These three pieces exemplify or analyze an energized U.S. antiwar movement convinced that ordinary channels of influence have proved fruitless and demonstrate the need to "step up our resistance to the war," in the words of Antonia Juhasz, who was in Tacoma for the Jan. 20-21 Citizens' Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq.  --  In the first piece, Michael T. McPherson, executive director of Veterans for Peace, explains at the end of last month why he decided the time had come for his "first open act of civil disobedience as part of the Occupation Project" in support of the effort to defund the war.[1]  --  "I did not come to this decision easily.  As a Black male in America who has been trained to be wary of the police, it has not been easy to decide to willingly put myself into their hands.  I have spent most of my forty-two years trying not to be arrested."  --  But, he decided on Feb. 27, 2007, if not now, when?  --  "We are at a critical moment.  Congress will soon vote for a $90 billion appropriation that could fund the war until the end of President Bush's term.  After this vote, Congress will have little power to end the war.  We need to flood Congress with letters, phone calls, e-mails, and faxes demanding they end funding.  We must show up at their door in force.  If enough of us sit-in they will end the war.  If we don't they won't.  Maintaining a majority and a gaining the presidency is the priority of the Democrats.  Ours is ending the war.  You do not have to commit an act of civil disobedience to participate in the Occupation Project.  Stand on the corner while others enter the office.  Be present when occupiers are taken away or released from custody.  Every small act makes a difference.  We need more acts to move them forward.  Add yours."  --  The Occupation Project was initiated by Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and began in the first week of February.  --  Participating organizations include United for Peace and Justice, the coalition to which UFPPC belongs.  --  Mainstream media have been wary of the Occupation Project, but a second piece, which appeared in Monday's Seattle Times, noted that "One group of protesters tried to 'occupy' the offices of U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell today, but were locked out, said Erin Alexander, a spokeswoman for the Seattle Occupation Project and an organizer of the Westlake protest."[2]  --  In the third piece, published on Mar. 16, Megan Tady of the NewStandard published an overview of the antiwar movement and noted many antiwar voices agreeing that, in the words of Bruce Gagnon, "The time has come for those in the anti-war movement to step outside our normal activist boxes.  If we wish to end the war then we must create positive, non-violent conflict in our communities.  We must force the politicians to step outside their comfort zones on the Iraq war issue."[3]  --  Tady uses the port militarization resistance movement actions in Tacoma on Mar. 3-15, 2007, to illustrate her thesis....


By Michael T. McPherson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace

Veterans for Peace
February 28, 2007
or (abridged)

Yesterday, Feb. 27, I participated in my first open act of civil disobedience as part of the Occupation Project. I along with St. Louis local chapter President Chuc Smith, three other veterans -- Jim Allen, Harry Wyman, and VFP office manager Cherie Eichholz --, and Military Families Speak Out Member D. Ridgley Brown, visited Representative Russ Carnahan's office to continue our conversation to persuade him to vote down any bills that continue to provide funding for the war in Iraq. Jim Allen and I decided to sit-in to protest Carnahan's refusal to pledge not to continue funding for the war. As a result, Jim and I were arrested.

This was not the first time Rep. Carnahan, a Democrat, has been approached on this subject. He has been visited several times by many members of his district and others who want him to take a leadership role in Congress to de-fund the war. I have been to his office more than once, and on Friday, February 23, I along with veterans Woody Powell, Catie Shinn, Cherie, Chuc, and National Guard member and Appeal for Redress signer Brian Hill, with Iraq Veteran Cloy Richards, sat down with Carnahan and discussed de-funding. Carnahan's basic rap is that he is against the escalation and believes the war must come to an end. He cannot promise to vote against a bill he has not seen. He thinks that Jack Murtha's plan to restrict the ability of the President to continue the war via oversight and placing high standards on troop readiness before deployment is promising and he does not want to de-fund the troops. We explained that de-funding the war is not de-funding the troops; legislative restrictions on the President will not end the war. Giving money to the President for the war will only prolong the war and Bush has told us over and over he does not intend to end the war. The American people voted for new congressional leadership to end the war and de-funding is the quickest route to make that happen. We also told him that Democrats should put the President on the defensive by de-funding the war and make him explain why he continues to wage war when Congress has demanded a change of course based on the mandate from the American people. We emphasized that everyday Congress spends looking for less direct ways to end the war on average three U.S. service members die, and many Iraqi children, women, and men.

Unfortunately, we reached little agreement beyond the obvious, the war must end. It appears that most Democrats and Veterans For Peace are on a different timetable.

Our entering Rep. Carnahan's office Tuesday is part of weeks of outreach and meetings to change his mind. I decided that this time I was not leaving until I received a satisfactory answer. Thus I was willing to risk arrest. There are many who wonder: "Why risk arrest?" They ask, "Do you really think being arrested will make a difference?" Well, my objective is not to be arrested. My objective is to persuade my representatives or senators to vote to de-fund the war. Yes, I am willing to risk arrest, and I do not know if my refusal to leave and subsequent arrest will make a difference. However, I do know that inaction will change nothing. Up till now I have done all I can do short of civil disobedience. I have marched. I have given out materials and made countless talks and speeches. I have called and written Congress. There are other creative ideas I hope to develop and I will continue to do all of the things I have done in the past. But yesterday was the time for me to put a little more on the line. I am not rich, so I cannot get their attention with large campaign contributions. I am not famous, so I cannot awe them with my notoriety. So all I can do is visit, dialogue, and sit-in.

The journey to civil disobedience has been one of reflection and hesitation. Of course I ask: "Will it make a difference?" One cannot be sure. But for me it has also been a question of conditioning and survival. I did not come to this decision easily. As a Black male in America who has been trained to be wary of the police, it has not been easy to decide to willingly put myself into their hands. I have spent most of my forty-two years trying not to be arrested. I have plenty of examples of police misconduct against Black men. In the late 90's the sodomy of Abner Louima and the shooting death of Amadou Diallo in New York City heightened my fear of being pursued and in the custody of police. In 1997 Abner Louima was arrested outside of a Brooklyn nightclub for unclear reasons. He was beaten in the squad car in route to the station, beaten in the station, and eventually sodomized in the station restroom with a plunger. Two years later, in 1999, Amadou, a Guinean emigrant walking home from a meal, unarmed and innocent of any crime, was gunned down by four police officers in a barrage of shot at 41. He was struck 19 times. It was a case of mistaken identity. The plain clothes officers attempted to stop him because they thought he fit the description of a since-captured serial rapist. Another terrifying story took place on November 26, 2006. The circumstances of the incident are still under investigation; however, it is clear that Sean Bell, a young man leaving his bachelor party at a nightclub in Jamaica, Queens, with two friends, died in a firestorm of 50 shots from five undercover police. One of his friends was critically wounded. No gun was founded on Sean or his friends. Sean was scheduled to marry later that day. These three incidents are the extreme and thankfully rare, but real. The names of these three men stay with me and remind me of dangers I face.

In the week before my participation to occupy Russ Carnahan's office I received the January/February edition of *The Crisis* magazine, a bi-monthly periodical founded in 1910. It is the official publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP. An article entitled "A New Day?" examines "whether gains in Black political power will improve the lives of average African Americans." Well, that's me, so I read the article. While there are promising facts in the article describing unprecedented political gains and individual achievements there were other items that gave me pause as to whether or not I should occupy my rep's office.

Statistics show that Black men were the most incarcerated demographic group in the country, with the highest incarceration rate in the world. According to a recent Justice Department report, 12.6 percent of Black males in their 20s were behind bars. Federal government statistic show that Blacks have an 18.6 percent chance of going to jail at some point in their lives, while less than 4 percent of Whites will spend time locked up."

I asked myself: "Do I really want to add to these sad numbers?"

So what motivates me? Why have I decided to move forward with this tactic? I am motivated by the death of tens of thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in this war. I am most motivated by the life of my only son, who is a soldier in the 101st Airborne, who has already participated in one tour in Iraq. I am motivated by the death of his second child, my seven-month-old grandson, who died on January 3, 2007, of a genetic disease. I am motivated by the fact that when I ask Goddess why my grandson died and when I peer through the pain of his death in search of reasons and people to blame, I can only find the reality and cycle of life. People die from disease. It is natural and for the most part not any one person is to blame. I could look and perhaps find human-created environmental factors. But if these factors do exist they are many steps removed from causing death, unlike the firing of a gun or the dropping of a bomb, where one can easily observe cause and effect and can witness who fired the gun or dropped the bomb. Having sat and cried with Iraqi and American Gold Star fathers and mothers and felt a glimpse of their pain, I thought I had an idea of that pain. How foolish of me. I did not know the emptiness one feels. Or I should say: there is an empty space I feel that will never be filled because Jeremiah, my grandson, who once lived there, is gone for ever. Where I must accept the reality of life, Gold Star Parents must face the reality of war, a human activity caused by human actions. Where I can find no one to hold responsible for my anger and pain, an Iraqi can hold my nation, my son, and me responsible for their pain. This is the sense of urgency I hope my small act of civil disobedience will help convey to Representative Carnahan and Senator McCaskill.

Lastly, I ask myself" "If not now, when?" After nearly four years of protest, over 3,100 dead U.S. service members, tens to hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis who are guilty of nothing but living in Iraq, obvious lies by our leaders that took us to war, possible war with Iran, an election for a change in direction, no change of direction by our President and an indecisive Congress who needs to be pushed in the right direction; when would be a better time to give civil disobedience a try? We are at a critical moment. Congress will soon vote for a $90 billion appropriation that could fund the war until the end of President Bush's term. After this vote, Congress will have little power to end the war. We need to flood Congress with letters, phone calls, e-mails, and faxes demanding they end funding. We must show up at their door in force. If enough of us sit-in they will end the war. If we don't they won't. Maintaining a majority and a gaining the presidency is the priority of the Democrats. Ours is ending the war. You do not have to commit an act of civil disobedience to participate in the Occupation Project. Stand on the corner while others enter the office. Be present when occupiers are taken away or released from custody. Every small act makes a difference. We need more acts to move them forward. Add yours.


Michael T. McPhearson
Veterans For Peace Executive Director


Nation & world

By Jonathan Martin and Sara Jean Green

Seattle Times
March 19, 2007

Protesters will mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war today with rallies and a march that are expected to tangle downtown Seattle traffic at rush hour.

The Seattle Police recommendation: "If folks have the opportunity to leave early, it's a good idea," said spokesman Sean Whitcomb.

The protesters' recommendation: "Come down and join us," said Bob Barnes, a protest organizer.

The events begin at 3 p.m., with separate rallies at Westlake Center and the U.S. Courthouse. The Westlake rally, organized by the Troops Home Now coalition, is targeted at high-school and college students; the rally at the U.S. Courthouse is organized by a coalition of social-justice activists.

The groups at the courthouse will join with the Westlake protesters to march from about 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in a circuitous route around Seattle City Hall to end at the Henry Jackson Federal Building at Second Avenue and Marion Street, where another rally will be held. The march and rallies will likely cause significant traffic delays, including for Metro transit buses.

Event organizers hope to attract 3,000 people or more but concede they are unsure what to expect. Whitcomb said there would be "ample officers to provide good traffic control and security."

The protesters are expecting strong political support from Seattle's liberal establishment: The Seattle City Council is expected to pass a resolution condemning the Iraq war during an afternoon session, and King County executive Ron Sims is expected to speak at the rally at the federal building.

Other politicians were less welcoming. One group of protesters tried to "occupy" the offices of U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell today, but were locked out, said Erin Alexander, a spokeswoman for the Seattle Occupation Project and an organizer of the Westlake protest.

"We come in with no appointment and try to disrupt as much as we can," said Alexander, a 26 year-old nanny.

The protesters have used the occupation strategy weekly since early February, but today were directed to a 28th-floor conference room in the Federal Building which they sarcastically called the "free speech room." As of 1:30 p.m., about six people were inside the Federal Building with another dozen supporters outside, Alexander said.

"It's unbelievable -- they're sending aides down once in a while to speak with us," but if protesters go up to the offices, staff members "mouth through the glass: 'No, go downstairs,'" Alexander said. "To be treated this way is extremely frustrating."

The group is part of a national movement which is trying to pressure Democrats to vote against authorizing $124 billion over the next two years to fight the Iraq war.

"This is the only chance Democrats have to stop the war -- otherwise, (President) Bush will have enough money 'til the end of 2008," said Alexander.

Elizabeth Ferranti, Cantwell's press secretary in Washington, D.C., said that the senator's staff "proactively got a second room to accommodate people coming in for meetings. There are no sit-ins going on."

Sen. Murray's communications director, Alex Glass, said from D.C. that "meeting with our staff is a more effective way of getting their grievances out."

"We just want to give them an opportunity to talk about their concerns and about what we're doing to help end the war," Glass said. "Sen. Murray believes it's time to redeploy our troops and bring them home."

The senator was among Senate Democrats last week who introduced a joint resolution to begin bringing troops home by March 31, 2008. The resolution was defeated 50-48.

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, has also been a target of the occupation strategy, but has not locked out protesters, Alexander said. Instead, McDermott staffers ran a vacuum cleaner while protesters tried to use the phones in his office, Alexander said.

As protesters focused on Congress, the City Council, which has no authority over international relations, was debating wording today of a resolution against the troop surge. One draft circulated by council president Nick Lick Licata called for the end of the Iraq war, and more spending on highway projects, Head Start, and veterans' health care.

Barnes, co-chair of the King County chapter of Jobs with Justice, a social-justice group with 142 members statewide, called the City Council resolution "a no-brainer" given the strong antipathy to the war.

"When I stand shoulder to shoulder with other people, it makes me feel less crazy," he said. "Taking on the U.S. government is sometimes like tilting at windmills. But standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other people, it lets us speak in one voice."


By Megan Tady

March 16, 2007

As the United States ushers in a fourth year in Iraq on Monday, growing shame, anger, and grief over the war is prompting some active opponents to "step it up a notch."  [NOTE: It is the fifth year of war in Iraq that is being ushered in. -A.D.J.]

Hoping to make this weekend the last wartime anniversary of the invasion, some demonstrators are planning local actions throughout the nation, while others are converging in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for a march to the Pentagon. Planned actions range from quiet gatherings to more confrontational activities, with several groups encouraging non-violent civil disobedience as a protest tactic.

The march on Saturday, organized by the coalition Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), also commemorates the 40th anniversary of the historic October 1967 March on the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Large protests in the coming days are also planned for Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago.

While encouraging attendance at the march in Washington, United for Peace and Justice, another antiwar coalition, is also urging people to be "vocal and visible" in their own communities with the "loudest and widest demonstrations for peace that [they] can muster." More than 500 events have been posted on the organizations' site.

On top of their basic anti-war message, protesters this weekend will also voice dismay that recently elected Democrats have ignored their constituents' calls to oppose the war. The Democratic leadership has been criticized for failing to follow through on campaign promises to oppose the war.

Groups are planning non-violent civil-disobedience actions in cities across the country this weekend.

In Los Angeles, the Quaker activist group American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is planning a march to a U.S. military recruiting center, where fourteen people plan to "sit-in" to disrupt recruitment activities. The group is collaborating with Declaration of Peace, a grassroots anti-war action campaign that is coordinating similar actions of civil disobedience nationwide.

Georgie Noguera of the AFSC in Los Angeles said activists are turning to civil disobedience after exhausting other tactics to stop the war.

"If [lawmakers are] not listening to us when we're speaking, and they're not listening to us when we're voting," Noguera told The NewStandard, "the next logical step is to force them to hear what we're saying by making it uncomfortable for them and making it so they can't ignore us anymore."

"The momentum is right . . . for people to take it to the next step," she continued, "which is, 'I'm going to put myself on the line with peaceful disobedience to show my opposition to the war. And I'm willing to get arrested to do that.'"

Similarly, California organizer Antonia Juhasz said that after four years, they're looking to civil disobedience because "we feel the need to step up our resistance to the war." She is planning with other activists to blockade the entrance to the Chevron World Headquarters in San Ramon, California to protest the perceived oil agenda driving the war.

On the opposite coast, Noguera and Juhasz's sentiment is shared. In King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, demonstrators intend to block the entrance to the offices of weapons-producer Lockheed-Martin to protest the company's alleged war-profiteering. Robert Smith, of the Brandywine Peace Community, the group behind the action, said civil disobedience expresses "a firm, clear, emphatic 'no.'"

"All of the legal public demonstrations are important," he told TNS. "It is, however, vital that there be people who will resist, who will say the law will not prevent us from declaring peace."

The Christian Peace Witness for Iraq says over 700 people will risk arrest Friday night in a prayer gathering in front of the White House; the group did not obtain a protest permit.

"Millions of people around the world sadly believe that this is a Christian war because our leaders have confused the foreign policy of the United States with the purpose of God," said the Reverend Jim Wallis in a press conference yesterday. "We need to clear up the confusion. Tomorrow night, we begin that."

The Occupation Project is organizing a "sustained" presence at lawmakers' offices in Illinois on Monday -- part of a campaign that began in February in which protesters have occupied about 40 offices of congressional representatives from both parties who refuse to vote against additional war funding. Last week, police arrested twelve activists in Maine for refusing to leave a federal building and Senator Susan Collins' (R-Maine) office inside. The Project says 181 activists have been arrested since the campaign began

Bruce Gagnon, who has been arrested several times since 2005 for staging occupations of lawmakers' offices in Maine, is urging others to join the Occupation Project. "The time has come for those in the anti-war movement to step outside our normal activist boxes," Gagnon wrote on the Project's website. "If we wish to end the war then we must create positive, non-violent conflict in our communities. We must force the politicians to step outside their comfort zones on the Iraq war issue."

Since Monday, the Encampment to Stop the War has been holding protests across from the Capitol building to oppose increased funding for the war. While the protests are legal, activists are staging civil disobedience as well; ten activists were arrested yesterday for confronting Democrats during a House Appropriations Committee meeting.

Beyond this weekend, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance is organizing a week of non-violent direct action, called "No Business Before the People's Business" from March 26 to 29. The actions are intended to coincide with the Senate's consideration of the next supplemental budget for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, activists staged civil disobedience in an attempt to stop military shipments out of the Port of Tacoma this month.

Aside from civil disobedience, protesters are planning less-confrontational actions across the country.

Nancy Moran, of the Tulsa Peace Fellowship in Oklahoma, told TNS that marchers will be wearing burlap sacks and ashes as a "symbol of mourning, sorrow, and regret." She said she hopes "a lot of Americans are feeling [that sentiment] -- those that favored this war and are starting to have second thoughts."

In St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday, protesters will start a vigil before 3,000 tombstones bearing the names of killed U.S. military and Iraqi civilians. The vigil will end on Monday with an Occupation Project action at Senator Claire McCaskill's (D-Missouri) office.

A Maine-based campaign called From Every Village Green is bringing together demonstrators on over 100 village greens throughout the state. Ron Greenberg, who started the project, said the effort is a response to the challenges of organizing Mainers against the war when the population is so dispersed.

"I could get a call from somebody in a very small town who says, 'I think that I'm alone here.' And that same week, I might hear from four of five people from that town. So putting them together has energized everybody."

Greenberg said the protests are a reaction to the deaf ear lawmakers in the state have turned to their constituents. "People have been having a hard time making a connection with our senators," Greenberg said. "We seem to be ignored on this issue [of stopping the war]."

Other demonstrations are happening virtually. One Million Blogs for Peace is trying to sign up one million blogs to oppose the war in 30 days. Activists are also asking people to write peace messages in red print on packages and envelopes they mail.

The AFSC's Noguera said she sees the actions taking place across the country as a sign of "a certain momentum now that we didn't have before."

"We know what we're doing is right," she said. "We know that the cost of human life is unacceptable, so we're going to step it up."