Four arrests at Good Friday witness at Pentagon

Photo by Lin Romano

by Art Laffin

From Holy Thursday afternoon to Good Friday afternoon, some 20 friends gathered in Washington, D.C. for a Faith and Resistance retreat and public witness that was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and held at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church. Those who participated in the retreat/witness included members of Jonah House, the Atlantic Life Community and students from Loras College from Iowa. The theme of the retreat was: “Standing With the Crucified–Stop Crucifixion Today.” Holy Thursday was a day of reflection, sharing, action planning and Liturgy. Good Friday was a day of public witness.

The retreat began with a very rich and inspiring communal Gospel sharing about crucifixion narrative from the Gospel of John and its meaning for today. This was followed by a planning session for the Good Friday Pentagon and White House actions.  After dinner, we heard from Fr. Pat Cunningham, an Irish Columban priest and remarkable peacemaker, who has been based in South Korea for the last 22 years. I befriended Pat when I visited Jeju Island, South Korea in 2014. He gave an excellent overview of the inspiring nine year nonviolent resistance campaign to the new U.S.-backed naval base on Jeju Island which continues daily. Joined by a dozen other friends from our extended community, we then viewed the compelling film “Theologians Under Hitler”.  Producer Steve Martin led an animated Q & A session. Following this presentation was a moving Liturgy and foot-washing that was led by Fr. Pat and Loras students.

On Good Friday, a nonviolent public witness was held at the Pentagon. At 7:00 a.m. the community processed from Army-Navy Dr. to the police designated protest zone with signs and small crosses with the names of different victims in our society and world written on them. During the procession the Loras students led us in singing “May I Be An Instrument Of Peace.”  As hundreds of Pentagon employees streamed into work and numerous police were on hand, four of our community remained on the Pentagon sidewalk (where we are subject to arrest) and processed toward the building holding signs: “For the Children – Stop all Warring,” “Our Prayer—A Disarmed World,”  “We Will Not Raise Our Children To Kill,” and “Mother of All Bombed—Forgive US.” They were not initially stopped by police and they were able to proceed halfway down the sidewalk before they were arrested. 

Simultaneously,  the rest of the community proceeded into the designated “protest zone.” A huge banner that said “U.S. Empire Crucifies Humanity” was displayed on the grassy slope overlooking the sidewalk going into the Pentagon metro entrance. Six retreatants, dressed in a black robes representing victims of U.S. warmaking and torture,  each took turns standing on a crate, with arms outstretched on a large cross. Reflections were read about each of the victims, the last one being “Afghanistan War Victim.” At this time we decried the sinful and criminal U.S. use of the GBU-43/B Ordinance Air Blast bomb on Holy Thursday in Afghanistan. This bomb, dubbed “Mother of All Bombs,” was  the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used by the U.S. As of this writing, the exact number of people who were killed by this bombing is not known. Inbetween the readings there was silence and singing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.”  The final reading was a reflection by Leonardo Boff,  “Jesus Being Nailed to the Cross Today.”

After about ten minutes, those who were witnessing on the sidewalk were arrested, taken to the Pentagon Police processing center, and released after several hours. Paul Magno, Bill Frankel-Streit, Kathy Boylan and Joe Byrne were charged with “failure to comply with a lawful order” and given a violation notice to appear in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia on June 1, 2017.

At noon-time, we were joined by an additional 20 friends from the wider D.C. peace community, some of whom have been part of a solidarity witness/fast to end the U.S.-backed Saudi war against Yemen, as we held a “contemporary crucifixion” on Pennsylvania Avenue directly in front of the White House as hundreds of  tourists looked on (see attached photo taken by Lin Romano). Also, please see below the reflections that were read for each of the eleven crucified victims as they, wearing black robes, took turns, standing on a crate, with arms outstretched on the cross. After each victim came off the cross we sang: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord.” Our leaflet was also read to begin the witness, and a reading about how Jesus is being crucified today, by Leonardo Boff, was offered to conclude it. The Loras students began and ended the witness with singing “May I Me Be An Instrument of Peace.” We ended our witness and retreat by sharing a sign of peace.

Let us pray for each other during this Holy Season, and for all those in our world who are experiencing at this very moment the passion and death of Jesus. And let us be transformed by the cross and resurrection of Jesus as we seek to practice resurrection and be living signs of hope for our world.

In peace and gratitude, 


Script of Crucified Victims and Desecrated Earth—2017: Read at the the Pentagon and White House Good Friday Public Witness

Introduction                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Today, vast numbers of God’s global family experience a modern form of crucifixion as they are crucified to a cross of war, racism, militarism, economic exploitation and social injustice. In the crucified people of our world we see the crucified face of Jesus. Today, we remember the victims who have been and continue to be crucified and deemed expendable, and call for an immediate end to their crucifixion. We also pray for an end to the desecration of our sacred earth.

Crucified Victim #1–Iraq War Victim 
For 26 years the U.S. has waged an unrelenting war against Iraq, which, today, includes the destruction of Mosul. We pray for the over 2 million Iraqis who have died since 1991 as result of U.S.-UN led sanctions, U.S. bombings, invasion and occupation. We pray for the countless millions injured and the over 4 million displaced. We repent for destroying an entire society, traumatizing a generation of Iraqis and setting into motion a spiral of violence and political upheaval which, in part, created the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. We call for all CIA and U.S. military personnel and security contractors to leave Iraq immediately, and that the U.S. beg forgiveness from and make reparations to the Iraqi people.

Crucified Victim #2–Drone bombing victim                                                                    We pray in repentance for all victims of U.S. drone strikes and call for an immediate end to the use of these immoral and illegal killer-drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. We call for a halt to Pentagon and White House “kill lists” and that an apology and reparations be made to all victims’ families of drone strikes. We pray in gratitude for all who have resisted and who have been imprisoned for decrying this diabolical robotic warfare. We commit ourselves to abolishing these murderous drones, our American death squads of the skies.

Crucified Victim #3–Victim of Militarism and Nuclearism 
We pray for all people–past and present–who have been, and continue to be, crucified to the cross of militarism, nuclearism and warmaking. We remember and pray for all victims of warmaking, especially right now in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and throughout the Middle East. We pray and work for the abolition of war, for the elimination of nuclear weapons, nuclear technology and all weapons, for an end to the militarization of space and all forms of militarism and military intervention worldwide, and for the conversion of our war-based economy to one centered on meeting human needs and serving the common good.

Crucified Victim #4–Victim of Racial Violence                                                                  We pray for all those–past and present–who have been and continue to be crucified to a cross of racial hatred. We remember and pray for all those American Indians and African Americans who were slaughtered, enslaved, lynched and murdered simply because of their skin color. Today racial hatred and violence is pervasive throughout the land. A disproportionate number of African Americans are imprisoned and executed. African Americans are constantly profiled and are being killed in record numbers by white police officers. Countless others have been killed while in police custody. Too many have suffered; too many have died because of state and police violence, and white silence! Black lives matter!

Islamophobia is on the rise! Muslims are being demonized and targeted, denied entry to the U.S. and deported. Systemic violence and racism, inherent in oppressive economic and political structures, crush the poor and people of color, denying so many of their dignity and basic human rights.                                                                                                                                                       Loving God, you have instructed us that every person is created in your image. All life is sacred. Jesus, declared: “Love your neighbor”; “do to others what you would have them do to you!” Loving God, we repent for the sin of racism. Free us from fear and racial hatred. Liberate us from the unclean spirit that seeks superiority and domination of others. Create in us o God, a clean heart and spirit of love that truly embraces everyone as equal, everyone as a sister and brother, everyone as a child of God. Deepen our commitment to tirelessly work for justice and equality for all people of color as we strive to make the Beloved Community a reality here and now.   

Crucified Victim #5–Victim of Poverty and Economic Exploitation                                                                                                                                          We remember all people who have been, and continue to be, sacrificed at the altar of greed, oppression and economic exploitation. Never have so few rich people been allowed to hoard so much. “The 62 richest people in the world now hold as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion.”(Oxfam, Jan. 2016) Income inequality is a grave injustice. We remember all people who have died early deaths in the U.S. and worldwide from dire poverty, malnutrition and inadequate health care. We pray and work for an end to structures and policies that dominate, exploit and crucify people to a cross of dehumanizing poverty, debt and neglect. We commit to working for an end to corporate domination, the eradication of poverty and debt cancellation, and for a fair redistribution of wealth and a just economic order.

Crucified Victim #6–Torture Victim (dressed as a GITMO prisoner)
Jesus was a torture victim who was condemned by religious authorities and executed by the Roman empire. We remember all torture victims, past and present, who have suffered and died from the effects of torture. We remember the over 100 prisoners who, since 2001, died at secret U.S. military black sites, as well as the nine men who died at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo. We remember the 41 detainees in Guantanamo,  including those who have been on hunger strikes and endured excruciating force-feedings to call for an end to their brutal, unjust confinement. Let us continue to pray and work for the abolition of torture worldwide, and for the immediate closing of Guantanamo, the SOA/WHINSEC and all military torture and training centers. 

Crucified Victim #7–Nonviolent Revolutionary Victim                                               We remember all those who have given their lives and who have sacrificed their freedom as they have struggled, without using violence, for justice in their countries. We think of those who participated in the Arab Spring to break their shackles of oppression. We hold in prayer the dead and wounded people of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. These nonviolent resisters marched, demonstrated, and occupied the streets and squares in order to free themselves from police repression, censorship, unemployment, and violence and were met with violent attacks. We remember all of the people of these nations and repent for U.S. funding of any of the guns, bombs, and materials used to prop up their abusive dictators. May all that has been stolen from these sisters and brothers be restored.

Crucified Victim #8– Imprisoned Victim                                                                             We remember and pray for:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   –Imprisoned private Chelsea Manning, whistle-blower and truth revealer of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, originally sentenced to 35 years in prison but had his sentence commuted and will be released in May;               

–All whistle-blowers, truth-tellers and political prisoners who have been, and continue to be, persecuted, including Mordechai Vanunu, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden;

–Norman Edgar Lowry, Jr. sentenced in May 2012 to 1-7 years for his third trespassat a military recruiting office in Lancaster, PA;                                       

–Leonard Peltier, Native American political prisoner serving a life sentence;   

Rafil Dhafir, who is serving a 22 year sentence resulting from providing humanitarian and financial aid to Iraqis in violation of U.S. sanctions;              

–All those who have been arrested and jailed for their nonviolent resistance to war, and weapons of war, environmental destruction, including war-resisters in S. Korea and Okinawa, Japan;          

–The detainees in Guantanamo and all prisoners held in indefinite detention;                                                                                                                      

–All immigrants held in deportation centers;                                                         

–the over 2.2 million prisoners in the U.S., for all who are condemned and awaiting execution, and for all prisoners worldwide…

We pray and work for a dismantling of the mass incarceration complex. In the words of Jesus, let us “proclaim liberty to all captives.”                                                                                                              

Crucified Victim #9–Immigration Victim
Mindful that Jesus was born as a migrant and exiled as a refugee, we remember today those immigrants who have been crucified to a cross of exploitation, racism, oppression and war. We remember all those who have fled their homelands in Syria, Iraq and throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to war. We also  remember those who have been driven from their homes and the hundreds who have died in the Mediterranean Sea and crossing the Mexico-U.S. border in search of a better life. 

We remember, too, the 700 undocumented immigrants who are currently on hunger strike to protest the conditions and extremely low wages at the for-profit Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington.

Loving God, help us to learn to love and welcome the immigrants in this land. Give us the courage to stand for justice for all immigrants instead of imprisoning them in dehumanizing detention facilities. Give us the courage to speak out and expose how our country’s policies of globalization and free trade are driving people to leave their countries and tearing families apart. Help us to take down the walls of division and fear that create physical walls of separation on our border. Teach us the words of love you would have us speak as we call for comprehensive immigration reform in this land.

Crucified Victim #10–Our Desecrated Earth                                                                                                                                                Creator God, we confess that the way we live today is desecrating the earth, changing the climate, the seas and the balance of life, and dispossessing the poor and future generations. We repent for the way our environment and earth continues to be endangered by industrial pollution, toxic deadly chemicals, wasteful oil consumption, the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, nuclear radiation and the effects of preparing for and waging war. With nearly 1,000 military bases worldwide and a vast global war machine, the U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels and has greatly contributed to destabilizing the earth’s climate. Creator God, help us to stop destroying your creation. Today, on Jeju Island in S. Korea, a global biosphere reserve and world natural heritage site is being destroyed, all because of a new naval base that will serve as U.S. military outpost in the Asia-Pacific region. Empower and sustain all those who are nonviolently resisting threats to land, water, air and sky throughout our world. Empower us to safeguard the earth, our common home, and all of creation and choose life for all that is at risk.

Crucified Victim #11–Afghanistan War Victim                                                               On Holy Thursday, the U.S. military used a GBU-43/B Ordinance Air Blast bomb in Afghanistan. This bomb, dubbed “Mother of All Bombs” was  the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used by the U.S. We decry the sinful and criminal use of this bomb. As of this writing, the exact number of people who were killed by this bombing is unknown.

Since the U.S. began its criminal military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, thousands of Afghan civilians have suffered and died. Let us remember that on October 3, 2015 the U.S. bombed a Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where 42 people were killed and 30 injured. In Afghanistan, year after year, life for Afghan civilians is only more dire. Maya Evans of Voices for Creative Nonviolence recently wrote from Kabul. She quoted from the annual report by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan on a record-breaking increase of casualties–3498 civilians killed, and 7920 wounded in 2016.  Afghanistan has become even more dangerous since the rise of ISIS and the increase of Taliban control. We pray for all those Afghans who have been, and continue to be, crucified to a cross of ruthless U.S. military occupation. We pray and work for an immediate end to the immoral and illegal U.S. war in Afghanistan, for the withdrawl of all military and CIA personnel, and that the U.S. beg forgiveness from and make reparations to the people of Afghanistan.