Living Out Loud: : Peace Work

Help Me Get Arrested

I know I'd like to subpoena George W. Bush, but that's as far as I've gotten.

To cross-examine the president, I first need a trial. To have a trial, I must first get arrested — and that's where I'm stuck. What's the best way to go about it?

Some of us are considering civil disobedience to protest the unprovoked U.S. attack on Iraq and the humanitarian disaster that has resulted. The action will be timed to coincide with the Declaration of Peace, a nationwide campaign to call for the withdrawal of U.S. occupation forces from Iraq.

The usual ideas are under consideration: blocking access to a military recruiting station or sitting in a congressman's office and refusing to leave. When the war started in 2003, some of us blocked rush-hour traffic downtown, aiming to inconvenience our fellow citizens for a few minutes to make them think about the great crime being perpetrated in our names and with our tax money.

After the arrests, I got a free pass. Charged with obstructing official business for blocking traffic, I pleaded not guilty.

The prosecutor offered a deal: plead guilty and no jail time would result. I declined. Then he made another offer: plead guilty to disorderly conduct, and no fine would result. I declined. His final offer: plead guilty to jaywalking and I wouldn't even have a criminal record. I declined. Then the prosecutor dropped the whole case, and I walked free.

I'm sure I got special treatment because I work in the news media. The juvenile who joined us thankfully avoided serious consequences, but none of the other three adults who were arrested got so much as the offer of a plea bargain.

Three years later — after the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and revelations of torture and murder by American soldiers — the moral imperative to resist the war is all the greater. Whenever I see "Support the troops" bumper stickers, I think, "Don't do that! It only encourages them."

If you have a good idea for nonviolent civil disobedience, I'd love to hear it.

A friend more radical than I suggests shutting down Interstate 75 or disrupting electric service to the downtown area. But those ideas involve too great a possibility of unforeseen circumstances that could harm people. What if we precipitated a car crash? What if disabling the electrical grid meant someone got stuck in an elevator, panicked and suffered a heart attack?

I wish I were a hacker; I'd love to hijack the electronic bulletin boards on the expressways, so they'd post the message, "Stop the war!" But I'm pretty inept at the use of computers.

If you have a good idea for nonviolent civil disobedience, I'd love to hear it.

Someday people will look back and be ashamed that the United States spent so much money and sacrificed so many soldiers for a war that was unjust in its origins, that was waged without regard for human rights and that created a far greater threat to world peace than existed before hostilities began.

Someday our grandchildren will ask, "What did you do during the war?" I want to be able to say I worked for peace.

If we can get a creative lawyer, maybe we can put the war on trial. But first I've got to get arrested. Got ideas? Please let me know.

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