Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
Henry David Thoreau
A week ago today, I was literally cooling my jets in a freezing cold DC jail for protesting the continuation of the illegal and immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For an offense (crossing a police line) that doesn’t even have any jail time associated with the penalty, if convicted, I stayed in jail for 50 hours. I was arrested with seven others and six of us had the similar fate of spending an unreasonable amount of time in jail for standing up for peace and justice.
After spending two nights in jail, we were taken to the court building where we spent another eight hours in a holding cell in leg shackles. When we were finally summoned to the traffic courtroom our wrists were shackled to chains wrapped around our waists.
During our unfortunate incarceration, two male members of the group had to go to the hospital for numbness in their hands and fingers because of the tightness of the handcuffs. After sleeping on cold concrete for 50 hours, Elaine Brower and I were cramping up in pain.
For minor infractions, we have to return to DC for a hearing on June 9th—since my charges don’t require jail time, and since I have already done 50 hours, I wonder what penalty will be imposed for my inevitable verdict of “guilty.”
While we were standing before the judge, we were also ordered to stay away from the White House as a condition of our release and the parameters were clearly defined and we were told that if we violated that “stay away order,” we would spend a mandatory “six months in jail.”
Six months in jail for walking on a sidewalk near the White House? Three of the people who were jailed for 50 hours had never even been arrested in DC before—and the other three of us have been arrested multiple times in front of the White House when George Bush was president and never had a stay away order imposed. As a matter of fact, activists in the DC area can’t even recall when a stay away order from the White House has ever been imposed.
Stay away orders from Capitol Hill have been liberally applied. My own daughter, Carly, had one for once interrupting a hearing with General Petraeus. Stay away orders seem on the surface to be as un-Constitutional as “free speech” zones, but our soft-core fascist state has continually ruled in favor of these limits on free speech saying that what we say can’t be limited, but where and when we say it, can. Consequently, protesting seems very futile if we can’t even get near the people or things we are protesting. Limiting the “where and when,” does severely limit our “what,” if no one can hear.
The day after I got out of jail, I decided to go to the Hill to attend a robotic warfare hearing and I quickly made a small sign that said: “Drones Kill Kids,” and I was holding it quietly in my lap as I listened to the testimony. Holding small signs is generally tolerated, if you don’t wave it, or hold it up and block anybody’s view. Having no intention of interrupting the hearing since I was interested in the topic, I was surprised when a staffer of the Chairman, John Tierney, approached me and told me to put the sign away, or I would be kicked out, along with my colleague, Josh Smith who was sitting next to me and also holding a sign.
I patiently explained to her that holding a sign was my right and I was being quiet and respectful. Sure enough, during the break, the Capital Hill police came to eject us from the hearing.
The next day, we found out that Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates were testifying on the 33 billion dollar supplemental war-funding bill. The hearing was changed from a Senate office building to the Capitol building and put into a small, small room. We decided that we would try to at least get close to the closed hearing to express our freedom of speech, so we headed to the Capitol and got in line at the visitor center.
About eight of us were in line for about three minutes when a phalanx of Capitol Hill police (including motorcycle and bike cops) approached us and asked what our “intentions” were. I said that if they didn’t ask everyone in line that same question, their presence and interrogation bordered on “harassment.” A female cop averred that she didn’t think it was “harassment”—isn’t that nice, a harasser doesn’t think she’s harassing?
After standing in line to get in, then standing in line to get a ticket for the Capitol Hill tour, and then watching a movie about our wonderful Congress and the wonderful things it does and has done, (even bragging about the brutal Indian Removal Act of 1830) we got into the Capitol and were followed by the same phalanx of cops. At one point, I peeled off and went up a staircase and a member of our group heard a cop say: “oh, oh, we lost Cindy.” Needless to say, we were all promptly rounded up and escorted out of the building.
I was told in the Park Police station by a cop that if I “stopped protesting, I wouldn’t have to keep going through this.” A member of the group that spent two days in jail was told that by one of the cops that he didn’t “like protesters.” I was told in the Capitol building—our House—that our freedoms were just “bullshit.”
As dissent is being more and more criminalized, we have to dissent more.
People, who support the establishment’s wars, whether on the fake right or the fake left, often tell me that my son was a hero who died for “our freedom and democracy.” Yet, his mother can’t even walk down the streets of the Empire’s capital without being arrested, or at the very least, harassed.
The laws that are imposed on us are imposed from an illegitimate government that has lost its mind and like Henry David Thoreau said:
“Any fool can make a rule and any fool will mind it.”
When the laws are so limiting and arbitrarily applied, it is our duty to become Outlaws.