VIDEO FILE: Portland Pioneer Square Die-In
Attended by about 150 people, the Die-In at Pioneer Square on Saturday, January 6, 2007 honored the 3000 U.S. soldiers and 650,000 Iraqis who have died in Iraq.
After a few brief words about the reason for the gathering, the moderator said that, though these symbolic events are necessary, people must do more than this to exert their will. There were people present with the names of our Congressional delegation pined to their shirts who were handing out postcards addressed to each individual Senator or Representative. The Moderator urged everyone present to follow through and contact their representative and let them know their feelings about this Occupation.|
Following this she introduced Reverend John Schwiebert of the Metanoia Peace Community United Methodist Churchwho read a poem written by Malita Arredondo. Malita and Carlos Arrudondo lost their son Alexander S. Arredondo in Iraq in 2004.
At this point the community laid down in the Square in respect for the many who have lost their lives during the invasion and occupation. There was actually two consecutive die-ins that day. Since this first one lasted so brief a time, many members of the community spontaneously later laid back down for a much longer period of time. Their anger and grief over this senseless and immoral loss of life needed a larger time to be expressed.
The community found many ways to commemorate the dead, especially for those soldiers from Oregon killed in Iraq. A man carried a poster with the pictures of each Oregon soldier and a couple young women handed out black ribbons, symbolizing each of 47 soldiers killed. Their sign read: "47 Oregon soldiers have died as result of this war; there is a ribbon for each of the brave Oregon soldiers who have died. Please keep them in your hears and thoughts."
As people were getting to their feet, a loud voice rang out across the square. "Hear me! Our family lost one of our boys on that poster, (a poster showing all the Oregon Soldiers killed in Iraq.) His name is Travis Bradach Nall. We've been working since that happened to end this war. But when you're filling out those post cards, write one word on there: IMPEACH!" The crowd voiced their approval, here and throughout this brief speech, with loud cheers. The man continued, "We need our Congresspeople and our Senators to do their duty, to bring to justice the wrongdoers who caused this war. What we need is a double impeachment, on the same record, to impeach president George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney."
Indeed, there was much more to this gathering than honoring the dead. Dan Shea, of Veterans for Peace, chapter 72, spoke strongly against the war and the need for Congress to begin bringing the troops home. "I'm here to say we've had enough.. It's time, we have a new Democratic congress, that they stand up to what the people and the electorate already said, that we've had enough of war, we've had enough of dying. That's the best way we can honor these people, so that no more people die in Iraq."
I also spoke with Tom Hastings, with the Portland Catholic Worker. Following the speech made by Republican Senator Gordon Smith, on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, condemning the disposition of the Iraq Occupation, Hastings and a few others visited Smiths office to inquire when there would some kind of policy promise attached to this speech. "We were arrested instead. We never spoke above a conversational tone..........we never blocked anybody's way, we never left the public area of Gordon Smiths office; we were taken out in chains, in handcuffs. We're going to continue this kind of campaign until we hear from the Senator that he in fact is going to vote against any funding for this God awful Occupation of other peoples lands."
Hastings says that the Viet Nam war was stopped in this way. "Congress has one power....and that is the power of the purse strings, if in fact they don't impeach. That's not real real likely. This is what we have to do. This is what Gordon Smith has to do."
Beginning the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 16, "a number of us will go to Smiths office, at least one or two of us every single day. Somebody may get arrested every day; maybe more than one person." Hastings invites anybody who is interested to join this campaign, by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though the emphasis was on the death of so many young Americans, the fact that a much larger number of innocent Iraqis have also lost their lives was everywhere present. Towards the end of the event a sign appeared proclaiming, "Fuck the Troops." Needless to say this ignited a furious debate, both at the scene and later, on Portland Indymedia
A case can certainly be made that, though these soldiers are all enlistees, these Iraqi deaths are, for the most part, deaths of defenseless men, women and children. They had been caught in currents of Empire, greed, hate and revenge far beyond their ability to understand or, unfortunately, escape. We have unleashed a firestorm in a country whose demographic landscape is prone to sectarian violence. This apparently was not considered when the lies were told which seduced us into accepting this atrocity.
We need these reminders. We need to remember those who have died, even if they may be nameless and faceless half way around to the other side of the globe. Our Democracy, we the people, have permitted this war; we have funded and justified an occupation simultaneously heartless and heartbreaking. Our taxes supply the weapons doing so much of the killing on both sides, as well as in many other conflicts around the world.
As a nation, we cannot hide behind the fact that the majority of Iraqi deaths are at the hands of their own people, of their own religion. A bloody drama has been set in motion in Iraq, a drama which consumes both them and us, and which offers no way out.
This day, perhaps laying down in solidarity with the dead can in some small way resurrect the heart of a nation. Perhaps our grief added to the anguish felt by the families of the dead will swell and rise and reach a kindling temperature whose heat will purify each premature death, each tortured family, each heart seared by the injustice of it all.
I cannot say. No one can predict how this drama will end, certainly not our leaders, who were foolish enough to initiate the unnecessary conflict in the first place. But, standing up for Peace, symbolically laying down beside those who have died, standing out above and beyond the anemic excuses for war, we can resist the wobble of Empire and the swerve which is slowly extinguishing certain inalienable rights our Constitution so righteously guaranteed ALL people upon this planet.
Pioneer Square Die-In, DSL/CABLE Stream
Pioneer Square Die-In, 56K Stream
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