TWENTY-ONE ACTIVISTS ARRESTED AT THE PENTAGON DEMANDING ACCOUNTABILITY FOR WAR CRIMES AND AN END TO ONGOING US WARS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 26, 2016
WHO:On September 26, 2016, after years of unsuccessfully seeking meetings with elected and appointed government officials over the ongoing US wars, proxy wars and military occupations, armed drones, US war crimes, and the increasing Pentagon budget activists associated with the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) went to the Pentagon today once again seeking a meeting with decision-makers in the Pentagon chain of command including Secretary Ashton Carter. They told Pentagon police they wouldn’t leave until they spoke to an official in a position of authority about war crimes committed by the US and that they were following their obligations under Nuremberg to draw attention to these crimes of US government elected and appointed officials. Although the activists were nonviolent the Pentagon police placed 21 activists under arrest and charged them with “Violation of a Lawful Order”.
WHAT: The presence of antiwar activists today at the Pentagon follows the International Day of Peace, the over 700 actions of nonviolence around the US and other countries organized by Campaign Nonviolence calling for an end to war, poverty, and for serious efforts to address the climate crisis and environmental degradation. In addition, many of the activists had attended the World Beyond War conference held in Washington, DC at American University over the weekend entitled “No War 2016: Real Security Without Terrorism”. The attempted meeting by activists was a continuation of the over 700 events organized by Campaign Nonviolence this month in addition to carrying the message of World Beyond War to the Department of Defense and Obama Administration. The activists tried to also deliver a petition signed by over 23000 people to President Obama, Secretary Carter, and German Chancellor Merkel calling for the closing of a drone relay station at US Air Force Base Ramstein in Germany which has been linked to the deaths of innocent civilians. Activists in Germany also attempted to deliver this petition to Merkel today. Australian activists acted in solidarity at the US military base in Pine Gap and another solidary action was held at West Point, NY by others concerned about the US drone program.
WHY: Rev. Janice Sevre-Duszynska one of those arrested explained why she was at the Pentagon seeking a meeting today “The measure of a healthy society is how we treat the marginalized. How we can care for them in a just and humane manner when 56% of the federal budget goes to the Pentagon for its 800+ military bases and the killing? That fills the pockets of the weapons manufacturers!” The World Beyond War conference and Campaign Nonviolence say there is a link between poverty, war, and the environmental threat to the planet. They say that there needs to be a new way of running our planet and resolving international conflict through nonviolence. “The reason why I took action today is because I am moved by conscience by the words of the late peace activist Daniel Berrigan who said “Because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total – but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial.” We all need to get out of our comfort zone and away from what is convenient for us when it comes to taking action. We cannot continue on the path of more war while so many social problems exist in society. War is a threat to Mother Earth and all humanity. The way of war is not sustainable” Kilbride said.
Those arrested include Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Richard Ochs, Malachy Kilbride of Maryland, Alice Sutter, Felton Davis, and Chat Gunter of New York, Don Cunning and Manijeh Saba of New Jersey, Brian Terrell of Iowa, Phil Runkel of Wisconsin, Joan Stallard, Art Laffin and Eve Tetaz of Washington, DC, JoAnne Lingle of Indiana, Howard Mettee of Ohio, Phoebe Sorgen of California, Henry Lowendorf and James Pandaru of Connecticut, Beth Adams and Paki Wieland of Massachusetts, Nancy Gowen of Virginia.
A November 3, 2016 court date has been scheduled in the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. The activists said they are looking forward to their day in court.
Attendee Rosemarie Pace reflected on her experience at the vigil, see her comments below and the photos as well.
While 21 of our confreres were trying to deliver a message to Pentagon officials, at least as many of us stood in the “free speech zone” across from the Pentagon holding banners, singing folk songs on peace and justice, and speaking into an open mic addressing the Pentagon employees, urging them to consider what they do and inviting them to “change sides” and join us, instead. Messages varied. Besides addressing the career choices of the military and civilian staff, speakers commented on the crime of war, the truth of U.S. hegemony, and the economic alternatives that could provide a different and more enduring security for us and the world. We were a mixed group of people from different parts of the country, different professions, different faiths and no religious faith, different ages, different organizational affiliations, etc., but all but one stuck to a secular message. That one exception was I. It occurred to me that many Americans, including, I’m sure, many at the Pentagon, like to think of this country as a “Christian nation,”so that is what I spoke to.
In short, I pointed out that to be a follower of Jesus one needs to remember that he identified the greatest commandments to be love of God and love of neighbor. I referred to the story of the Good Samaritan in response to the question, Who is my neighbor, emphasizing that Samaritans were enemies of the Jews. Jesus, a Jew, was raising up an enemy as his example of neighbor. I ended by proclaiming that we cannot love our enemies by bombing them, by making war on them. We cannot claim to be a Christian nation when we persist in making war against our enemies.
I have no idea how or even if my message was heard by Pentagon employees, but I do know that those in the “free speech zone” heard and some affirmed my message. The police also seemed to be very attentive to all our presentations, and there was an overall sense of mutual respect that pervaded the action.
When our friends were getting arrested, we were there to support and complement their efforts. We thank them and Campaign Nonviolence for amplifying the call for peace and nonviolence across our country all the way to the highest powers of war and conflict.
Photo Credit: Rosemarie Pace