BRINGING THE WAR HOME TO THE TAXPAYERS--TAX DAY ACTION STUNS THOUSANDS OF TAXPAYERS WITH G
Eugene-Springfield civil resisters set up "drive through slide show" of graphic images of the war at dropoff post office location for thousands of tax filers on Tax Day.
BRINGING THE WAR HOME TO THE TAXPAYERS--
TAX DAY ACTION STUNS THOUSANDS OF TAXPAYERS WITH GRAPHIC IMAGES OF THE WAR
April 15, 2005
Thirty activists from Eugene-Springfield forcefully protested the war in front of the main mail drop-off point for last minute Lane County tax filers. About five thousand cars with eight thousand people passed by our group at an average of 5 mph as we stood lined up for nearly six hours along their path, holding graphic images of the injured casualties of the war: children, men, women, and soldiers, bearing messages like, "Your tax dollars paid for this," or "It's our money, stop the war." (To see photos of the action, see link for "Our Posters" at http://www.squadron13.com/CivilResistance/TaxDay2005/default.htm) And we had lots of facts interwoven into our placards as well.
It was Friday night, the absolute last time that people had an opportunity to file their tax forms without penalty. We surmised that their state of mind was not given to favorable feelings toward the federal government at that time. We also had done solid preparation by having three different parties do reconnaissance at the scene beforehand, and by contacting the Springfield Police Captain in charge, Rick Lewis. We were assured of their cooperation, and we reassured them of our cooperation in keeping the scene safe for motorists and pedestrians. We thought this was an especially good idea since we were pretty much all of the pedestrians.
Our main message was to firmly link the government's use of tax money to the brutality of the war in the minds of Americans. We again sought the gut emotional reaction that we had gotten at our first action at the military recruiter's a month ago for the 2nd anniversary of the war. We did reconnaissance photos of the post office site, and passed the photos around at our meeting. Gordon printed up 750 copies each of our two flyers, which were double-sided and filled with information about the use of our tax money for military purposes, compared to various financial breakdowns of how tax money could be used for human services.
What was unique about the action was that we essentially became a crew of a "temporary independent media channel." We became a "drive through slide show" of up to 25 people at any one time. And the police were directing people to go through the special exit lane where they had to drive into our slide show. We added to the effect by all dressing in black, and having two flagged draped coffins at the scene. The response from the public was stunning, and truly many of them were stunned. We could see in the faces of many of the women and the children looks of wide-eyed disbelief, and some sadness and grief. Many people sternly tried to continue looking forward after they saw the first few pictures. The effectiveness of the placards seemed to diminish somewhat as it got darker and less visible, but the headlights served to continue the slide show and people continued to stare. The positive responses we encountered from motorists far outweighed the few negative ones, despite the fact that we were in Springfield, which traditionally is more conservative than Eugene and that there were quite a few Bush supporters.
Along with the initial placard bearers lined up along the sidewalk, we also had two to three people giving out flyers to drivers as they drove by. Some people took them, a majority did not. But we passed out flyers to 1250 of them, getting solid information into the hands of people who may not know these things.
In our attempts to pass out leaflets, first we were asked to leave from the center of the Post Office property by Postal Service employees who said we were not allowed to leaflet there. Then we moved to the roadway in the middle of the driveway entrance, right in front of two Springfield police. They directed traffic, and we directed the taxpayers to where their tax money was being spent. After about an hour the traffic was backed up to the freeway and so the police asked us to please get out of the roadway and we immediately complied. We had a friendly and cooperative relationship with the police all evening. I remember one of the police officers reaching out to shake my hand and thanking us for being so cooperative. A common thread that ran through both of our actions so far is that we maintain a strong and dignified presence, and were treated appropriate to our manner and bearing by the press and the police.
After being tossed out of the first two locations that we tried to leaflet, our crack media advisor (who never misses a beat), Amy Pincus-
Merwin, said "Hey, there's this little exit where the cars are coming out... you can catch them there," So I hoofed it over there. It was there, out of sight of the main body of placard bearers, that I took up my watch with hundreds of flyers in hand. I was relieved in an hour by Joey, Kenny, and Gordon, who did the lion's share of the leafleting well into the night, an emotionally draining task that our crew never flinched from nor complained about.
On a personal note, I must also mention that before I moved to the new leafleting location, there was a pleasant interruption, a phone call from my son in Seattle. In response to "How's it going dad, what are you up to?" I hastily told him I was in the middle of the action at the post office and we were holding these graphic pictures of the war and there were hundreds of cars driving by very slow, to which he said, "Go dad! Go get 'em!" I told him we would.
During the course of the evening we had hours of rain, we had some wind, we ate a lot of fumes, and we had a few heated confrontations coming from people who disagreed with us. The most serious one was an older guy on a motorcycle who had a placard waved in his face a little too close, and who then parked his motorcycle and came over and told us he didn't like it. And then he let us know that he didn't like our message, either. I responded, with the police officer standing between us, that we could agree to disagree about our opinions and I apologized that one of our people had caused a hazard for him, though it was clearly unintentional. Another really interesting exchange came with an Iraq war veteran just returned from Baghdad two months ago. He said we were all wrong and that they were doing great things over there. Building schools and hospitals, and preventing the terrorists from taking over the country. He slowed down and started listening when I mentioned the 100,000 civilians killed. He seemed surprised, even amazed when I said there had been over 5,000 desertions. He said something like, I don't believe there has been more than a couple dozen. Then it really seemed to affect him when I told him that the suicide rate for the Marines had gone up 30%; that's when he stopped looking me in the eyes and started looking at the ground. He said well, I don't know about that. A couple of our vet members had more extensive talks with him. There was also a younger guy who came by later with his girlfriend, proclaiming the wonders of democracy in Iraq and how important it was to "take out" terrorist-supporting leaders. Our most amusing counter-protesters were some high school kids in some kind of gymnastic tights who had scribbled "team America" on their t-shirts and with one of them wearing a crown-like hat who would yell things like "We love Bush" and "Four more years." They ran down the line of placard bearers a couple of times and congregated at one end and did their yelling bit, then grew tired of their joke after about 30 minutes and left. I thought the most clever remark by the opposition this night was the man in the Cadillac who told me to "Face east and salute President Bush because he was doing a really good job."
Although our media coverage was somewhat disappointing, we were filmed by two stations, though they declined to interview us, and a reporter from the Springfield News. The fact that there were three other tax day protests earlier may have had something to do with that. But we were glad to add to the tide of howling protests of the abominable way the government is spending our money to kill people, instead of helping people.
We know we have a giant mountain to climb to end this war, and there is a long and perilous journey before us, but we have demonstrated that at least we know how to use the equipment that we have been bestowed by our "ancestors" in the civil resistance struggle. And we have established a base camp. Together, with love and patience and unyielding determination, we will continue to put one foot in front of the other and climb this mountain. And we will prevail because our love for the world is stronger than greed and hatred.
I am incredibly proud of our band of patriots who stood their ground amidst the rain, the constant glare of headlights, and bumper-to-bumper gas fumes for six hours. Caring for each other, wanting so badly to change the hearts of our fellow Americans, putting ourselves on the front lines well into the night, just to have a chance, however small, that we could make a difference in our nation's attitude to the war. To be with people of such courage, such conviction, I feel deeply truly blessed.
Tremendous thanks and adulations of courage on the frontlines go to our Civil Resistance study group and supporters who participated in this action, including: Beryl, Elaine, Geni, Jack, Gordon, Ron, Brian B., Rachael, Chiara, Tiersa, Kenny, Brant, Brant's friend whose name I can't recall, Joey, Bonnie, Linda, Willy, Steve, Karla, Jodi, Gordi, Willow, Joe, Carol J., Oleg, Hank, Ruth K., Leslie H., Lou from Coburg, and Jen. Special thanks to our dedicated specialist team of Amy Pincus-Merwin (media) and Brian Michaels (legal), and to Irene Dresser of the Springfield News.
We are gaining a foothold. We can all feel the change in the wind. The height of an empire's power is the beginning of its downfall. The RESISTANCE GOES ON.
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