October 7 marked the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. While most of Australia has been trying to forget about this war which has claimed 28 Australian and tens of thousands of Afghan lives, some of us felt moved enough to go to the place where many, if not most, Australian troops deploy to fight what is called the war on terror (really, the war of terror).
About 25 folks gathered at the main gate of Brisbane’s Enoggera Army Base at 2.30 p.m. We planted white crosses with the names of the dead, both Australian and Afghan. We held placards with various messages, such as “Bring the Troops Home” and “War is Terror”, and placed a ten meter banner reading “In the Name of God, Stop the Wars” on the side fence.
We sang songs of peace and justice and prayed prayers of pleading, repentance and hope. We wove streamers into the chainmesh fence. The streamers were of a special blue colour, the colour used by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. Of all those in Afghanistan struggling for ‘Freedom”, “Peace”, “Justice”, “stability” –from the Taliban to the Warlords, to the politicians, to the Afghan military, to the UN to the US and Aussie soldiers, only this young group of Afghanis, many only children, give us hope and inspiration. Share the hope. (See their website, ourjourneytosmile.com)
A number of us had conversations with the soldier (in plain clothes) assigned to take photos and monitor us. He was keen to talk and there were varying opinions of the sincerity of this. While I am often quite cynical of such interaction, I liked him and was happy to take his interest seriously. He said he thought the crosses were a good idea and he actually knew one of the soldiers named. At another time he said most soldiers thought we were attacking them personally, despite our efforts to show otherwise. (Of course, this raises many the perennial questions around speaking the truth /guilt/ personal responsibility/ collective responsibility. Staying silent is the easy, but unhelpful option.) He seemed happy to get the DVD of Collateralmurder and Ground Truth I gave him.
After half hour of prayer and song, a group of us picked up the large banner, and walked onto the road to block a small part of the war- the entrance to the Enoggera base. Five of us also carried pictures of Afghan children killed or traumatised by “our” side’s bombing and shooting. We also each wore a scarf of the same blue colour mentioned, while I carried a placard with www.collateralmurder.com, directing folks to the video that exposed the US policy of killing unarmed civilians, and put Bradley Manning behind bars for telling the truth. The five of us knelt in front of the banner armed with our weapons of truth, and prayed.
From the footpath, Geoff and Emily read the names of the dead, and we all prayed “Lord have Mercy” as each name was read. Others handed out leaflets and engaged police (who I forgot to mention were there in large numbers), and public. Emily B. was very impressive in her determination to disarm (not literally of course) police and get them to wear little blue ribbons. I think the former may have been achieved, but she had to settle for their blue uniforms being close enough to the right colour.
The police soon came and asked us to move. We all declined in our own way, and the police moved away. Other police kindly directed all traffic away from the base (I must confess, though, undoubtedly be to the rear entrance), and we kept the main entrance closed for over half an hour.
Afterwards the Public Safety Response Team (the scary ones –well, not really- in dark blue overalls) moved in and arrested us, placing the men in a police van, and Christel in a police car.
From there it was a 20 minute journey to the watch house and a four hour wait with intermittent short processing duties, like removing your shoes (two folks actually had them!), and cutting off crosses from around necks, fingerprinting, photographing and health details gathering. Some police (well, one anyhow) were friendly, chatting and offering advice. Christel was her usual chirpy self even singing loudly in her cell. I stayed quiet. Culley was gently berated by the huge watch house Sergeant, for doing the wrong thing, Andy provided great amusement as police searched his dreads, and with his very honest answers to questions such as “employment?”- ‘I’m a bum’ “How do you eat?” –‘Oh there’s plenty of free food around.’ I wish I had your life was one police response. Sean was happy to discuss the real issues but not keen to give any information more than name rank and serial number. Andy was also given an extra charge relating to his antiwar actions in Rocky way back in July. When he had been arrested for being on Shoalwater Bay base they found a camera memory card on him with photos of the road and vehicles. Apparently it is a crime to possess such photos, not only if your name is Bradley Manning.
At 9pm we got back our shoes, crosses, and bits of paper with court dates. We also got directions on how to follow the yellow lines to the exit door and freedom. We walked the few kms back to West End to have a few laughs and beers, before heading to our homes (or squats!) to bed.
War is Futile!
Resistance is Fertile!
Say NO to War! Join the resistance!
8th October 2011