by Art Laffin
On December 28th, 50 people from the Atlantic and Southern Life Communities held a nonviolent witness at the Pentagon to commemorate the feast of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents. The noon-time witness began with a procession in which participants carried banners and signs from Army-Navy Drive to the police designated “protest” area located near the Pentagon south metro entrance. Recently, the Pentagon Police, citing security concerns, moved our vigil site down the sidewalk, away from the metro entrance and in the direction of the south parking lot.
Upon our arrival, we encountered a sizeable police presence who directed everyone to go into the fenced off designated protest area. Seven did not comply and remained along the building side of the sidewalk, directly across from the designated protest area, and held a large banner that said “Wage Peace–Practice Nonviolence.” I also held a sign which said “The U.S. Bombing of A Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan is A War Crime–U.S. Out of Afghanistan Now!” Unlike some recent Pentagon action arrests, police moved to arrest very quickly, taking only a few minutes. Joe Byrne led us in singing two verses of the “Coventry Carol” as the first and second arrest warnings were given. As police gave a final warning to leave, Patrick O’Neill then led us in the “Lord’s Prayer,” at which point, we were all arrested. I was able to offer an abbreviated version of the song “A Voice Is Heard In Ramah,” as I was being taken into custody.
As the police were moving in to make arrests, the community gathered in the designated protest area began the program part of the witness which lasted nearly an hour. During this time, a statement regarding who we are and the purpose for our action was made, the Gospel account of the massacre of the Holy Innocents was read, an excerpt from an Allen Ginsberg poem was shared, and songs and New Year’s Resolutions for a nonviolent world were offered. Please see below the statement and some of the New Year’s Resolutions that were offered. Also please see photos and short video clip (click here) taken by our wonderful stealth photographer!
The seven of us who were arrested were taken to the Pentagon Police Center, which once upon a time served as a day care center, and charged with “Violation of Lawful Order.” All were released and are scheduled to appear for a February 4, 2016 court date at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA.
In Matthew’s account, magi from the east go to Judea in search of the newborn king of the Jews, having “seen his star in the east.” The King, Herod the Great, directs them to Bethlehem, and asks them to let him know who this king is when they find him. They find Jesus and honor him, but an angel tells them not to alert Herod, and they return home by another way. The Massacre of the Innocents text is Matthew 2:16–18, although the preceding verses form the context:
When the Magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old or under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Statement and New Year’s Resolutions
THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS IS MAGNIFIED
Today, Christian churches commemorate the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, recalling how Herod, as he sought to destroy the child Jesus, ordered the slaughter of boys under two years old in and around Bethlehem. Today, the lives of countless innocents, like those in Bethlehem, are endangered. Every hour of every day, the United States military magnifies destruction across the globe. From overt wars to covert “dirty wars,” lives are destroyed, millions of families are torn apart, people are disappeared. On October 3, 2015, the U.S. bombed a Doctors Without Border Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 42 people and injuring 30. A survivor of the attack described how patients in the hospital were literally burning to death in their intensive care unit beds.
Every second of every minute, the world’s addiction to oil, natural gas and nuclear power is the cause of environmental contamination that is threatening global devastation. The unrelenting violence of the U.S. power structure continues to crush the poor and target people of color. Fear and violence are pervasive everywhere. And always, the existence of nuclear weapons puts all life in utter peril. We respond to these and other horrors with a resounding “No!” This is a time when we call for transformation and resolve to magnify God’s creation with joy. We, members of the Atlantic and Southern Life Communities and other peace groups, invite you to join us in making the following New Year’s Resolutions a reality as we strive to create the beloved community and a nonviolent world.
New Year’s Resolutions for 2016
Abolish All Nuclear and Conventional Weapons Now!
Halt All Research of Nuclear Weapons Now!
Stop the U.S. Militarization of Space Now!
Pursue Climate Justice Now!
Abolish War Now!
Repent for 24 Years of U.S. Warmaking in Iraq and Make Reparations to the Iraqi People Now!
Repent for 14 Years of U.S. Warmaking in Afghanistan and Make Reparations to the Afghan People Now!
Make Peace with the Islamic State and Stop Bombing Them Now!
Stop All U.S. Drone Attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Make Reparations to All Victims of U.S. Drone Strikes Now!
End Islamophobia Now!
Close All U.S. Military Bases, including on Jeju Island and Okinawa Now!
End the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and All U.S. Military Aid to Israel Now!
Close Guantanamo, the SOA/WHINSEC and All Military Torture Centers Now!
Free All Political Prisoners Now!
Tear Down the Border Wall and Welcome Immigrants Now!
Save the World’s Children Dying From Poverty Now!
Eradicate Poverty Now!
End Racism and All Forms of Discrimination Now!
That the U.S. Government Honor All Treaties With Indigenous Peoples and Make Reparations to Them Now!
Money for Human Needs Not for Wall Street and the Pentagon Now!
Abolish The Death Penalty Now!
Stop All Police and Vigilante Violence Against African Americans Now!
Money for Schools Not the Prison Industrial Complex Now!
Demand Universal Health Care and Affordable Housing Now!
Respect All Life and Creation Now!
Live, Practice, and Teach Nonviolence Now!