Miracle at Ash Wednesday arrest
Peace making is slow and difficult work. It is literally achieved “piece by piece,” or “one heart at a time” as a police officer said to me as we debriefed about the Saratoga Peace Alliance's witness at the January gun show in Saratoga Springs.
I began my Lenten season of repentance and reflection on Ash Wednesday with several people from the Catholic Worker movement and some other Christian peace makers witnessing against murder by drone; the murder of innocent civilians (and the vicious cycle of death making this begets: the recruitment of people who want to murder in retaliation) in Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc. with our tax dollars, in our names.
We stood out in front of Hancock Air Force Base in East Syracuse, N.Y. (where the drones are flown from) with photographs of children killed by our drone attacks and signs imploring for this madness to cease. We prayed and with the ashes we brought to symbolize the day -– Fr. Bill Pickard from Pennsylvania anointed us.
It was not long before the local constabulary was on the scene in full force -– so quickly in fact that we surmised the soldiers in the guard station at the entrance to the base must have called them as soon as they saw the cars pull up.
Part of our intent was to deliver an indictment of the base commander for murder written by members of the group and fine tuned by Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney General under the Johnson administration.
Ellen Grady and I were stopped in the process of delivering the indictment (which we had all signed by the way) to the guard station by an officer from the DeWitt township –- the municipality whose constabulary have jurisdiction in the area. We began a discussion about why we were there. The murder, the waste of national resources. The officer replied that he did not necessarily disagree with us, he spent 20 years in the military, he's a husband and a father but that we were going about it in the wrong way –- getting arrested did solve anything. We should be in Washington, D.C., making our case.
He clearly indicated that he really did not want to arrest us, but was going to have to. It was evident to me that he was uncomfortable with this prospect.
Ellen was more spirited in her interaction –- while I took more of a quiet, humble approach. I asked if he saw the photographs of the children and he got quiet. I told him that I come from a family with four generations of veterans who were told they were risking their lives to protect our freedoms and now we have a president who claims he assassinates people as he pleases. No due process, no evidence.
“This is not what you or my family risked their lives for,” I said to him. “If those were your children, I would be out here for them too.”
I went on to say that when the government does not follow the rule of law, it disparages the work that he does everyday, putting his life on the line to keep the community safe. And, I told him that getting arrested does make a difference and pointed out the Freedom Riders of the 1960's and people in the streets during the Viet Nam War –- getting arrested made a difference then -– it changed things for the better.
“You and I both know that we no longer have a voice in Washington," I went on. “We have signed petitions, we have written letters, we have lobbied in congressional offices until we are blue in the face.” Basically telling him that government listens to corporations, not to “the people.”
“This is what is left to us.”, I lamented.
“It is OK if you arrest us; we do not see you as the enemy. We are here for you too,” I assured him.
With that, he took the indictment and delivered it to the guard station before the arrests began.