“What happened to us was a shakedown by gangsters wearing police uniforms and judges’ robes, not for the sake of justice, but to maintain the civic infrastructure behind the glittering façade of Las Vegas with dollars squeezed out of its poorest citizens.” “The degree of civilization in a society,” wrote the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, “can be judged by entering its prisons.” As a frequent visitor to Nevada in recent years, I have often been surprised by the cultural diversity and spiritual richness that can be found in Las Vegas. Still, I think that Dostoyevsky was right. A more accurate assessment of the degree of civilization in Las Vegas and for the broader society that the city claims to be “The Entertainment Capital” of can be made by entering the cells of the Clark County Correctional Center than by going to the top of the Stratosphere, cruising the Strip or even by taking in a Cirque du Soleil show. I was one of twenty five arrested by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police at Creech Air Force Base, the center of drone assassination by the US Air Force and the CIA some forty miles northwest of the city on March 31 and April 1. “Shut Down Creech” was a weeklong convergence of activists from around the country. Most of us staying in tents at a makeshift “Camp Justice” in the desert across the highway from the base, our days of discussion, study, song, reflection and strategizing built up to a dramatic series of coordinated actions, including street theater and blockades, that disrupted the lethal business as usual of Creech. While we expected to be arrested, this was not our desire or our goal. Once again, the police arrested the wrong people as they abetted the criminals and took those who acted to stop a crime in progress down town to be booked. Since 2009, I have had at least two other trips on the police from Creech to the county jail at the prestigious address, 330 S Casino Center Blvd in Las Vegas, to undergo the tedious process of booking, the fingerprinting, mugshots and other indignities before getting kicked out onto the sidewalk a few long hours later. This time, however, after my friends and comrades were released one by one, I remained behind. I was kept in jail for the next four days, not for my part in the day’s protest, but on a bench warrant due to an unpaid traffic fine. I had been arrested a year before at another protest at Creech and cited for the misdemeanor crime of impeding traffic and released with 30 some others on our promise to return for trial. Some weeks later, the charges on ten of us were reduced to the traffic offence of “pedestrian soliciting a ride or business on a roadway” and we were assessed a $98 fine with no apparent way to plead not guilty. While those who eventually went to trial on the original charges were found not guilty or had their charges dismissed, those of us in the “hitchhikers’ club” all failed in our various attempts to have our cases heard. “How can I contest this ticket?” I asked the clerk at the Justice (sic) Court in Las Vegas. “You don’t contest it,” was the answer, “you PAY it.” In Las Vegas, it is easier to plead not guilty to a violent felony than it is to contest a traffic ticket. In due course I got a glossy post card in the mail with a color photo of a perp getting handcuffed against a Metropolitan Police squad car, with the clever warning “Pay the Ticket, Avoid the Click-it.” This image, that can also be found on the court’s website, came with this threat: “The Las Vegas Township Justice Court will issue arrest warrants for all unpaid traffic tickets. An additional warrant fee of $150 and a late fee of $100 will be added to all tickets that proceed into warrant status. In addition to warrant fees and penalties, all unpaid traffic tickets will be reported to national credit reporting agencies.” A search of my case on the court’s website showed that I had been charged to pay for my own warrant and another “compliance fee,” apparently to pay for my account getting referred to a collection agency, bringing my bill up to $348. These mounting fines and lack of access to the courts and the calls that started to come from a collection agency were a small annoyance to me, but are an indication of a larger systemic problem. The Las Vegas Justice Court Mission Statement (“The vision of the Las Vegas Justice Court is to maximize access to Justice, in order to achieve the highest possible level of Public Trust and Confidence”) notwithstanding, these practices and those like them in courts around the country are illegal. A March 16, 2016, “Dear Colleague” letter from the Office for Access to Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, addressed to state and local courts lays it out: “Recent years have seen increased attention on the illegal enforcement of fines and fees in certain jurisdictions around the country—often with respect to individuals accused of misdemeanors, quasi-criminal ordinance violations, or civil infractions. Typically, courts do not sentence defendants to incarceration in these cases; monetary fines are the norm. Yet the harm caused by unlawful practices in these jurisdictions can be profound. Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape. Furthermore, in addition to being unlawful, to the extent that these practices are geared not toward addressing public safety, but rather toward raising revenue, they can cast doubt on the impartiality of the tribunal and erode trust between local governments and their constituents.” This letter cites a Supreme Court ruling that the due process and equal protection principles of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibit “punishing a person for his poverty” and further insists that “the use of arrest warrants as a means of debt collection, rather than in response to public safety needs, creates unnecessary risk that individuals’ constitutional rights will be violated. Warrants must not be issued for failure to pay without providing adequate notice to a defendant, a hearing where the defendant’s ability to pay is assessed, and other basic procedural protections. … When people are arrested and detained on these warrants, the result is an unconstitutional deprivation of liberty.” Somehow, the memo did not make it to Las Vegas. While the statistics are not available, during that long weekend I was not the only inmate in the Clark County jail locked up solely for not paying fines on minor offenses. The deplorable conditions and cruelties of this jail defy exaggeration and are as extravagant as the floorshows at the city’s casinos and hotels. It was more than eight hours after getting arrested that I was finally taken out of shackles. We were packed standing room only, more than forty people in a small cell those first hours in chains. Not long after I arrived, as a guard opened the door to push in yet another prisoner, a very slight young man edged his way to the front and tried desperately to explain that he was suffering an anxiety attack and needed air. Not listening, the guard tried to slam the door on this young man who stepped forward into the door jamb. The guard then grabbed the young man, threw him down onto the hallway floor and even though his hands were shackled at his waist and he could not hit back, at least five guards, all larger than him, all had their knees on his body and were pummeling him with their fists. The last I saw of him, his face was bloodied and he was being wheeled away, his wrists and ankles chained to a restraint chair. This was the jailers’ response to a normal human reaction to an inhuman situation and those suffering from mental illness or the effects of withdrawal were treated no less harshly. Like some bizarre board game, we prisoners were inexplicably moved from cell to crowded cell at all hours. Sometimes a prisoner would only just arrive before their name was called for another move. Sometimes the guards went from cell to cell shouting a name of someone they had somehow misplaced. Some of our cell mates insisted that they had been in the same place for many days and worried that they had been lost as well. Guards were constantly giving contradictory and erroneous “information,” such as when we would get to court or be moved to more spacious and comfortable quarters upstairs. Some of the guards, not restrained by their own lack of credentials, were generously distributing legal advice to those preparing to see a judge. I found out later that my friends outside were likewise misled by jail employees as they tried to keep track of me. I had arrived at the jail early on a Friday and was kept in these holding cells until Monday morning at 3 o’clock. Meals were unsatisfactory nutritionally and esthetically, but also, served as they were at 3 AM, 9AM and 3PM, did not even serve to mark the passage of time in this dungeon without windows and where the lights never dimmed. These cells varied in size and the body counts in them varied hour to hour. There were narrow benches around the walls where a few could lie down and nap, but most of us were lucky when there was room enough to stretch out without a blanket on the cold, filthy concrete floor. There was an open toilet in each cell- to use toilet paper, one had to find and wake the prisoner who had appropriated the roll for use as a pillow. In the wee hours after my third night on concrete, I was finally taken upstairs, given a change of clothes and a blanket and shown a cot in a fairly quiet and almost clean dormitory of some 80 men. About 10 on Monday morning, I was chained up again and led through a series of tunnels and elevators to traffic court. There were some 30 of us in that batch, by no means everyone who had been jailed over the weekend for unpaid traffic charges. Each case was decided by the judge in seconds, with no defendant allowed to say anything beyond affirming their identity upon hearing their name called. Most of the fines and added fees assessed against these men and women amounted to many thousands of dollars. Based on an informal formula of dollars per days in lock up, the judge shaved off some off the fines owed and let most of the prisoners out with the threat that if the remainder was not paid in 30 days, more costs would be added, a new warrant issued and the cycle would be repeated. None of us in traffic court that morning had been granted a “hearing where the defendant’s ability to pay is assessed” that the law demands before putting us in jail. Few of us, if any, had been found guilty by any judicial process before being fined in the first place. Debt collection, not guilt or innocence, was the only concern of this “court.” What happened in court that morning could be called “criminal justice” only in that what was done to us by the court was criminal. What happened to us was a shakedown by gangsters wearing police uniforms and judges’ robes, not for the sake of justice, but to maintain the civic infrastructure behind the glittering façade of Las Vegas with dollars squeezed out of its poorest citizens. Through this experience, I met many interesting people, mostly young black and brown men. A few of them were locked up for alleged criminal offenses, but many seemed to be caught up in the same collections racket as me. The calls made from the phones in the cells were mostly frantic appeals to family and friends for money to pay the fines or the bail that would get them released. Unless they were wearing badges and carrying keys, there was no one I met at the Clark County jail that I feared as a threat to myself or to the public safety. If the machinations of the Las Vegas Justice Court are not about justice, neither are the drones controlled from Creech Air Force Base 40 miles away about defense. By remote control and often under the shadiest of orders by the CIA, military personnel at Creech are assassinating suspected enemies far from fields of battle, based on unproven allegations or on “patterns of behavior,” often incinerating their families or the strangers unfortunate enough to be close by. It should not be surprising that a government that executes suspects, sometimes even its own citizens, without trial in places far way will also imprison its poorest people at home without due process. Among those who stood with me in traffic court that morning, my own debt of $348 was one of the smallest and the judge summarily sentenced me to time served, crediting my four days in jail to wipe away all my fines and added costs. I was not even allowed to explain that I had never solicited a ride on a roadway in the first place. Although the judge said I was free to go, the bureaucracy of the jail took another 12 hours to get me released. It was after 10:30 Monday night that I was finally given back my clothes and sent out the long tunnel that leads from the jail to the bright lights of downtown Las Vegas, onto the sidewalk and into the embrace of faithful friends who had been keeping vigil for me the whole time of my incarceration. I left the Clark County jail exhausted and happy to be out, but grateful, too, for the hospitality and patient endurance of those who shared their harsh, constricted space with me for a few days. It is a hard but precious privilege for this middle aged white man to visit such places where other good people have no choice but to inhabit. The same drama is being played out in jails and courtrooms around the United States, the country that imprisons more of its people than any other. With more than 95% of criminal charges now settled with plea bargains instead of going to trial, many defendants are convicted and put away for years with not much more in the way of due process than I was afforded with my little trumped-up hitchhiking ticket. It is unclear if what happened to me in Las Vegas Justice Court on April 4 was a conviction in the strictly legal sense, but what happened there has certainly deepened my conviction that the so-called war on terror is just one front of the vicious war on the poor and on people with black and brown skin here at home as well as abroad. This conviction will lead me back to Creech and other drone bases, to the places targeted by their Hellfire missiles when I can and, if need be, to back to the Clark County Correctional Center. Drawing on these connections, Voices for Creative Nonviolence is organizing a “NO Thomson Prison De-Incarceration Walk,” 150 miles from Chicago to Thomson, Illinois, from May 28 to June 11. Thomson is where the federal government will soon open a new “super-max” prison that is expected to keep up to 1,900 prisoners in solitary conditions that have been condemned by the international community as amounting to torture. Please join us if you can. Brian Terrell lives in Iowa and is a Co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence. In recent years he has visited Afghanistan three times and has spent more than six months in prison for protesting at drone bases. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erbil, Kurdistan–Wherever I look, tall, unfinished concrete buildings, accompanied by construction cranes, loom over the city. It is somewhat eerie because I see no movement inside or around any of the buildings, none whatsoever. I arrived in Erbil five days ago. Since then, meetings, family visits, efforts to relearn the exchange rate and opportunities to become familiar with new surroundings have peaceably filled my time. I’m also beginning to understand the current reality faced by millions of new arrivals to Erbil who fled their homes, seeking refuge. The first time I stepped out of the apartment building where I am staying with an Iraqi friend, I was approached by children, women and youth begging for money. Representatives from the UNHCR, (U.N. High Commission for Refugees), and IOM, (International Organization for Migration), gave me grim news when they met with me. Kurdistan has a population of 4 ½ million. Every fourth person is either a refugee or internally displaced. That means the population has grown 25%. There are now 245,000 Syrians in Kurdistan, and more are arriving each day. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) number over 1 million. The IOM told me that just last week 4,000 families were displaced from Iraq’s Anbar region. In Erbil, due to low oil prices and rampant corruption, teachers, as well as all government workers, are not receiving their salaries. Health care professionals report about insufficient medicines to cure sick people. For example, in Erbil, 1,200 cancer patients remain without treatment. The UNHCR is in a contingency mode preparing for the worst if armed forces wage a big offensive against Mosel. Tens of thousands would be displaced. Where would they go? How would they be cared for? The United Nations estimates that three million people now live under ISIL control. One of the biggest problems UN agencies face involves finding ways to reach these people. Kathy Kelly and I spoke just before I traveled to Erbil. A question she suggested has served me well in interviews: What do you think it is important for U.S. people to understand? I put this question to both the UNHCR and the IOM. “Much attention is on Syria and the European refugee crisis. That there are 3.4 million IDPs (internally displaced) in Iraq is unknown. The Kurdish have been very generous, but now they are barely keeping their heads above water. The surge capacity has been reached. If another 100,000 come, it will be unthinkable. Kurdistan has taken more refugees than the E.U., and yet they have to get on their knees to beg for assistance.” “There needs to be a stronger grass roots movement to counter the media. People can’t begin to imagine what refugees and IDPs are experiencing, living in tents, in abandoned buildings. People only want security, to regain their dignity. They are being put forth as coming to destroy, to blow up, to take.” There are more than 40 camps in Kurdistan, but only a small percentage of the refugees, (39%), and IDPs, (20%), live in camps. The rest of the new arrivals live outside of the camps. “We have to move away from the charity approach. What they need most is cash. Unconditional cash. Then they can pay rent, buy medicine, etc., and it would support the local economy. We need a more humanitarian approach.” To help cover basic human needs, The U.N. has launched an appeal for more than $860 million dollars. The compassion of both the UNHCR and IOM representatives was as palpable as their distress. “The people’s resilience is unbelievable,” said a young woman from IOM. “ It has given me faith in the ability to bounce back, to appreciate life.” When I met with a Dominican religious sister who herself is displaced from the town of Qaraqosh, she told me that they had just begun a school for children in the1st through 6th grade. The children belong to IDP families, as do all of the teachers. I asked her what she felt was important for us to know in the U.S. “People forget things that are not in the news,” she replied. Then she recalled someone having recently asked her why she had not gone back to her hometown. “There is no hope of return,” she said. “No one can cross the river….People don’t see hope here. People still need help. We have come to recognize the only way to build community is through education, not only to the 6th grade, but through high school. We have decided to fight ISIS with education.” Her challenge involves educating people in places as far away as the U.S., where relatively few people learn lessons about the overwhelming refugee crisis afflicting Erbil. Cathy Breen is a member of the New York Catholic Worker community and a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). For more information, email@example.com.
It is hard to put my feelings into words. I am travelling as a peace witness in Iraqi Kurdistan. Just the other day we visited a sheikh whom I had met in Fallujah in 2012. He and his family were forced to flee to Kurdistan about two years ago. Fallujah, as you probably know, is being held by ISIS. None of the residents are allowed to leave. People are literally dying of starvation. We met in the rented apartment of another sheikh who also fled Fallujah with his family. Although he himself is sick with cancer, both he and our sheikh friend welcomed us warmly. The afternoon was balmy and pleasant, the room was airy and light, with cushions on the floor, a couple of plastic chairs and a bed which also served as a sofa. Water was fetched immediately and we were graciously served sweets and tea. In the course of our visit, we were joined by yet another sheikh from Ramadi. The U.N. recently reported that the destruction in Ramadi, also in the Anbar region, was the worst they had witnessed in all of Iraq. Outwardly everything seemed so normal that at first I forgot I was with people now counted among the hundreds of thousands who are internally displaced in Iraq. In the next couple of hours though, we would hear many tragic stories that would dispel any thought of “normalcy.” “We have lost everything” our sheikh friend said. “We are like babies just being born. We’ve lost schools, universities, houses, bridges, hospitals, markets. All gone. People in the U.S. need to know what their government did to the Iraqi people. All this pain, destruction and hurt.” Our host told of a woman who had no breast milk to feed her baby as she herself was starving. However, she had a goat and, for a while, she was able to give this milk to her baby son. Then the goat died. At this point of the story the Iraqi woman translating for me was unable to continue. Overcome by sorrow, she began crying and left the room to collect herself. I learned later that this mother searched desperately for someone to give her baby to in order to save his life. After a lengthy open discussion, we were invited to join the sheikh’s wife, watching children with other women of the family in a second room. Again a very warm welcome belied an all-too-grim reality. This dear woman’s mother, sister and daughter are all currently trapped in Fallujah, and with ten children in their collective care. On occasion she is able to reach them by phone. The women in Fallujah weep to her across the line. They are reduced to eating grass. “We can do nothing to save them!” the sheikh’s wife said. “The government doesn’t help! We don’t know how this is possible!” It was incomprehensible to me – I find myself simply unable to imagine this family’s pain. “We have a saying” she said. “People far away from the fire, don’t get burned. They don’t feel the heat.” Across that phone line, and waiting for the next call, she feels it. As we stood to take our leave, we embraced and kissed one another. One by one, I took the sweet faces into my hands. They thanked us for the visit. Photos were taken to remember each other by, and I recorded all of the names of their loved ones in Fallujah so they will not be forgotten. I would write those names here, and include the photo for those who read this, but I am fearful to do so. My friends’ situation is so precarious already. It was early the next day – that is, yesterday morning – that my driver and I left for Dahook, about three hours northwest of Erbil. The road to Dahook is dotted with many Yazidi, Christian and Kurdish villages. My driver and his family are themselves internally displaced from one of the villages surrounding Mosel, and our trip would take us very close to his village. Actually we entertained the thought of visiting there, but the very real fear of random explosions and directed ISIS attacks decided us against the visit. The family that was to host me in Dahook are Christians from the same village as my driver. They lost a house to ISIS in Mosel in 2008 and fled after priests were murdered in their church. They had lived there for twenty years. They fled to a village called Teleskuf where they would live for another 6 years until ISIS took this village as well. To date no one has returned to Teleskuf other than the Peshmerga. We passed the area of the Mosel dam and later with my host family we looked together at a map marking the whereabouts of ISIS. “We all know where ISIS (Da’ash) is” they told me. And lines were drawn on the map to show me their current location. They were only kilometers away from us. Upon arriving in Dahook we visited with some Yazidis in an unfinished building where they are living. After a word of welcome we were given water, juice and sweets in a ceremonious manner, so typical of the graciousness in the Middle East. An elderly gentleman shared the terrible story of one of his granddaughters, who had been away from the area at the time of the terrible August 2014 massacre and siege of Sinjar Mountain, but who, when she returned and learned of the brutality her people had suffered, found it so unbearable she took her life. How to respond to such pain? With action – Seated on the mat beside this sorrowing grandfather was a young Yazidi man who is studying in the university and plans along with other young Yazidis to reach out to about 5,000 children on the mountain with hopes of educating them. I shared the story of my friends, the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul and the fruits they are reaping from their literacy program with street children. Next in Dahook we were able to visit several families living side by side as internally displaced persons in a church hall. Excited little children led me to the curtain which acted as their front door. Behind the curtain The families behind curtains like these, in camps, or in repurposed or unfinished buildings, have for the time a desperately welcomed measure of security. But they have lost everything they owned. The family I stayed with had fled here with only the clothes on their backs. Fourteen people in a car! Because they are in Kurdistan which is officially still part of Iraq, they have no refugee status and are not eligible for resettlement. They would have to go to Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan and register there as refugees. They would be at the bottom-of-the-pile, and in the meantime they would have no money with which to sustain themselves. It’s hard to put my feelings into words. “People far from the fire don’t feel the heat.” Here in Kurdistan I find myself feeling the heat of the fire as I watch so many good people who are being burnt. The husband and father of my host family has a mother and several sisters in the United States. His wife has family in Canada, Germany and the US. They must feel the heat from here as few others in the comfortable West, author of so much of this region’s suffering, ever can. “What can we do?” my hosts ask. “We want a future for our children.” Cathy Breen is a member of the New York Catholic Worker community and a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A group of about 50 Midwest activists, predominantly white, invited to Minneapolis by the Rye House collective, participated in a 4-day retreat led by Black facilitators from the local Black Lives Matter chapter. The retreat concluded with a protest organized by BLM and carried out by the mainly white activists, who blocked traffic at two intersections next to Target Field (the Minnesota Twins’ baseball stadium) on Monday April 11, the first home game of the 2016 season, leading to arrests of 25 white activists, who were released later in the day. Two banners were unfurled inside the stadium as the National Anthem was sung. The banners summed up the three main messages of the day’s action: “White Silence = Violence”; “Justice for Jamar”; and “Target Field: End Slave Labor.” Jamar Clark was a Black resident of Minneapolis fatally shot by police. Prosecutors have refused to press charges against the officer who shot him. Slave labor refers to Target Field’s practice of hiring people intermittently to help clean the stadium after highly attended games. There is no guarantee of work and no benefits, and the workers are nearly exclusively Black and Brown people. One of the main ideas of the weekend was that white people are socially conditioned to be heard, to assume leadership, to act individually. (We can also venture to say the same for men, heterosexuals, cisgender people, college-educated people, etc.) Recognizing this reality, people of historically dominant groups can consciously choose to sometimes “lean out” and open space for others to “lean in” during group discussions and in organizing. The lean in/lean out approach lets a movement benefit from new perspectives and strategies that could not otherwise be imagined by the perennial “leaders,” and it allows the usual leaders to practice effective and appropriate “followership.” One of the sessions in the weekend retreat posed an overview of Black activism: from the Haitian revolution and the Amistad takeover to the Underground Railroad, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to Black Lives Matter rallies of recent years. This history demonstrates how these iconic movements for social progress truly have been “leaderful” movements, where there were not just a few savior figures, but a vast and diverse array of initiative-takers. Buddy Bell is a Co-coordinator at Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
Brian Terrell (on right) with fellow Iowans, Frankie & Rene at Shut Down Creech. Brian was released from jail late Monday night, April 3, after spending 3 grueling days in a holding cell (no bed), because Brian chose not to pay a fine for a bogus charge left over from last year’s SHUT DOWN CREECH. All other activists were released by late evening of their arrest date. Videos of action by Holly Severson: 1- Full Length kids action: http://smallworldradio.net/doubletap.mov 2- Edited shorts from the action: http://www.smallworldradio.net/DN.mov (More Photos Below) Anti-drone protesters executed waves of multiple non-violent peaceful actions at Creech Air Force Base throughout the morning last Friday, April 1, with the intent of interrupting the drone killing activities that take place there. Creech AFB, in southern Nevada, is the primary Command Center for the CIA’s and President Obama’s Drone Assassination program. At the most heavily used eastern gate, a total of 13 people were arrested in 4 separate actions. After military personnel re-opened the main base gate in the later morning after the 1st action there, three more waves of blockades occurred. The 3rd and 4th waves breeched a barricade near the gate and continued to block the road, ultimately stalling gate operations for nearly an hour totally, counting all actions at that gate. Another 4 were arrested at a 2nd gate. The first incident at the eastern gate occurred at approximately 7:00 AM when a group of six children and eight adults all dressed as angels, performed a mock drone attack on a funeral. The activists were demonstrating the gruesome U.S. practice of firing drone missiles into funerals for victims previously killed by U.S. drone attacks, with hopes that militants might also be killed. A ballerina led the procession, laying red roses on the entry road of the main gate, followed by the other children carrying a casket. The funeral procession was interrupted by a simulated drone attack that killed and injured many of the mourners. Ultimately seven adults were arrested after they refused to leave the roadway after a 5 minute warning. At approximately the same time, actions took place at the other two base gates, leading to more arrests. The blockade at the 2nd gate focused on the criminal aspects of the U.S. drone assassination program. Activists stretched yellow crime scene tape around the base sign and across the entrance to the gate, preventing vehicles from entering. One protester laid across the roadway to portray a drone victim. And at the seldom used most western gate a small group held a silent meditation vigil for peace. Activists successfully delayed Air Force personnel (and presumably some drone pilots and technicians), from entering the base throughout the morning. “Many Creech personnel arrived to the base before the normal 6-8am rush hour on Friday, presumably to avoid the protest. Activists who participated in this collective effort consider even that a success because the protest is having a direct impact on daily drone operations. These sustained actions are forcing the military to change their daily routines, and potentially stimulating more discussion about the drone policies in question and the growing national opposition to drone killing,” says Toby Blomé, one of the organizers. “We deeply hope that our voices will one day soon be heard, and the expanding use of these deadly and destabilizing weapons against the most vulnerable people in the world will cease.” On Thursday, the day before Friday’s gate blockades, 8 activists, including 7 veterans were arrested in a earlier blockade at the heavily used eastern gate, blocking morning traffic as well. The two days of actions were part of a week-long protest at the base, culminating in a total of 25 arrests during the 2nd Annual National Mass Mobilization against Drone Warfare known as SHUT DOWN CREECH. Activists from over 20 states converged at “Camp Justice,” the peace camp directly across from Creech AFB, for daily rush hour vigils, nonviolence training workshops, and strategizing meetings to prepare for these nonviolent blockades to impede drone killing. www.ShutDownCreech.blogspot.com These activities were done to highlight the Obama administration’s drone killing program that leads to many civilian deaths and violates international law. Friday’s arrestees: Leslie Angeline Fred Bialy Toby Blomé Cynthia Papermaster Dennis DuVall Arla Ertz Rene Esplanade Ron Faust John Ford MaryKate Glenn Chris Nelson Mahai’a Oliveira Shirley Osgood Flora Rogers Tyler Schaeffer Brian Terrell Susan Witka
April 4th update: During the second annual SHUT DOWN CREECH event at Camp Justice on US Highway 95, a week of vigils and education led to 26 people getting arrested while trying to enforce a shut-down of the drone war base known as Creech at Indian Springs, Nevada. Brian Terrell is in the Clark County jail, awaiting trial for his nonviolent direct action at the gates of Creech AFB, where he, Renee Espeland, Flora Rogers used crime scene tape to close the gate. They and 23 others were arrested on April 1st. Draping crime scene tape across the Creech Air Force Base sign. Brian Terrell closing off the gate with crime scene tape.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers learning methods and techniques of healing and forgiveness. Dr. Hakim shows us the strength of relationships and how understanding, compassion and insight can bring about a peaceful world. Please click here, note: ‘Relationships can Heal Terrorism’ follows the introduction.
Frank Pauc has participated in two long walks with Voices for Creative Nonviolence in protest of drone warfare. The essay below is about an experience he had while organizing a presentation about his recent book. “Do you cause trouble when you visit the Sikh temple?” That was a question from a detective of the Oak Creek Police Department. I answered, “No”, and I told him that I often go to the temple to sit and pray. I also mentioned to the detective that I had written a letter to the editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel right after the shooting at the Sikh temple. He asked, “In your letter were you defending the white guy (the shooter)? There was an awkward pause. Then I said, “Nooooooo…in the letter I wrote that the killings had hurt our entire community.” The policeman replied, “Oh, okay, good.” At this point, you may be wondering why I was having this odd conversation with a member of the Oak Creek police force. I was wondering the same thing while I was talking with the detective. It all had to do with a book signing at the Islamic Resource Center ,a son with PTSD, and a visit to the Sikh temple. The story goes like this: A year ago I published a book about my son’s experiences in the Iraq War. Our son, Hans, came back with PTSD and deep animosity toward Muslims, and anybody who might even look Muslim. It occurred to me that Hans may not be the only veteran returning home with an intense feeling of discomfort when dealing with people who look like they might be from the Middle East. Since I know some people at the Islamic Resource Center (IRC), I asked them if I could talk about my book, and use that to start up a discussion about veterans’ issues and how they affect the Muslim community. It also occurred to me, after talking with my son, that other people, like the Sikhs, might be included in this conversation. To be honest, it is difficult for Hans (and perhaps for his fellow vets) to notice distinctions between the two religious groups. I went to the Sikh temple in Oak Creek about two weeks ago. I go there often to pray and meditate. I seldom talk to people there, but a few of them know me by sight. The last time I went there, I took along a copy of my book and a handwritten note inviting people to my upcoming book signing at the IRC. I spoke with the president of the temple, and he said that they would discuss my book at the next meeting of their council. Within a couple days, I got a call from a member of the Sikh temple, saying that a few Sikhs would be showing up at my talk. Cool. The morning before the talk, I found a note on our front door from the Oak Creek detective asking to call him. I did. He wanted to talk to me about the book signing. I invited the detective to our house to discuss the book. He arrived with a uniformed policeman, and they both sat around my kitchen table for better than half an hour. Apparently, somebody from the Sikh temple had forwarded a copy of my handwritten note to the local police, asking them to investigate me. And so they did. I spent time explaining to the detective and his sidekick about my son’s wartime experiences, and I told him about my relationship with people at the IRC and the Sikh temple. He eventually decided that I wasn’t really a white supremacist, and he wished me luck with my book signing. He did in fact check out all my statements with both the Islamic Resource Center and the Sikh temple. That’s his job. Overall, it was a friendly and relaxed interrogation. Nonetheless, it felt surreal. Was anyone in the wrong? I don’t think so. The person at the Sikh temple who wanted the cops to investigate me had good reason to be cautious. They have had violence there. The detective was just doing his job to maintain public safety. However, I feel profoundly sad. This whole episode demonstrates to me that our society has utterly lost any sense of trust. I was trying to bring divergent groups together to discuss what I considered to be a common problem. I wasn’t out to protest and savage anybody. My hope was that, through the book talk, I could create peace. However, the fear that currently overwhelms our nation caused me to be the object of a police investigation. What have we become? What does this mean to the Christian community? As Christians, we ought to give others the benefit of the doubt. We can’t assume, without any evidence, that others are our enemies. Yet that is what we do on a daily basis. How many of us hate and fear Muslims, without ever having met one? Do any of us fear Sikhs? Are we content to stay within our tribe, and never bother to meet somebody who looks different or talks different? This particular story ends well. I had a good turn out at the book talk. It was an eclectic group. There were several Muslims, two Sikhs, a few Catholics, an employee from the VA, and a Buddhist. We had a dialogue that was civil, animated, and quite interesting. People left the meeting with new thoughts, and a couple of my books. We don’t have to live in fear. We can reach out. We can see Christ in those around us. It can be done. Francis (Frank) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He served as an officer for six years after receiving his commission, five of those as a helicopter pilot. After he met his wife in Germany, he had a gradual change of heart about the military that led him to become a pacifist.