March 5, 2003 - Resist and Live! by Terry Burke
Today my beloved friends in ICUJP and others observed the March
5 National Moratorium to Stop the War in an act of civil disobedience
against the war...
We gathered near la Placita Olvera on this Ash Wednesday to act
in conscious resistance to the war. Our theme was "Ashes to Ashes"
and we had containers of ashes with signs on them, in English
and español --
"Afghanistan, Civil Liberties, Children, Childcare, Healthcare,
Phillipines, Columbia, Iraq, Hiroshima, Homeless, Education, Environment,
Immigrant's Rights, Human Dignity, Genocide" -- to carry to the
Downtown LA Federal Building in a procession with signs and banners.
the steps of the Federal Building a few blocks away, we listened
as members of many faiths in their clerical garb spoke about the
violent, immoral and dishonest actions of our "leader" Bush. They
drew attention to the reality of what may be about to occur --
200-400 cruise missiles to be fired into a city of 2 million unarmed
people in a 48 hour period... an equivalent Hiroshima... a slaughter
of Human Beings unthinkable in the scale of its criminality.
Our Faith leaders invited people everywhere to share a close
our own closely held values and to make an determined effort to
come closer to "god"... or community. To see the truth in what
has been said by millions in the world and by all our faith traditions
-- that war is not the answer. To devote our lives in work to
build and not to destroy. We heard that "...systems of war and
violence must stop and new systems of life and community replace
them to fulfill the promise of abundant life..." (paraphrase from
a United Methodist Bishop who used to minister at Dick Chaney's
church, see below).
speakers eloquently and with passion delivered our heartfelt messages
of nonviolent resistance to war and injustice and the tyranny
implicit in any system that fosters these evils. These were speeches
of historic weight... words rang out which carried a force like
a running river in their truth and intent. The helicopters' din
overhead faded in the background as focus was held on speakers,
some with otherwise gentle voices...
A ceremony began and many of us came forth to rub ashes on ourselves
to signify our own complicity in the coming and past acts of violence
done in our name by our government... and to signify that we identify
with our neighbors and do not consider ourselves to be morally
superior to anyone.
But the evil of the acts engaged in by our national leaders
compel us in our own self-examination to call attention certain
imminent crimes and failures of moral social order. Our government
is now controlled by men who openly move to attack and kill innocents
in the hundreds of thousands; they move to discard our own Constitution
in the elevation of themselves as a new class of authority; they
abandon reference to the will of the people and show contempt
for the people's interests, safety and rights.
all then walked to the front of the Federal building on a narrow
strip of city sidewalk. The designated arrestees took the ashes
and spread them on the sidewalk in front of the US Federal Building
on city property. That was something for which it was believed
they potentially could be arrested, but the act went uncontested
and was complete in a few minutes. This left the CD protesters
in the position of having to think on their feet so to speak about
how to proceed toward their goal of getting arrested.
After some kind of conference (I could not see being behind my
banner) the clerics and others numbering approx. 20 and including
the Convener of ICUJP Rev. George Regas walked into Los Angeles
Street where they knelt
in one lane blocking traffic. Fully expecting that this would
trigger an immediate arrest, they held a dignified pose there
and waited. And waited. And waited...
After waiting 10 minutes or so, they got up and took the other
lane also, completely blocking all traffic in either direction
of Los Angeles Street. By this time the police had indeed taken
action, but not the expected one -- they had instead blocked incoming
cars at distant intersections diverting the public away from the
entire area, so that there would be no traffic to block.
Then slowly, several people who were not intending arrest gingerly
came out into the street to join the still-kneeling CD protesters.
Pamela and I joined them with one of the ICUJP banners. After
another 15 minutes holding the pose there, the
group decided to get up and walk toward Parker Center Police HQ,
toward the intersection of Temple and Los Angeles.
A procession of about 150 began to march, chant and sing down
the empty Los Angeles Street. Only a mild police force was present,
maintaining a perimeter and isolating the event from the public
at large. Both LAPD and Federal Police were in the street. Noticeably
absent were any armored or SWAT type police, only uniforms. No
overt display of masked, helmeted, heavily armed men, tear gas
rifles, snipers on nearby roofs or other measures I've seen so
many times before in that same location.
This time however, the group confronting the state was not an
easily stereotyped and marginalized bunch of "anarchists" or "communists."
In fact, the Bishop of the Southern California United Methodist
Church, a woman who formerly ministered in Dick Chaney's church,
was present to condemn the war and the arrogance Bush is exhibiting
with his "un-Christian" acts and plans.
into the intersection, which had already been cleared of traffic
by the police, it became apparent that the Rabbis, Priests, Buddhist
monks, Reverends and others present were not going to be arrested
even yet... there were now perhaps 100 or so people all milling
around and circulating with signs and banners in the intersection.
The CD protesters stood in a diagonal line stretching from one
corner toward the other holding hands and singing. The police
watched... and did nothing.
The cameras of many local and probably some national tv stations
and the still photographers found their tableaus and sound-bites
crowding around the hand-holding civilly disobedient and radiantly
resistant protesters. The sun shone in a clear bright sky, perfectly
blue and clean after a rain with snow on Mt. Baldy in the distance...
We walked around the intersection carrying our banner that says
"War Is Not The Answer"... the "Ashes To Ashes" banner was held
on a corner facing the CD protesters.... the Catholic Worker banner
said "Stop War" on another corner... signs had quotes from Gandhi
and people chanted "Peace! Now!", the whole crowd joined together
After about an hour, the police finally issued the declaration
of an unlawful assembly and ordered the people in the street to
disperse, which they did not. It was still quite awhile before
the officers began to arrest each protester one by one, asking
questions, putting on the plastic handcuffs, leading each one
to a shady area on some grass on the corner. As each of our friends
were arrested we called out to them and clapped... then sang some
I do not at present know what has become of the arrestees except
to say that legal and logistical help is close by. The expectation
given to the crowd by lawyers present was that all would be released
in a couple of hours, meaning that the next thing I'll hear after
finishing this is the rest of the story. We are all still very
much in the act of writing the story and changing it by how we
Anyway, pretty good start for a day. Over 50 schools in the LA
area are in the act of walking out from classes as I write...
later today there will be an evening convergence at the Federal
Building for the gathering of persons who spent the day in resistance
to this evil war, in action to bring forth a new priority for
Justice and Peace in the world.