I joined a contingent of 12 people from Oregon who went to Washington last week to demonstrate against the Iraq War, and I want to share my experiences with the public because I believe they offer learning opportunities and inspiration to the burgeoning movement to take back our country from the extremists who have taken over our government.

The weekend offered chances to be part of both protest and resistance actions, and we availed ourselves fully of the events. There were many highlights, but perhaps the greatest for me was the honor of being arrested with 45 others at the Pentagon for blocking the entrance as the Pentagon employees were coming in to work at 7 am Monday morning. We also took part in the big march through the center of the nation’s capital with 300,000 others on Saturday; the Code Pink action at Walter Reed Army Hospital on Friday night; the civil disobedience trainings on Sunday; filming of the civil disobedience arrests at the White House on Monday afternoon; and performing our protest music in front of the White House for Hawaii Public TV. We met some truly amazing people, gave our all, and came home with a feeling of hope that the tide is turning.

I was able to go on this journey due to the generous contributions of a few supporters at home, as well as supporters in the Washington suburbs who housed us during our stay, for which I am extremely grateful.

Two of us, Carol Melia and myself, traveled together throughout the weekend and watched out for each other during potentially sticky situations. Our first experience took place Friday night at Walter Reed Hospital, where the women of Code Pink were holding a candlelight vigil at the front gates for the injured soldiers. The message they put out, as displayed on their buttons and signs, was, “Love the troops, hate the war. Support the troops by bringing them home and giving full services and benefits to the injured.” Apparently the counter- protesters across the street did not approve of the message. They were quite angry and loud, and broadcast messages such as “Code Pink supports terrorists,” “Why don’t you support our side for a change, you liberal morons,” and “Hippies smell.” Carol interviewed many people on both sides of the street with her video camera, and I stood with her during many of these interviews, taking flack from many counter-protesters for my “Enemy Combatant” T shirt (that’s the name of our music duo). During the action, I took part in a conference call with organizers in Oregon about the weekend’s events being broadcast on Inform Radio back home.

Saturday was the day of the big march and rally. The organizers, United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ), were hoping for 100,000 people to come. But by the time the march stepped off, it was very clear the crowd was much larger than that. Washington police stated at least 150,000 were there, UFPJ spokespeople estimated 300,000, and CSPAN reported 500,000. Having been at the Republican National Convention protests last year, which was 500,000, I felt that this demonstration was about half the size or a little larger, hence 250-300,000. Whatever the numbers were, the crowd was energized and full of anger, hope, and determination. Signs were explicit and clearly focussed on the war and its ramifications. Other issues were tied directly to the war: “Make Levees, not war,” was my favorite, and impeachment was on everyone’s minds.

After the march, most people headed off to the rally and concert at the Washington Monument, where Joan Baez, Steve Earle, and Sweet Honey in the Rock, among others, performed, and Cindy Sheehan and Ralph Nader spoke. We stayed behind at the White House, where we (the Enemy Combatants) performed a one hour set for Hawaii Public TV, who just loved us. We drew a crowd, who at times sang along on the chorus with us. A well dressed family of Indian Hindus joined us on camera to sing the chorus of “Eat the Rich” (a song I wrote that includes the line, “Vegetarians unite/ Let’s all eat the rich), one of the funniest moments of the trip.

We also met Thomas and Concepcion, a couple who have maintained a continuous, 24/7 presence in front of the White House for the past 24 years, protesting nuclear weapons. Thomas has been arrested 50 times for his non-violent expression of free speech at the seat of so-called “democracy.” They have a wonderful display and literature, and a small plastic shelter where at least one of them is present at all times. It was an amazing example of determination and conscience which I will never forget.

Sunday we went early in the morning to the World Bank, where the annual World Bank/IMF conference was happening. There was a demonstration planned at the entrance to greet the delegates, but it was not communicated well via the internet what time the action was happening, and it was over by the time we arrived. We did hear that there 100 demonstrators, they successfully blockaded the entrance and delayed the opening of the Sunday session for an hour, and there was one person arrested.

We went on to Washington Monument Park, where the peace groups were gathered, saw some of our fellow Oregonians, and took part in UFPJ’s meetings concerning the civil disobedience at the White House planned for the next day. Good thing we were there, because there were over 500 people attending, and all they had for a sound system was a small bullhorn, and most people could not hear the proceedings, so the Enemy Combatants came to the rescue and pulled out our portable amplifier and microphone and made things audible for everyone. We met afterwards with the Camp Casey affinity group, made up of folks who had come to Washington with Cindy Sheehan, and tentatively planned to do the White House action with them. However, we also wanted to meet with the folks planning the Pentagon action before we decided which action to participate in.

We arrived late for the Pentagon action meeting, but were glad we made it. Frida Berrigan, niece of Daniel Berrigan ( famous priest and anti-war activist of the Vietnam era) was organizing the meeting, and the room was filled with experienced activists from mostly two groups: Jonah House, the Catholic Worker group in New York City, and people from the War Resisters League. The plan was to go “incognito” on the Metro to the Pentagon, and to have groups of 5-6 people take turns sitting down and blocking the main entrance to the Pentagon. We also had people holding banners, and others leafletting the Pentagon employees as they came in. All of these activities are illegal on the “Pentagon Reservation,” as it is called by the police. Press releases were sent ahead of time, so both the press and the police were aware that we were coming.

The police allowed the banner carriers and the leafletters to do their job without interference. As each wave of blockaders moved in and sat down, the police issued two warnings and then proceeded to arrest us. Some of us stayed sitting and made the police carry us out of the entrance, others stood up when being placed under arrest so as to avoid possible injury to ourselves or the police. (I chose the latter option). There was a continuous singing of “Peace, Salaam Shalom” as the arrests were happening, which served to keep the feeling both calm and powerful, and focussed on our higher intent, which was to effect the Pentagon and its employees, and not focus on any disagreement with the police.

After being handcuffed and led away from the main entrance, we waited for the police van to arrive and take us to the detention center. So Carol and I had a chance to sing Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” to the Pentagon employees. After being taken to the detention center and being processed into the system, we were held in a cement room with no furniture with the other arrestees, where we sang them Anne Feeney’s “Have You Been to Jail For Justice?” And boy, was that a big hit Even the cops liked it One of them said to me, “You two songbirds sound really good ” with a big smile.

After 3 hours or so, we were released on our own recognizance, with a charge of “failing to obey a lawful order to disperse.” Some of us were also charged with “interfering with government business.” We all received orders to report for a court date, with the dates varying from early January to early February. One of our fellow law breakers was Jean Halladay, a nurse who had been one of the “Ploughshares” activists in the 1980's that had gotten into a nuclear missile silo and symbolically damaged the missile by pouring their own blood on it; for that action she had spent 8 years in prison, hence she could certainly expect jail time again for this action at the Pentagon. So it was really an honor to go into non-violent battle with such a warrior for peace.

After our release, we were greeted outside by legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild (bless those folks, they are always there for non- violent protesters) with coffee and muffins, and they checked with each of us that we were not hurt, and making sure that everyone was getting released. Having worked with them at the RNC, the counter-inaugural in January, and consulting with them on our Eugene direct actions, I have gained immeasureable respect for the tremendous work they do, for no charge, to protect and defend those who engage in non-violent resistance. By providing legal observers at the scene, and defending people in court, they really are angels of the law.

We loaned our cell phone to another resister who called in a report to ‘Democracy Now ” and WBAI in NYC. Then off we flew on the Metro back to Bethesda to pick up our camera equipment, and quickly back into DC to get to the White House where the main event would be happening. Although we had the option of joining the resisters at the White House and getting arrested a second time in one day (some of the Pentagon resisters did just that), we stayed on the sidelines, for the most part, and filmed the action instead. We had a plane to catch the next day, and it was unlikely we would get out of jail from the White House action to catch it if we got arrested again. But our camera presence and press passes were important, as Carol was able to get into the center of the action and film events that we will present to the community here in Eugene. At one point, she was filming Cindy Sheehan from very close range, and joining in the singing that the resisters were doing as she was filming. The police did not respond to that very well, and pulled her out of the area but did not arrest her. (This is what is called “advocacy journalism,” which differs from the so-called “objective stance’ that is more often practiced; we feel it is more honest to be open about what our opinions are, rather than to put on an appearance of having no opinion). We also got great footage of people demonstrating loud and clear that they wanted Bush and his ilk removed from office and thrown in jail (or worse). The police took a very long time making the first arrests, and not until after the fence in front of the White House lawn was covered in signs and pictures of the dead from Bush’s war, both American and Iraqi. The presence of Iraq war veterans, as well as older vets and their families, was exceedingly powerful. I remember one man perhaps in his mid-fifties, holding a large photo of his soldier son, with dates of birth and death, with the words, “Love my soldier son, hate this war,” which brought me to tears.

I do not know at this point in time what will be the effect of our actions toward ending the war, but my gut tells me the tide is turning, and it is only a matter of time before the Bush house of cards begins to collapse. Carry on, brothers and sisters, we must be as relentless as the forces of darkness we are facing. Love conquers all.