On Wednesday 52 of us met in downtown Portland and spread out to many different street corners for an hour and passed out over 1,000 leaflets telling our reasons for occupying Tom Allen's office. Just after 1:00 pm we gathered for a small rally and then lined up in single file and made a funeral procession march through the streets. We eventually made our way to Rep. Allen's office (the picture above is as we gathered just outside his office) and we went in together.
His staff was quite surprised as about 45 from our group, all dressed in black, kept filing into his tiny office. We spread throughout the office and once jam packed inside, Dexter Kamilewicz whose son was in Iraq and who ran against Tom Allen in the last election cycle, read a prepared statement on our behalf saying that we had come to demand that Allen vote no for any more Iraq occupation funding. Others then also made statements and we sat down on the floor and soon began reading names of those killed in Iraq. Every once in awhile we'd stop reading the names and have people read other messages that they had brought with them. At one point one of our folks read the entire text from Martin Luther King's famous letter from the Birmingham jail.
At 5:30 pm, closing time, Allen's staff told us we had to leave or be arrested. We told him we'd be happy to leave as soon as we heard from the congressman that he'd vote against any more money for Iraq. At 8:30 the city police arrived and arrested the 13 of us that remained in the office. We were then taken to the county jail where nine of our folks paid a $40 bail. MB, me and two others decided to stay in jail by refusing to pay the bail. After being moved from one holding tank to another, I got to my final jail cell at about 3:30 am and the three women got to their final cell an hour or so later. So not much sleep that night.
We were to be arraigned today in the local court but just before that was to happen the four of us learned that the charges against us had been dropped. It might have been because we had been covered in the Portland newspaper two days in a row (click on the link in the headline above for today's story) and were interviewed by a local TV station while in jail. The statewide NPR radio news station also covered our action. We were told that a large crowd had come to support us inside the court for the arraignment. They were told to leave, when we did not arrive, because they became too loud while they waited for us.
The pressure on our congressman will continue as long as he decides to remain an enabler of Bush's illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq. It was a wonderful experience to be arrested with the other 12 folks - some of them had never been arrested before.
The peace community must step outside our normal boxes and each of us must find ways to do more to help end the madness that our government has created in Iraq.