Eight arrests at Pentagon mark Massacre of the Holy Innocents

by Art Laffin
From December 27-28, 2019, about 40 members from the Atlantic and Southern Life communities, and other peacemaking friends, gathered for a retreat at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church in Washington, D.C., and a nonviolent witness at the Pentagon to commemorate the Massacre  of the Holy Innocents – past and present. Due to the fact that the actual feast of the Holy Innocents Martyrs was on Saturday, December 28, we held our nonviolent witness at the Pentagon on December 27, late afternoon, so we could be present to more Pentagon workers.
The retreat began at 1 p.m. on December 27 with introductions and a reading of Matthew’s account of the massacre of the innocents. (Mt. 2:1-18) This was followed by a rich community sharing focusing on these questions: Why do you think Herod saw Jesus as such a threat that he wanted him killed? What are the parallels for today? How do you identify with Rachel’s response to the massacre of the innocents? What are the parallels today? 
After a short break, there was an action planning meeting for the Pentagon witness. We then traveled by metro to the Pentagon, arriving there around 4 p.m. As we exited the metro escalators, eight who were risking arrested went to leaflet around the Pentagon’s southeast checkpoint where Pentagon workers arrive and depart. The rest of the community set up a vigil line on the adjacent grass, instead of going to the police designated protest area which is much farther away. Surprisingly, at this point, only several Pentagon Police were present. Thus the eight were able to leaflet for at least 10 minutes as Bill Frankel-Streit and Jackson Wages read a Litany interspersed with the refrain: “War Hurts Children – Help Us End War” (see below). Gradually, more police mobilized and the eight were arrested. As they were being escorted by police to nearby vans, we all sang “Vine and Fig Tree.”
Following the arrests, the community proceeded with a prayer service. To our surprise, police never ordered people to leave the grass area near the metro and go to the designated fenced off “protest zone.” (This has not happened before in this area on a Pentagon weekday!) The prayer included a reading of the Gospel account of the massacre of the Holy Innocents, reciting the Litany, singing “The Cry of Ramah” and the “Coventry Carol,” and reading excerpts from Pope Francis’ address in Hiroshima on November 24, 2019 in which he condemned the possession of nuclear weapons as immoral. As the sun began to set, we held candles to symbolize Jesus, the Light, overcoming the darkness! The witness concluded with everyone singing “This Little Light of Mine” as the community processed down the escalator and into the Pentagon metro station lobby.
Upon returning to the church, we had dinner, followed by an evaluation of the Pentagon witness. We then held a moving liturgy that was led by Bill Frankel-Streit. During the prayers of intercession we remembered in a special way Heidi Hynes, John Downing, Frances Crowe, Naed Smith, Mary Grace McCoy, Macy Morse, Beth Adams, Simon Harak, SJ and others from our communities and families who have gone home to God since our last Holy Innocents gathering. We give thanks to God for each of their extraordinary faith-filled lives of justice and peacemaking and extend our prayers to their families. We also remembered the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 who await sentencing (date still unknown). We sang two songs, “Love Will Guide Us” and “The City of God,” that Heidi requested be sung at her funeral. And a poem by the late Sr. Anne Montgomery titled “Feast of the Innocents: 1991-In Memoriam: Mass Graves” was offered as a closing prayer.  
On December 28th at 6:30 a.m., we held a Lectio Divina prayer. This was followed by a pot-luck breakfast, clean-up and a closing circle, which included everyone singing “Rejoice in the Lord Always.” We were all ever so grateful for our time together! 
With respect to those arrested, Kathy Boylan, Bill Frankel-Streit, Joan Wages, Jackson Wages, Tom Feagley, Ralph, Steve Baggarly and Dave MacMillan were taken to the Pentagon Police Center where they were processed and charged with “Interfering With Agency Functions” and “Disobeying A Lawful Order.” All were released within several hours and given a February 20 court date at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Click here for video.
Holy Innocents Witness Litany, Pentagon,
December 27, 2019 
The Massacre of the Innocents Starts at the Pentagon! Let us Stop It Here and Now! 
(Prepared by Art Laffin)
Tomorrow, Christian churches commemorate the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, recalling how Herod, fearful of being removed from power, sought to destroy the child Jesus by ordering the slaughter of boys under two years old in and around Bethlehem. We, members of the Atlantic and Southern Life Communities and other peace groups, come to the Pentagon, the center of warmaking  on our planet, to remember the innocents who have died–past and present–due to greed, oppression, racism and war. Today, in this time of perpetual war and climate chaos, the lives of countless innocents, like those in Bethlehem, are endangered. Our faith compels us to nonviolently resist this onslaught and to demand an end to the massacre of innocents today.
Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War! 
The United States military magnifies destruction across the globe, especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. From overt wars to covert “dirty wars,” which involve the use of lethal killer drones, countless lives are destroyed, displaced and disappeared. We are ever so mindful that children are always the first victims of war.
Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War! 
For 28 years the U.S. has waged an immoral and illegal war and occupation in Iraq. We remember 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 remember the countless millions injured and traumatized and the over 4 million displaced. The U.S. destabilized an entire society, setting into motion a spiral of violence and political upheaval, which, in part, helped create the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. Today, masses of Iraqis are demanding change. Some 400 protesters have been killed in a brutal crackdown by U.S.-backed government security forces. 
Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War! 
The Washington Post recently published the “Afghanistan Papers–A Secret History of the War,” which reveals how U.S. officials in three successive presidencies repeatedly lied to the American people about this 18 year war. This criminal military intervention and occupation resulted in tens of thousands of Afghan civilians being killed and wounded. On March 23, 2019, a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz killed 10 children. We remember all the victims, the injured and traumatized of this immoral and illegal war.
Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War!

In Yemen, the U.S. continues to provide direct military support and weapons to Saudi Arabia in its brutal war against the Houthi rebels, even though a Senate resolution last year called for an end to such support. Thousands have died from the war, eighty percent of the population face starvation and suspected cholera cases have exceeded one million. 

Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War! 

A UN Commission Report estimates by the end of 2019 the combined death toll in Yemen from war and disease is 233,000. The report states that 1 child dies from the war and its side-effects every 11 minutes and 54 seconds. Save the Children conservatively estimates that 85,000 Yemeni children under age five have died from starvation and disease between 2015-2018, and the number continues to rise. 

Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War! 

Since 2010, according to The New York Times, the United States has sold the Saudis thirty F-15 multirole jet fighters, eighty-four combat helicopters, 110 air-to-surface cruise missiles, 20,000 precision guided bombs and other weaponry. A Lockheed Martin made bomb was used in the Saudi bombing of a school bus in Yemen on Aug. 9, 2018 killing over 40 children.                     

Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War! 
The violence of the U.S. power structure is unrelenting. Within our own boundaries it continues to crush the poor, target people of color, demonize Muslims, oversee a mass incarceration complex,  demean, detain, tear gas and separate immigrants and their families and militarize the southern border. An estimated 25 migrants have died in U.S. custody during the Trump Administration, including two children, and most recently, 16 year old Carlos Fernandez Vasquez.      
Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War! 
Fear, violence and greed are the hallmarks of the Trump Administration and U.S. power structure. And always, the existence of nuclear weapons puts all life in utter peril. This threat is further exacerbated by past and present provocative actions by an unpredictable president, the deployment of U.S. missile defense systems designed to threaten and contain Russia and China, U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty and the Iran Nuclear Deal, the U.S. militarization of space and a new Space Force, and the $1.7 trillion 30 year nuclear modernization program. The scandalous $738 billion military spending bill for 2020, recently approved by Congress and signed by the president, constitutes a theft from the public treasury and a crime against the poor, including an estimated 13 million children in the U.S. who already live below the federal poverty line. 
Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War! 

Every day, the world’s addiction to oil, natural gas and nuclear power is the cause of environmental contamination that is threatening global devastation. The Dakota Access pipeline is but one example of the earth’s desecration, and which is continuing to be courageously resisted by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other water protectors. With some 800 military bases worldwide establishing its vast war machine, the Pentagon is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, making it a major contributor to destabilizing the climate. 
Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War! 

“Redeem the times,” proclaims the late peacemaking prophet, Jesuit Priest, Daniel Berrigan, along with countless others. “The times are inexpressibly evil.  And yet, the times are inexhaustibly good, solaced by the courage and hope of many. The truth rules, Christ is not forsaken.”

The violence, massacres and disregard for the truth and human life stops here today at the Pentagon. Now is the time for personal and societal repentance and transformation. In solidarity with sisters and brothers around the world, we resolve to:

–renounce and resist all killing, violence, racism and torture;
–end environmental destruction, poverty and economic inequality;
–respect the human rights of all people, especially immigrants and refugees;          
–train and form diplomats, truth commissions, developers of international economies, trade specialists, nonviolent reconciliation teams, hospital ships, institutes for justice and peace, renewable energy implementation, mass transit lines, etc.;
–commit in policy to end all warmaking and make reparations to all victims of its military interventions worldwide, abolish war and weapons forever, hammer all swords into plowshares and convert the war economy so our planet and people may live;
–build homes for all, assure healthy food for all, develop health care and education for all, plan an economy for full meaningful employment;
–implore the U.S. and all nuclear nations to sign, ratify, and implement the UN Treaty for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons; 
–celebrate God’s creation with joy.
As we move into a New Year we invite you to join with us as we strive to create the beloved community and a nonviolent world.