by Elaine Brower
Yesterday was the first day of session for the 111th Congress. For the first time since the November elections, members of Congress returned to the Hill, and newly elected officials were sworn in with pomp and circumstance, with their families in tow. What a proud moment for them, especially the recently minted Democrats who rode the wave of national discontent with the Republican party. The halls of the Dirksen, Russell and Hart Buildings were freshly scrubbed, and bustling with food, people, and new furniture.
However, gathering a few blocks away were anti-war activists determined to rain on their parade by reminding these partygoers that there are wars happening, with lots of death and destruction, compliments of Congressional funding and complicity. The “March of the Dead,” created by the group “Activist Response Team” (ART), sent out a call for all those with a conscience to show up on January 6th in D.C. to wear a mask and carry the name of someone killed in illegal wars and occupations.
They gathered, approximately seventy people, in the inclement weather, blocks away, donning white masks and wearing all black signifying the souls of those who will be haunting the criminals who are sending bombs to kill Iraqis, Afghanis, Palestinians and members of the military who are the lethal arm of this government’s quest for empire. At about 11:45 AM the solemn march started in a downpour, with media watching and documenting the procession of the dead. Winding their way around the streets of D.C., the 70 represented over a million humans wantonly killed by mega-ton bombs and drone missiles; by soldiers’ bullets, car bombs and IED explosions. The souls of the dead reminding those who are living of the horrors of aggression.
The march stopped at the Supreme Court Building, where the guards expected the protesters to conduct civil disobedience. But moments later, the group moved away and kept their ambling pace, hands open with black gloves and staring gazes. Their mission was to bring the dead to Congress.
Unexpectedly, at about 2:00 PM, the marchers entered the Senate Hart Building and slowly moved into the middle of the open atrium where eight stories up, large office windows open to the inside of the building. The stark vision of death disrupted the staff inside the building, including some of those Senators who were reveling in their glory. The names of those killed in the wars began to be read and the press followed them.
In the center of this open area, about 40 protesters kept reading and calling out to those in the building to end the war, end the illegal occupation, and stop the funding to Israel. The passionate pleas were noticed, and most came out of their offices to gaze down upon the spectacle, while munching their chips or drinking soda, something those dead would never do again.
Simultaneously with the reading of the names five huge banners were dramatically unfurled over the sides of the railings facing into the atrium. The largest, about four stories high, black with white lettering, read “THE AUDACITY OF WAR CRIMES.” It was dropped from the fifth floor and tied to the railing. View local news coverage at http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=80156&catid=158 .
Across the way “IRAQ”, “AFGHANISTAN” and “PALESTINE” banners were also dropped and tied to the railings. The Capitol Police, who were present when the march came into the building, quickly responded to remove the words that were so hurtful to those who were guilty of committing these war crimes. Within seconds, the banners were pulled up, but it gave press and other independent media a chance to photograph it all. An everlasting message to the murderers who keep spending taxpayer dollars to kill innocent people.
At that point seven people were arrested for unfurling the words of truth, but those on the ground floor of the Hart Building remained, reading the names of the dead. The police were gathering in force, and just as a secure perimeter was formed around the masked readers, another banner announcing “WE WILL NOT BE SILENT” was dropped. Quickly, three people were carted off by the police, and the banner was cut down. But those onlookers on the ground floor applauded and yelled with excitement.
The reading continued for another 30 minutes. A warning was issued for them to stop their “unlawful activities” or be arrested. The police announced that the protesters were “disrupting the building” when, in reality, it was war, death and destruction that was the disruption.
So on the first day of the 111th Congress, within the hour legislators were being sworn in, the dead were marching to remind them what they had done, what they are doing, and that it should end immediately. When it was over, 17 courageous protesters were arrested. Those who participated in the banner action were charged with “unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct” and must return for a court appearance because it is a grave offense to speak the truth. Those who read the names were charged with “unlawful conduct” and were able to pay and leave. But the dead will not be forgotten.
By 3:15 PM the building was empty of those who called attention to the atrocities sanctioned by those who occupy the offices. But the souls of the dead will remain there, filling up the halls, hovering over their desks, following them home, forever to be haunting those who are and who will remain responsible and complicit for causing this holocaust.