In the nation's Capitol, resistance disrupted lawmakers and police disrupted peaceful antiwar protests.
When War Secretary Rumsfeld finally took a seat before the House Armed Services Committee on September 18, he wasn't the only voice heard. Three people were removed from the room for anti-war heckling and interrogated by security services before being released without charges.
Opponents of corporate globalization were gathering at the end of September to protest at the annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. On Friday morning, September 27, their march through city streets behind the banner "Globalization, Not Devastation" raised a strong anti-war voice as well, and became the target for what police called "proactive" tactics for containing mass demonstrations. Police lines met the march, forcing it to turn towards more police lines, and then cornered marchers, legal observers and media against the large windows of a CitiBank branch office.
A window was broken (whether by police provocateur or masked activist has not been settled), providing cover for mass arrests of the corralled marchers and anyone else in the trap. Over 100 people were arrested and taken away by police. The remnant of free marchers grew as more people arrived, and proceeded on towards Pershing Park and the permitted rally at Freedom Plaza, just beyond. Once again, police closed off all exits, and swept through Pershing Park, arresting hundreds more people, including tourists, passers-by, Canadian and major U.S. media journalists, indymedia reporters and legal observers.
Legal support reported 649 people were arrested Friday between the two sweeps. Most were held until late that night or the next day before being released, nearly all cited for misdemeanor failure to obey or parading without a permit. Three women were held for one week in jail, then their charges were dismissed. For those who did not pay a fine, various court dates run into the new year, but so far all who come to court have had their charges dismissed.
On October 2, as President Bush met with Congressional leaders at the White House and anti-war voices rang outside, Diane Wilson, one of the women arrested when Rumsfeld testified, was arrested placing a banner on the White House fence. She was charged with trespass and released, and also barred from within three blocks of the White House. Wilson's court date is November 19.
Back on the Hill that day, Medea Benjamin, director of Global Exchange and another of the women arrested when Rumsfeld testified, disrupted mark-up of the war resolution in the International Relations Committee. Benjamin was again removed from the committee room for speaking out against the whole idea of Congress considering Bush's war. This time Benjamin was charged with disrupting Congress, held overnight in jail, and barred from within three blocks of the Capitol. She returns to court November 12.
As Congressional debate stretched into the evening of October 9, hundreds gathered on Constitution Avenue about 5 p.m. and marched noisily towards the Capitol. They wanted to bring the voice of opposition into the floor debate, but police denied them entry. A dozen people then blocked the road to obstruct what they could of the Bush railroad to war. Police hauled them away on a charge of simply incommoding, despite their intent to "disrupt Congress" over its failure to reflect the demonstrated will of the people to avoid the proposed war of aggression.
After the arrests, when the demonstration regrouped in Upper Senate Park, police demanded that the loudspeakers be turned away from the Capitol. A rally organizer took up the matter with police, who relented. The loudspeakers were again turned towards Congress.
Those arrested were jailed for 22 hours, until after the House had approved the war resolution. Four paid a $50 fine, eight others return to court on November 6.
For more information, contact the D.C. Justice & Solidarity Collective, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Global Exchange at (415)235-6517.
On Columbus Day, October 14, Catholic Worker Gary Ashbeck went to witness the Knights of Columbus commemorative event at the explorer's statue in Columbus Circle. His curiosity was piqued on the previous Saturday, when a counter-Columbus demonstration he attended at the same place sparked a conflict with Knights rehearsing for the Monday event.
"Monday, after hearing what wonderful things our country was doing for security and what a wonderful man Columbus was, I felt I could no longer remain silent. I walked up to the podium during a lull and sang "Vine and Fig Tree" based on the prophesy in the bible. "...every one beneath their vine and fig tree shall live in peace and not afraid... and into plowshares turn their swords, nations shall learn war no more..." I substituted "your" for "their" since these Catholics were armed with swords. I then stated that the Vatican has just opposed war in Iraq. Hurrah for the Vatican. That part seemed to upset them because at that point, in front of live C-SPAN cameras I was apprehended by one of the knights. In a very biblical manner I was then handed over to the authorities to face Pilate on November 25.
"So despite the more argumentative Saturday where there were no arrests, a peaceful song resulted in my arrest, on disorderly conduct, because I disagreed with this group of Catholics' message."