Last Monday, there was a small antiwar demonstration in front of the Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue.
It included a piece of street theatre "judging" Congressswoman Nancy Pelosi and two hours later there was to be a "die-in" and civil disobedience arrests.
Like most of these cameramen, I didn't feel like standing around for two hours of mediocre street theatre before the handcuff action arrived, so I left pretty quickly.
On the way to the public library, I ran into Markley (pictured above), the Quaker organizer of the Thursday peace vigils in front of the Fed Building. He was on his way to the demo and was one of the people who were determined to be arrested in protest of Pelosi's stand on the Iraq war. Later in the week, I asked him for an account of the afternoon, and the following is his response.
"It was a good rally. We tried Nancy Pelosi in absentia - the testimony against her made for some rousing speeches. To nobody's surprise and a great deal of cheering she was found guilty."
"Then some of us approached the doors of the federal building, intent on committing civil disobedience. To my delight, we were let in. We had to show i.d. and go through the metal detector - but these days everybody has to do that.
Once inside, we stood around in the lobby, chatting. There were more marshals than demonstrators but nobody bothered us."
"At the planning meeting the night before we had decided that our civil disobedience would take the form of a "die in." We also decided that only a few people would go into the building. The rest would "die" outside - to give us greater media visibility since cameras are not allowed in the federal building (another rule not just for protesters but for everybody). This turned out to be moot, as there wasn't any tv or newspaper coverage of the civil disobedience at all - at least none I'm aware of. (Thus this is a scoop!)"
"Finally we were gathered. We decided to block the elevators. We lay down. A few of us had sheets to use as shrouds. Simultaneously the outsiders blocked the plaza doors.
It felt great, lying on the cool clean marble. Somebody started singing, "Ain't Gonna Study War No More." Somebody played a harmonica. I was amazed how easy it is to sing lying on your back. In that big space our voices rang out."
"A marshal read the statute we were charged with violating four times and ordered us to disperse. He said that those arrested by S.F. police outside would face lighter penalties and be released more quickly. I was dubious about that but both assertions turned out to be true. A couple of people left our group to join the others."
"I wasn't tempted to go outdoors because after all my beef is with the federal government and, even if it's not Nancy Pelosi herself, it's the feds I want to confront."
"One by one we were placed under arrest. Our hands were cuffed behind us and we were escorted 100 feet or so to a holding area. The plastic cuffs were cut off. Each demonstrator was photographed with a marshal. Mine was a tall and attractive young man, pleasant enough but unwilling to look me in the eye. Nobody in our group non-cooperated. We were courteous and so were the marshals."
"Seventeen of us were arrested inside. We agreed among ourselves not to pay the $125 fine so we will go to court - unless the charges are dismissed, which is likely."
"A slightly larger group was detained outdoors. I believe they were released without charges and, as promised, before us."
"But we were federal prisoners for less than an hour so it wasn't a big investment of time. Indeed, it was brief enough that I was able to get home using the Muni transfer I got coming."
"Friends and supporters from the National Lawyer's Guild were waiting on the plaza to give us hugs."
"Did our little civil disobedience accomplish anything? I don't want to claim too much. It's easy enough to dismiss - but I can tell you I found it enormously worth doing. I came out of the federal building refreshed, more determined than ever to work to end the insanity of war."
For those who are wondering why on earth leftist antiwar protestors would be making such a stink about the eminent Democratic congresswoman who is supposedly a rabid "liberal," there's a speech you ought to read that she delivered on May 24th of this year to AIPAC, the powerful Americans for Israel lobbying group which is currently under investigation for stealing state secrets. Click here to get to the "Common Dreams" website where there is a reprint of the entire speech along with an analysis by Mark Gaffney.
The speech pretty much gives the game away concerning why Democrats haven't been more forceful anti-Iraq-war advocates, the reason being that they are PRO-Iraq-war and are itching to get into Iran too. Here's the finale of Pelosi's speech:
"There are those who contend that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all about Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is absolute nonsense. In truth, the history of the conflict is not over occupation, and never has been: it is over the fundamental right of Israel to exist.
"The greatest threat to Israel's right to exist, with the prospect of devastating violence, now comes from Iran. For too long, leaders of both political parties in the United States have not done nearly enough to confront the Russians and the Chinese, who have supplied Iran as it has plowed ahead with its nuclear and missile technology.
"Proliferation represents a clear threat to Israel and to America. It must be confronted by an international coalition against proliferation, with a commitment and a coalition every bit as strong as our commitment to the war against terror."
"The people of Israel long for peace and are willing to make the sacrifices to achieve it. We hope that peace and security come soon - and that this moment of opportunity is not lost. As Israel continues to take risks for peace, she will have no friend more steadfast that the United States.
In the words of Isaiah, we will make ourselves to Israel 'as hiding places from the winds and shelters from the tempests; as rivers of water in dry places; as shadows of a great rock in a weary land.'
The United States will stand with Israel now and forever. Now and forever."