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actions & protests | imperialism & war m20: day x | march 20, 2004

Bridges: Burnside to Baghdad, M20

This is part of the court-assigned essay I had to write as my "punishment" for the Burnside Bridge sit-in last year. I thought it might be appropriate to post it, one year after that memorable and meaningful event. My best wishes to all who were there.
Bridges: Burnside to Baghdad

On March 20th, 2003 I sat, arms linked with fellow humans, at the intersection of Burnside and Second. I stayed there until I was arrested at around 2:00 AM on March 21st. This particular intersection could be considered the very nexus of our city, Portland. Burnside Avenue divides north from south, and the bridge it leads to crosses the Willamette River, which bisects east and west. We were at the center of our urban compass rose. We were also at the dividing point in the pattern of seasons -- Winter had just given way to Spring. And our country had just crossed the line from a kind of peace to a pre-emptive war opposed by most of the world.

Sometimes paths cross and one arrives at the exact place where one belongs, whether by chance or by choice. That night such an event took place in Portland. This was a moment in time when we took ownership of a bridge. Overcoming fear of consequences to our lives, our comfort, our own safety, we made the bridge one small zone of peace in solidarity with a people half a world away. There was dancing on the bridge that night. The cars were gone. In Oregon, pedestrians are said to have the right of way. But normally, that is only in narrow crosswalks and footpaths. Examine the design of the city -- obviously it is the internal combustion engine which takes precedence over those of us not armored in steel and glass. What an extraordinary thing it was for one of Portland's gracious bridges to belong to those who walk and bicycle.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, a 14 year old girl named Amal wrote in her diary (quoted by the Christian Science Monitor): March 20, "On the way back to our house the siren sounded again and we were very frightened and tried to run as fast as we can back home saying 'God save us!' At 9:15 PM, the bombing was intense, close to our home... and we don't know when Bush's storm hits again. Fatima thinks that we are living and dying at the same time, but how long will it be like this?" Then, March 21, "I am writing and the house next to our building is shaking. It's now 9:35 PM, and all the families in the house are terrified and crying for God to bring the morning... We have never seen anything like this. I'm so afraid, tears are running down my eyes and I'm saying 'Oh God, dear God.'"

Portland again. March 20th faded into March 21st. We sat on the wet street. Whose bridge? Our bridge. Baghdad, like Portland, is a city on both sides of a river. Baghdad's six bridges arch above the Tigris River, that irrigator of early civilization. Now a crudely powerful, lesser civilization, with an unholy thirst for petroleum and domination, pounded Baghdad from its aircraft and occupied it in the name of liberation. A month after we held the Burnside Bridge, a Reuters report would provide a glimpse of the New Diala Bridge on the outskirts of Baghdad: "His face and forearms covered in scabs from bomb shrapnel wounds, 30-year-old Haidar Khadim jabs a finger repeatedly at his watch, angrily showing a U.S. soldier he has waited too long to cross a war-damaged bridge. ...he has been separated from his father who died earlier on Thursday, weeks after a bomb exploded near their electrical shop. ...Khadim slumps and sits on the bonnet of his car, crying."

On a rain-swept night, we not only symbolically shut down our own city as a sign of our deepest distress, we built a bridge from it to Baghdad, whose desperate, wounded people we were holding in our hearts. Our rain, their tears. Ever since, whenever we cross the intersection of Burnside and Second, we think, "there it was."

In April, in the town of Kut, south of Baghdad, Iraqi protestors held a sit-in on their own bridge across the Tigris, blocking US troops. A wire service photograph showed a young Iraqi boy seated on the bridge, peering out amid the khaki camouflage clad legs of the American soldiers. I could tell how that boy felt -- but he was risking being shot dead, not merely teargassed or clubbed. Iraq will rebuild its own bridges and will overcome its occupation. I hope that we Americans who opposed this invasion will be able to make our virtual bridges to Iraq into real bridges of contact and support. Pacific rainforest to Arabian desert, Mount Hood to the highlands of Kurdistan, that March night will inspire us.

-- Edith Mirante, 2003
the Burnside Bridge, hmmm 19.Mar.2004 12:26


anyone thinking what I'm thinking?

thanks for the beautiful post 19.Mar.2004 14:21

portland activist

For anyone that wasn't there or wants to relive the day check out the Day X video which can now be downloaded. Be warned, it is intense, especially for those of us who lived it.


Most important thing I've done 19.Mar.2004 16:56

Red Suspenders

Working for my country and the world last march 20 by sitting in the street with others and forcing the city to arrest us. We made the news all around the world. The message the world heard was that the people of the United States dont support the criminal tyrants in the white house.

We will get our great country back on track.