several policemen called out that they'd see me at 5pm. I laughed. As we walked out of the jail, I realized that somehow I felt more free than before.

I walked back to Civic Center with Daniel Elsberg, Fr. Vitale, Ying Lee, another vet named Christopher who had a cane and a few others released at the same time. I first met Daniel Elsberg in Washington DC five years ago this weekend... the weekend we began "shock and awe." He had just been released from jail to join us at Operation Dire Distress. I marched beside him that day and had dinner with him that night with his grandson and two Vietnam Nurses;  one - Joan Duffy, who was exposed to Agent Orange - has since died of cancer.

At 5pm I joined the rally in Civic Center, stood onstage as we called for all veterans to join us, and then the march of tens of thousands through the Mission. I sat on the VFP sound truck - which was draped with a flag, held upside down - holding a sign: "4,000+." Our truck was playing Taps on the loudspeakers. It was easy to keep a somber face after my earlier journey. There were many, many, many photographs.

I am writing this at 4am on the first day of spring. The full moon is outside the window. I was treated respectfully and relatively gently. It's been 12 hours now since the cuffs came off and the marks are still faintly there. I can only imagine those who aren't treated so well, not to mention those in Guantanamo. I am grateful for drugs... tylenol and motrin, dispensed by my dear friend and nurse who welcomed me to his home with chocolate cake and a shoulder rub, hot shower, and a listening ear.

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BIO WILSON (WOODY) POWELL -- VETERAN FOR PEACE Born, Cambridge, MA, June 24, 1932. Raised in Ohio and California. Korean war veteran, USAF, 1950 to 1954. Used the GI Bill to become formally educated at U. of California, Berkeley and U. of (more...)
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