|March 8, 2006|
What Really Happened, Pt. 2 -- NYC Style
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Yesterday started off like any other day for me. I woke up, missing Casey and wondering where in the world I was.
After I got my bearings, realizing I was in my friend's apartment in NYC, I got up for my day of meetings, speeches, marches and rallies.
March 8th is International Women's Day and I was in NYC with a contingent of women from Code Pink, Gold Star Families for Peace, Global Exchange, and some brave Iraqi women to work on our women's global call for peace (www.womensaynotowar.org).
We began our day with a meeting with Koffi Annan's assistant Secretary General for Gender. We asked her to get a meeting with the Iraqi women and the Security Council. She said we couldn't get a meeting until October at the earliest! I was appalled because a few of us had just been at UNIFEM in September, meeting with the head of UNIFEM who said if we got a contingent of Iraqi women to the states for International Women's Day that she would make sure we could meet with the security council. October is also far too late: people are dying in Iraq everyday on all sides as we sit around waiting for meetings and for people to do their jobs.
We had 2 press conferences: one inside the UN and one out. After the outside press conference, where the Iraqi women beautifully, poignantly and touchingly told their stories, and where we called on the UN to do their jobs as peacekeepers, we marched with our petition to the US Mission to the UN.
We had a poster-sized petition that has been signed by tens of thousands of women from 78 states from around the world. Our Women Say No to War petition calls for an immediate withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq.
We were chanting as we made our way the few blocks to the US Mission. We had a Community Services officer walking with us. As we neared John Bolton's office, the officer told us to cross the street and wait on the public sidewalk across from the mission!
I go all over the country and the world, now, saying that it is our responsibility as peace people to peacefully stand up to fascism and suppression of our 1st Amendment rights whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head. As a matter of fact, I believe that to halt the incredible spread of the creeping fascism and abuse of our civil rights in the country, we are going to need non-violent, civil resistance on a massive scale.
When the officer told us to leave one public sidewalk and cross the street and wait like good Americans on the other, we refused. I told him under no uncertain terms that this is America and we had as much right to be on the public sidewalk on the US Mission side of the street as he did. He said that we couldn't walk down the street carrying signs -- a clear violation of our First Amendment rights to Freedom of Speech and to Peaceably Assemble.
We only wanted to deliver our petition, which we had an appointment to do. Since we didn't want to get arrested and our goal is stopping a disastrous war and saving American and Iraq lives, we agreed that a few of us would proceed forward with the petition and as soon as it was delivered we assured the officer that we would leave.
Four of us, Medea Benjamin, Rev. Patty Ackerman, Sereya, and I separated from the rest of the group to take our petition up to Bolton's office. At this point, Sereya, a Kurdish woman, from Kirkuk, who lives in the US now, told us that she had been "punched" in the stomach by the very same "Community" service officer that had escorted us from the rally to the US Mission! She noted how ironic it is that George Bush says he is spreading freedom and democracy to Iraq and citizens of his own country, that oppose his policies, can't even walk down the street without being harassed by the police. This is just one example of the hypocrisy and duplicity that reign today in BushWorld.
Our small group of peaceful women were stopped and told that we couldn't go up with the petition to Bolton's office. We were told that they would send someone down to get it. After many minutes, we were told that our petition would not be accepted. By that time, we had been joined by the other Americans who marched with us who also demand peace.
When we were told that our petition wouldn't be accepted we decided that we had an appointment and this was OUR Ambassador to the UN (whether we like it or not—and believe me we don't) and we were going to take our petition up. We had been assured earlier that we had an appointment to deliver the petition by Peggy Kerry who is the older sister of Senator John Kerry and liaison to NGO's. Medea's company, Global Exchange, is a recognized NGO.
As we walked up to the doors of the building, security guards were frantically scrambling to lock the doors against us dangerous women. There were 3 regular doors and 2 revolving doors. As one door was locked, we moved to the next door until we ran out of doors and were backed into a corner. That was when NYC's finest went on the attack and forced most of our group and all of the journalists (does anyone remember when our country had Freedom of the Press?) out to the sidewalk. The four of us who got arrested sat down in the corner with our petition and refused to move.
We were told if we moved across the street onto the other public sidewalk that our petition would be received. We refused and said we would go to the nearest public sidewalk in front of the building and we would give our petition to a representative of the US Mission -- that request was refused. We were told if we didn't move to the other side of the street, we would be arrested.
We refused to move.
We had an appointment to deliver the petition. We would have been willing to give the petition to anyone to take up the US Mission. However, we were not willing to give up our First Amendment rights to do so. Some principles cannot be compromised.
After we sat on the cold, hard concrete, and after we had been assured that the Iraqi women were safely on their way to DC -- we tried to negotiate with the officers and security agents of the building for someone to take our petition and we would leave. A security agent for the Mission said he would go ask if he could bring the petition up and he came back and told us that they would not receive our petition which is another clear violation of our First Amendment right to petition our government for redress of wrong.
At no time were we told that we could come in and deliver the petition once we were near the Mission -- and we did not refuse because the media could not go in. This is another out and out lie from a government that is steeped in falsehood and calumny. Also, if they were inviting us up to deliver the petition, why did they lock the doors and send a platoon of police officers to stop us?
Another bald-faced lie is the lie that we were blocking the entrances to the building. There were 5 entrances and there were four of us women sitting in front of a window. Even if there were only four entrances we couldn't block them. The people who locked us out were the ones who denied people access to THAT entrance. There is another entrance around the street that people were being directed to. One of our charges was "Obstructing Governmental Administration" and although we believe that we, and everyone in this country and abroad should obstruct Bush's administration, four of us sitting on ice cold pavement were not PHYSICALLY doing so at that moment.
After our request to have the petition taken up by anybody was denied, we went up to the supporters of peace and non-violence and the media and we began to read the petition. I would read a part, then the crowd would repeat. I got about half way through the petition when we were again attacked by the NYPD.
The officers were being really rough on us and we four women, Missy Beattie, Medea, Rev. Patty and I sat down to avoid being hurt. We locked arms (except for Missy who was holding a banner). Missy was picked up first, then an officer grabbed my right arm and dragged me about 15 feet along the pavement. The pain in my arm was unbearable. As soon as I could I got in a fetal position and screamed, "Leave me alone you're hurting me!"
The officer then jerked my right arm up and cuffed me then pulled me up by my arm and cuffed the other arm.
As I lay here in bed, barely able to move, writing this I am again filled with rage and sorrow for my country. What scares me the most is how blatant and rough the people who are supposed to protect US are in the face of cameras and other citizens. It is as if they don't care who in the world witnesses their abuses. They are not afraid of being brutal for the world to see -- they are not afraid of any sort of retribution.
I am looking into filing charges against the NYPD.
Again and again, we must resist the fascism and abuses that we are allowing to become standard operating procedures in this country.
I will be writing about our night in jail soon -- the entire experience was horrible, but I will do it again if they try to stop me from exercising my Freedom of Speech and other First Amendment rights again and I wouldn't trade or won't forget my night in NYC jails, ever. It was quite an education.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Cindy Sheehan is the proud mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was 24 when he was KIA in Sadr City, Iraq on 04/04/04. She is also the author of Not One More Mother's Child available available from BuzzFlash and at www.koabooks.com. Cindy is the founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace. Cindy is above all the very proud mother of Carly, Andy, and Janey Sheehan who hold down the fort in California.
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