Letting Go

18AUG  Persia37

Let Friendship Float!

Well lookie here; a blog entry!  Now that training is over, I have time to type away on the keyboard.  This post will be void of theological/ political theory.  In a word, training was: intense.  My day would begin typically at 7 am (leaving the retreat center and walk over 3 miles to the training center) and conclude at 9 pm (then walking back to the retreat center) every day for a month ( with only 3 days off during that time).

Topics of training included: Nonviolent  Direct Action, Public Witness, Racism, Sexism, Heterosexism, Conflict Transformation, Biblical Nonviolence, Trauma, Crisis, Torture, Death, as well as Project briefings for CPT work in Columbia, Palestine, Iraq, and First Nations in Canada, plus two direct actions during the month. 

Needless to say, I am very…. very…. tired and am needing to withdraw right now to in a sense process, be alone, and to re-charge my depleted batteries.  Please know I am appreciative, and humbled, by the many messages, text messages, voice mail messages, and emails of support, prayers, love and affirmation.  I truly could not have ‘survived’ the past month without you…. without knowing there are people on the ‘outside’ who love me.

The above picture is from the first action at the Israeli Consulate.  So yes I decided to risk arrest.  CPT teams will assist local partners with actions (see a previous blog entry about ‘actions’) which many times, includes the component of arrest.  We in the arrest group attempted to hand deliver a letter (which I initially drafted and was subsequently edited by the group) addressed to the Israeli Consul General to the entire mid-west, whose office is in Chicago.  We expected that request to be denied. 

I was ‘elected’ (and agreed) to be the spokes-person for the group.  During the planning, we as a group not to resist in any way, shape or form.  Many times during civil disobedience (divine obedience) actions, people will become ‘dead-weight’, which then requires the police to obviously be more “physical” in executing the arrest, including picking up the person.  We did not want that.  We wanted to treat the police with as much respect as possible.

Thus, as the demonstration outside the building was beginning, we entered the building (we did not arrive to the area with the group, but at a separate time).  At this time, we were not wearing the red CPT hat or life preserver signs that were part of the demonstration (for the readers on facebook, you have seen pictures of these signs).  The Israeli consulate is on the 13 floor of the building.  There is no direct access but only through a security desk.  We approached the security desk and I engaged the female security officer. 

The day before the action, we alerted the media via press releases, and on each release, we included an announcement of our intention to hand deliver the letter.  Before she called the consulate, she looked to a male security guard who was standing and nodded.  Our hunch was they knew we were coming in light of the press release (which was what we wanted). The male security officer then left the area.

I actually got to talk to a representative at the consulate.  The security officer handed me the telephone.  It was a polite conversation and he explained we needed to follow proper procedure etc (blah blah blah).  I told him everyone with me had spent time in Israel/ Palestine and expressed our horror and heartbreak regarding what we each witnessed and that we were not going to leave without speaking to the Consul General).  The conversation ended on very pleasant terms.  I extended God’s blessing to him and he extended the same to me.  We both stated to each other that we truly desired peace.

I handed the phone back to the security officer who then briefly spoke to the representative.  Once she ended the phone conversation, I informed her that we would not leave.  She asked if we could proceed downstairs.  I declined and informed her we wanted to pray.  I then added we would hold her in the Light.  At this time, I took a step back, turned around and addressed the group and said, “Friends,” and motioned to the floor (apparently I jumped into Quaker mode at this point). 

With this, we each took a cloth sign we made from our pockets (featured in the photo) in the image of a life preserver, and we each had different messages (the theme of the demonstration was “Let Friendship Float” which was in response to the then recent developments regarding Israel’s and Greece’s prevention of the Freedom Flotilla, comprised of approximately 12 ships, which attempted to sail from Greece to Gaza, and each contained humanitarian aid to Gaza, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2006).  We then sat in a circle and began to sing “Peace, Salaam, Shalom.”

Security advised us several times to leave.  We didn’t.  The police, which were already outside by the time we entered the building (again, recall the press releases) then  responded.  Approximately 6 officers appeared and formed a circle around us. When they approached, one was heard saying, “I ain’t pickin’ anybody up!” The sergeant in charge was a female and was hostile to say the least (with her language towards us and attitude which is not surprising since female cops have a lot to prove).  She subsequently advised us we were under arrest.  At this point, we, at the same time, stood up, and placed our arms/hands behind our backs.  At this point, it was like the air was sucked out of the room. Every police officer took a step back.  One guy was heard, saying, “Woah!!” 

I can’t remember if it was the same officer, but we overheard, “Hold on Sarge,” or something like that.  They then huddled behind us.  It appeared they didn’t know what to do.  Another was overheard, saying, “I have my crimes code in the car!”  (lol!).  They then approached us and one (a male, very friendly) advised us that we would be escorted out of the building and that they would cite us for trespassing.  A citation is not arrest.  It’s basically a traffic ticket or in legal terms, we received a “non-moving violation.”

So, they escorted us out of the building.  As soon as we exited the buidling I could hear the demonstration, which we help planned.  It also included an element of street theater.  We made a mock boat, with the words     “Let Friendship Float.”  One of our group dressed as an Israeli soldier (with the words “Israeli Military” printed in tape across his chest) and would block the boat’s movement as it proceeded in a square radius around the consulate building, symbolizing what happened in Greek waters at the behest of the Israeli government (apparently, at one point, one of the Chicago police ran to the group member dressed as the soldier and advised him that “they” meaning us, had a right to be here.  Oh, that’s great! 

Some time later during the protest, another cop approached him and said, “You’re a part of this, right?” Hah!)  As the group proceeded with the boat, around this sqaure radius, they sang and chanted songs we wrote.  It was awesome hearing this as we exited the building.  When we exited, the group (now numbering about 30) were at the very far end of this ‘radius.’  They saw us, and immediately altered course and headed in our direction.  They stopped right in front of us and were singning at the top of their lungs (as the cops were writing the tickets).  I’ll never forget this day.  What a show of solidarity and support!

After being released from police custody, I joined the protest and this photo captures this moment.  I was released just moments before it was snapped and “climbed” inside the boat, which at this moment, was being held by Sarah and Laura, whom I met while in Palestine, and am blessed to have their friendship. After this, I was asked to read the letter we had attempted to deliver to the Israeli consulate.  Kathy Kelly (from Voices for Creative Nonviolence) was also present and graciously offered a few comments (as everyone stood before us, as the police were issuing the citations).

We also participated in a prayer vigil outside of the Department of Homeland Security in Chicago.  Deportations are carried out twice in Chicago (tuesdays and Fridays… if memory serves).

Proclaiming God’s witness

So the photo here is of me outside the Department of Homeland Security.  The police responded and we had to discard the signs (hello, First Amendment?!).  Three of the training group were able to board the bus/ vans and pray/address the deportees (mostly Mexican nationals) before the deportations.  To say we need a more compassionate immigration system is an understatement.  This is another “civil rights” movement if there ever is one.  I will no longer tolerate the blatant racism and bigotry spewed at anyone of Spanish speaking heritage and I will happily be jailed for ‘violating’ laws that are racist in nature (i.e. Arizona, Alabama and perhaps soon Pennsylvania).  I know, at some point, I will see the inside of a jail cell for reasons I ‘blogged’ about in an earlier post.  Many don’t understand this.

I am now in Lewisburg, ‘readying’ the house for my tenant (and his family) who move in the week of August 29th.  Hence the title of this post, “Letting Go.”  I have many mixed emotions as I type.  This has been some year for me; the beginning of which, I am trying desperately to forget and put behind me (the entire year of 2010 for that matter).  I have had many “life flashing before my eyes moments” today as I attempt to let go of more material items (as opposed to holding onto and storing).  Also, desk drawers are good at hiding and discarding things… until you have to unpack and look at empty, shallow promises or gifts.

I am now a servant.  I wonder what I will see.  Who I will meet.  I will be joining the Aboriginal Justice Team.  Here is a video which explains the project in more detail:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJYXQZh3too&w=420&h=345]

I have been called.  I am now a humble servant; surrounded by a new family, my new CPT family.  Faith, love, support, and loyalty surround me.  While I am to let go of all that is familiar to me, I am to be open to God’s grace.  Ok; I can dig it.

By Published On: August 21st, 2011Comments Off on Letting Go: Thoughts/Reflections/Christian Peacemaker Teams

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