By Jeff Boyd
Washington, D.C. — On the morning of April 29, 2009, I headed up 14th Street toward National City Christian Church in Thomas Circle to register early for the day’s trainings and worship. The event, which was hosted by Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, was a fundraiser for Iraqi refugees, a worship service celebrating peace and justice, and a demonstration against the war in Iraq in front of the White House.
Opening Convocation included speeches by Kathy Kelly (Catholic — abandon clip), Noah Baker Merrill (Quaker — life clip), and other church leaders from various denominations. I especially appreciated the vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar of The Brothers Frantzich (example).
Next I joined the Non-Violence Training (Creating a Culture of Peace), which was required of everyone planning to risk arrest through civil disobedience at the evening’s demonstration. While I had promised my wife I wouldn’t get arrested, I did want to receive the training. The most difficult part of the training was playing the role of the angry mob in the “hassle line.” This consisted of two lines of trainees facing each other; one side acting as the nonviolent protesters, the other as angry counter-demonstrators. I didn’t do well on either line; I was too passive in both. Standing next to Kathy Kelly provided positive training moments.
Unfortunately, I had to choose between the Non-Violence Training and the Advocacy Workshop by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quaker). Missing this training and using the skills to visit my representatives in Congress were the opportunity costs of choosing the non-violence workshop. Talking with the FCNL representative convinced me to pursue this option in the future; however, the non-violence workshop allowed me to become one of eight “procession monitors/peacekeepers.”
During introductions at the Legal Briefing for those participating in the civil disobedience, I realized I was the only Seventh-day Adventist in a room of Mennonites, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Catholics and others. I say this neither negatively nor positively, but merely as a statement of fact that made me ponder. Later there were three SDAs at the worship and demonstration. Ken Butigan led this briefing and subsequently organized the monitors.
After a long day of meetings and trainings, the main event finally started at 7:00pm. A number of people involved in the 100 Days Campaign joined us for worship in their bright orange shirts. Hymns, reading, songs and harrowing words from torture survivor, Sr. Dianna Ortiz (TASSC, story, The Blindfold’s Eyes), prepared our minds and hearts for short sermons by Elizabeth McAlister, Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo (part 1), and Rev. Lennox Yearwood (speech). Yearwood had a military chaplaincy career cut short after preaching a Presidents’ Day sermon to military leaders titled, “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”
As the service drew to a close, I moved to the back of the auditorium to meet the other procession monitors. With a police escort, we marched in a light drizzle to Lafayette Park where there were more speakers. An SDA friend from Maryland marched with me and hesitantly ended up serving bread for communion in the park. Maybe she’ll share her views on the night with us later. Then we moved to the space in front of the White House where we called on the White House to follow-through with commitments to withdraw troops from Iraq (among other things). Eventually, some twenty-five protesters were arrested for demonstrating in the “postcard” area (see this group at 2:55 in this video).
The seeds for the next day’s adventure were sown as the evening wound down. I asked one of the 100 Days Campaign participants how I could get involved with their final day of demonstrations, and she said to meet at 9:00am at the reflecting pool.
I was exhausted by the time I finally walked back to my friend’s motel room around 12:30am. I had been in trainings, meetings, and rallies all day and hadn’t eaten since breakfast. After a couple PBJs, I finally crashed for the night.
Bonus: Peace Witness on YouTube.