Invasion anniversary actions, Manning solidarity action lead to arrests

Veterans at the White House fence, March 19, 2011. Photo copyright Bill Hughes.

Following are reports from Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community in Washington, D.C., about the veteran-led protest and arrests there on March 19, the eighth anniversary of the U.S. occupation of  Iraq; from Military Families Speak Out about anti-war arrests in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood that same day; and from about the following day’s demonstration outside the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia, where alleged whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning is being held in solitary confinement.

Dear Friends,

As nuclear poison continues to radiate Japan and elsewhere, as U.S. cruise missiles rain down on the people of Libya, as we marked the eighth year of the U.S. invasion of Iraq this past weekend, peacemakers in Washington and beyond gathered to say Yes to Life, Love and Peace.

At noon on March 19, the Stop These Wars coalition, led by Veterans for Peace, sponsored a rally and protest at the White House that was attended by over 1,500 people calling for an end to U.S. warmaking in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya, and the release of truth-telling whistle-blower Pfc. Bradley Manning.  One hundred and thirteen people, including many veterans and yours truly, were arrested in the “picture post-card zone” in front of the White House as we made yet another appeal on behalf of the victims to end our government’s criminal and sinful warmaking and to instead spend the nearly $1 trillion currently allocated for war and national security on meeting urgent human needs. I held two signs as I was arrested–one said: “We Repent for the Sins of U.S. Warmaking in Iraq and Afghanistan,” and the other sign had the name of Shahidullah, Son of Rahman,  a 7-year-old boy who was among the nine boys killed in Afghanistan on March 1 by a U.S. helicopter gunship as they gathered firewood. We were all charged with failure to obey a lawful order and given court dates of April 12 and April 14.

On Sunday afternoon, Ellen Thomas and friends organized a peace gathering in Lafayette Park honoring the late William Thomas on his birthday. Thomas, who was later joined by Conception and his partner, Ellen, began the daily anti-nuclear vigil across from the White House. Conception and other friends continue maintain this most remarkable witness for peace, now in its 30th year.

This morning at our weekly Catholic Worker vigil at the Pentagon, we prayed for the victims in Japan and Libya, and for all victims of U.S. warmaking. I prayed, too, that we, and all of God’s people, can live out the call of Jesus in today’s Gospel from Luke: “Be merciful as God is merciful,” and “Forgive and you will be forgiven…For the measure with which you measure will in return be measure out to you.” (Lk. 6: 36-38).

During these days of Lent, let us pray for each other and for our world, that we can be about the work of true repentance and conversion as we seek to do our part to help create the Beloved Community and a nonviolent world!

With love and gratitude,


Eleven military family members arrested today at Hollywood’s famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

By Military Families Speak Out

Eleven military family members and veterans were arrested for civil trespass March 19 in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, where they staged a sit-in on the 8th anniversary of the occupation of Iraq. They brought with them the photographs and boots of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. The family members brought a block of wet cement with them. As they sat among the hand and footprints of Hollywood legends, they pressed the foot prints of an empty pair of combat boots into the cement, signing the footprints ‘Forgotten Dead’ as the legends do when they get their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Purple Heart veteran Ed Garza wrote “5,945 & 1.5 million Iraqis and Afghanis. The Forgotten Dead.” The family members managed to close the area to tourists for over an hour while the police made arrests.

Tourists stopped and took pictures as though this were part of a Hollywood skit, but soon realized that protestors were making a strong, heartfelt statement.

“We had to do this,” said Pat Alviso, mother of a Marine who is currently on his fourth deployment and currently in Afghanistan. “We have done everything we can think of to let our Representative and the President know that we want our troops home now. We want them to know we are serious about this and not going to stop until they are all home.”

Also arrested was Laurie Loving, who commented, “My son enlisted 8 years ago and I can’t believe we are still trying to bring our loved ones home. Closing down Grauman’s Chinese Theater was a minor inconvenience when compared to the horrors our families are experiencing every day.”

Dede Miller, another protester who was arrested in front of the theater added, “What we as military families did today was important. If citizens do not step out of our comfort zones and put it all on the line as we did today, then they too will suffer the heartache we military families and veterans suffer on a daily basis.”

Lisa Blank attended the protest with her daughter Alanna. “War affects families and I was happy to march today with my daughter as she participated in her first march and action.  We teach our children to trust their hearts when making moral decisions and follow their conscience. That is what we are doing here today.”

Protesters Arrested at Quantico Marine Base at Rally for Bradley Manning


Three hundred and fifty activists rallied and marched, and 31 were arrested at the U.S. Marine Base at Quantico, Virginia March 20, demanding freedom for PVC Bradley Manning.  He is accused of leaking secret U.S. government documents to the WikiLeaks website. Manning has been held in solitary confinement for nine months; recently, even his underwear has been taken away at night because authorities claim he might hurt himself. He presents himself outside his cell for inspection each morning unclothed.

Click here for the complete story in pictures.

The demonstrators, including many U.S. military veterans, wanted to put flowers on a replica of the Iwo Jima memorial that sits outside the entrance to the base, but the base authorities closed access to the statue, which is normally open to the public. A deal had been negotiated to allow six of the demonstrators, accompanied by a videographer and a photographer, to lay flowers on the memorial, but they weren’t even allowed to go up to the statue. Instead, they had to throw the flowers over a barrier about 10 feet away. The rest of the demonstrators were enclosed in a pen across the road from the site. After the flowers were left, three of the six–Dan Ellsberg, Elaine Brower, and Ret. Col. Ann Wright–sat in the middle of Route 1 and were soon joined by other demonstrators, who broke out of the barricades.

The Virginia State Police handled some of the protesters quite roughly, including pulling people to their feet by their heads and necks and pushing standing protesters on top of those sitting next to them.

Some nine different police agencies were on hand to deal with the nonviolent protest, including military police, Prince County Mounted Police, Quantico town police, and Washington, D.C., Metropolitan police.  Those arrested were processed through the night, and all were released by 6:30 a.m. Monday with various dates to return to court.