Saturday, October 12, 2002 Meeting Notes
Check-in : a few scattered notes on remarks by those present, which
were dominated by reflections on the Oct. 7 vigil and the vote by
Congress in favor of the war resolution.
- Elaine said she believes that our efforts are needed now more than ever, and that we need to understand that we're in this struggle for the long haul.
- Carl was glad to be back after some time away from the group; he felt optimistic because there is a significant antiwar movement even before the war begins in earnest. We should continue our efforts.
- Cathy was glad to be back to report on the Iraq teach-in UW Tacoma is organizing.
- Benjie had a busy week of studies in his graduate program at UW Tacoma.
- Mark attended the SNOW meeting in Seattle on Tuesday and also the candlelight procession in the streets of Seattle on Wednesday night.
- Marion saw our vigil reported on the 9:00 p.m. KOMO news broadcast; she described how helpful Sgt. Kelly was on Monday night.
- Colleen was back from a trip to the East Coast and Canada's maritime provinces. She was moved this week by Jimmy Carter's receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
- Vivi reported on the vigil on Tuesday and Friday evening.
- Marge found Monday's vigil a heartening boost; her favorite mental picture of that evening was of a grandfather who was carrying his very young grandson in his arms with a sign that said: "No Hitting."
- Ken said the question of the day is whether the glass is half full or half empty; having finished a sermon on domestic violence to be delivered on Sunday, he said it seemed to him that the current international situation was the scenario of domestic violence writ large: the use of violence for dominion.
- Amy said it is important for the peace movement to offer options, and that our real tool is the use of our consumer dollar.
- Karen found aspects of the conclusion of our Monday vigil disturbing, and felt heartbroken on Thursday, "a horrible day."
- Dorothy, wearing a black armband today, said she thought our vigil, where she saw many old friends, was great. She reported on reading a book entitled The Long Walk, whose author sees parallels between our current situation and what occurred in Germany in the 1930s. She observed that people tend not to change until there is enough pain.
1. Medea Benjamin Cancellation. Marion reported that Medea Benjamin had been obliged to cancel her appearance here in Tacoma on Oct. 25 because of her commitment to antiwar activities in Washington, D.C. on that weekend. Ken and Colleen promised to be present on the UPS campus on that evening to explain what had happened to people who fail to learn of the cancellation.
2. Iraq Teach-In at the Rialto on Oct. 23. UW Tacoma faculty, staff, and students are organizing a teach-in on Iraq on Oct. 23 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Rialto, which they have been given permission to use for free. PPJH agreed to co-sponsor the event and to help in publicizing the event. The event is still in the early stages of planning. So far a retired admiral (Tom Donnelly) and a Vietnam veteran have agreed to speak. Suggestions are welcome -- contact Rob Crawford at UWT.
3. Julio Quan. On Saturday, Oct. 26, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., PPJH will sponsor a workshop with Julio Quan that will focus on the functioning of our group. Julio Quan is an international peacemaker born in Guatemala, widely known for his work in Central American and Eastern Europe. Colleen will contact him to verify that he will be coming, and then prepare a message requesting commitments to attending the workshop. We hope to have about thirty people in attendance. Ken said he sees this as the ideal time for this workshop, as we examine how to extend PPJH's work into a long-term commitment to the projects that members feel passionately about.
4. Daily Vigil. The group decided to hold daily peace vigils from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Federal Courthouse for another week, and probably beyond. Please commit to coming to these vigils as often as possible. BRING SIGNS FOR YOURSELF AND FOR OTHERS IF POSSIBLE. Marion circulated a draft of a flyer announcing the daily vigil which will be used to publicize this activity.
5. Fort Lewis Letter. The group endorsed this letter prepared by Mark addressed to the commanding general of Fort Lewis:
People for Peace, Justice, and Healing
c/o Associated Ministries
1224 South "I" Street
Tacoma, WA 98405
October 12, 2002
Army Lieutenant General Edward Soriano
Commanding General, I Corps and Fort Lewis
Fort Lewis, WA 98433
Dear General Soriano:
We are sorry to have to write to you about an incident that took place in Tacoma on Monday, October 7.
We are addressing ourselves to you because under our Constitution, the president of the United States is "commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States," and is thus your commander in chief. In becoming president, he took the following oath: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." We therefore believe that it is an important part of your mission to help him fulfill this solemn duty.
Since 1791, the Constitution's Bill of Rights has guaranteed certain rights to the citizens of this country. Among them is the first amendment "right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
People for Peace, Justice, and Healing is a Tacoma civic group devoted to encouraging people to speak together about ways to understand better the paths that lead to peace, justice, and healing for the United States and for the world. On Monday, October 7, we were in the process of exercising our right peaceably to assemble outside the Federal Courthouse in Tacoma for the purposes of commemorating the loss of innocent life during the campaign in Afghanistan during the past year. The president himself said, on July 6, 2002: "I can say to the Afghan people exactly what I told to Chairman Karzai: Any time innocent life is lost, we're sad. . . . Our country values life, all life. And we'll find out what the facts are and then address it."
Despite our clear right to act as we did, and despite the evident propriety of our concerns, it seems that a number of soldiers under your command at Fort Lewis who learned of the event on the television news decided to come to downtown Tacoma with the purpose of harassing us. They were dressed as civilians, and we certainly do not contest their right to be there. But their conduct was unbecoming. They stood together in a group, aggressively chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" Since we had planned to close the event with a moment of silence commemorating the innocent dead, one of our members approached the group of about a dozen young men in a conciliatory manner to request that they respect this silence, only to receive this answer: "Fuck, no!" As the event drew to a close and as darkness started to fall, this group of young men, which had at first kept at a distance, moved closer and formed a rather menacing line that, for a few moments, faced off opposite a group of young people on the opposite side of the street, blocking the painted crosswalk that people were trying to use to leave the event. The tension in the atmosphere was palpable. Fortunately, the peacekeepers our group had designated were able to defuse the situation by persuading people not to respond to the provocative behavior with which we were confronted. In the end, there was no violence, but the situation might have turned out differently. Many of those present were disturbed by what had happened. Some feared for their own safety.
Almost as disturbing as the behavior of these young soldiers is the fact that they seemed utterly ignorant of the impropriety of their behavior. Sworn to defend the "blessings of liberty" that U.S. citizens enjoy as their birthright under our Constitution, it is not too much to say that in this instance they acted to repress them. The young men did not hesitate to identify themselves as soldiers from Fort Lewis to the police and to a reporter from the Tacoma News Tribune, who reported on what happened in an October 8 front-page article. One of the soldiers was quoted in the paper as shouting: "You don't love America! You don't belong in America!" Another told the reporter: "It's like a total slap in the face for all the soldiers who have already gone overseas to fight and defend this country. It's a slap in the face to say, 'We're sorry you're dead, but we don't agree with the reason you died. We don't appreciate you trying to save us.'"
These are not, of course, our sentiments. It is certainly the case that most members of our group have a high regard for the vocation of the military, and profound appreciation for the readiness of those serving in the military to put their lives on the line in our defense. A number of us come from military families ourselves, so we fully grasp the nature of their commitment. Also, many members of the military who are our friends have expressed to us their deep regret about this incident and their support of our right peaceably to assemble without fear of harassment from military personnel. But these facts are beside the point. Regardless of the sentiments of those involved, citizens of this country are free to express their views and free peaceably to assemble. This is one of the essential freedoms upon which this nation is founded. We need not remind you that thousands of American soldiers have died during the past two centuries believing that they were defending these freedoms.
We would like to emphasize that we are certainly NOT interested in seeing any disciplinary proceedings instituted against these young men, and will even be more upset should we learn that this has occurred. Rather we believe that the blame for this incident should be assigned to those who prepared them as military personnel. For this reason, we are writing to you, as commanding general of I Corps and Fort Lewis, to request a clarification, in writing, on the training that your military personnel receive with regard to the importance of respecting the freedoms guaranteed to the citizens of the nation that they have enlisted to protect. We would also appreciate reassurance about your own views on these matters. Members of our group would be happy to meet personally with you to discuss these things further, should you deem that appropriate.
Like you, we have a deep and abiding love for this country and its traditions. As we are all people of good will, we feel confident that we can reach a clearer understanding of our mutual regard and respect for one another, and in the future avoid incidents like the one that occurred in Tacoma on October 7.
Very sincerely yours,
Mark K. Jensen
Benjamin A. Peters
Elaine Edgar Nevins
All thirteen members present at the end of the meeting signed the letter, which calls attention to the impropriety of the behavior of military personnel at the vigil on Monday evening and requests assurances that measures to ensure that the rights of U.S. citizens are respected. It will be sent to Lt. Gen. Soriano, and copies will be sent to local newspapers.
6. Phone Tree. Mark reported that about 170 people had given their phone numbers to be used in the construction of a phone tree, which will be organized by Marilyn. The tree should be operational before the end of the next week. ANNOUNCEMENTS
The meeting ended at 12:08 p.m.