Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day One in Washington, D.C.

I arrived in Washington, D.C., today after traveling by plane, bus, and train. I settled in at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house, which will be my home for the next two weeks. At about 4:30 p.m., I hopped on the Metro and headed to the White House. As I walked to the White House from the Metro station, the sun started to set. At the White House, I joined the Witness Against Torture group, who were holding vigil. Most of them were dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods. Some of them held up signs demanding that Guantanamo and Bagram be closed immediately. Others carried a huge banner that called for the closing of Guantanamo. Unfortunately, Guantanamo is still open, despite President Barack Obama's promise to close it within a year. That promise was made last year.
I stood with Sister Ichikawa, a Buddhist nun, who comes to many of these events. She has a drum, which she beats rhythmically. I joined in the chanting of "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" with her and with the others standing in front of the White House. I also stood with Buddy Bell, who was part of the Walk for Peace last summer in Wisconsin. That was the 22-mile walk from Camp Douglas to Fort McCoy from August 7th through the 9th. It was a wet walk. That was the one where nine of us were arrested for "crossing the line" at Fort McCoy. Four of us "repeat crossers" were taken ninety miles away to the Dane County Jail in Madison. Strangely enough, Fort McCoy issued a federal hold, despite the fact that all four of us were civilians. I was told that the military cannot issue a hold against civilians. We were held overnight and released the next day, without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. To this day, there are no pending charges against any of the nine of us who "crossed the line."
But that was five months ago.
So today, I am in Washington, D.C., with the orange jumpsuit crew.
News media people came to photograph and interview people in orange jumpsuits.
At about 6:15 p.m., Sister Ichikawa and I followed the group in jumpsuits as they marched down the street in single file. It was a silent procession. The only person who spoke was Carmen Trotta, a Catholic Worker from New York City, who played the role of the guard. He issued the command to the "detainees" to march or to stop and stand still. He also handed out the signs for them to hold up.
The orange jumpsuit vigil and parade was a very striking display under the street lights. The plethora of lights that make the White House glow in the dark also added to the dramatic effect of the group in orange jumpsuits.
I'll write more tomorrow.

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