Thursday, September 29, 2005

Civil Disobedience at the White House

I was among the folks who took part in the mass action of nonviolent civil disobedience in front of the White House on Monday, September 26. I was part of the Camp Casey affinity group, which participated alongside numerous other groups, well over a thousand people in all. A dozen or so of us carried tents that Ann Wright had bought along the Bring Them Home Now Tour, onto which we had written "Camp Ken," "Camp Patrick," and a number of other names.

I carried “Camp Gordon,” for Gordon Gentle, a Scottish soldier from the Royal Highland Fusiliers, killed by a roadside explosion in Basra in June of 2004. I know about him only because during a candlelight vigil on one of the last nights of our occupation of Crawford, Texas, chance had me place my candle beside a cross that bore his name. I decided to let his family know – whatever their position on the war might be - that he had been honored in this small but significant way. Turns out his mother, Rose Gentle, is anything but quiet about her story, and when I got in touch with her she let me know that she was coming to Washington for the antiwar events of this past week. She fit right in with her Amercian counterparts, the Gold Star Families For Peace, and the opportunity to spend some time with her was a high point for me.

It was Ann Wright’s idea to use the tents to bring Camp Casey right to the presidential doorstep. We marched alongside numerous other affinity groups, having met and rallied at the A.M.E. church. The police blocked the streets as we proceeded to the Ellipse, at which time our group briefly detoured to pick up our tents. As we approached the White House, the thick and loud crowd of supporters cheered us on. A man stopped me to pose a quick photograph, and I saw that he was with Rose Gentle. It was a proud moment to have my picture taken with one arm around her, and the other holding up the tent.

We carried the lightweight 5 x 7 tents inside the "you will be arrested” area, which was where the clergy and the military families had assembled to ask the White House to open up and meet with them. Rebekah and I eventually passed our tents back over the barricade to supporters, after we saw that the rest of the tents had already been passed back beyond the police barricade.

When the request for a meeting was refused, we all sat down and ignored the warning to disperse. There was some singing, some chanting, and some improvising on the part of the U.S. Park Police, who were caught unprepared for the number of people who were prepared to brave arrest.

They arrested Cindy Sheehan first. The mainstream media having gotten their money shot, went back to Hurricane Rita coverage. After filling a few paddy wagons, they brought in DC Metro buses to handle the rest of us. We were nearly 400 strong.

While we chanted and were slowly carted away, people passed out water and snacks, with one of the cops helping to bring water to us. Some cheered the people being arrested. My group was chanting "you've got the wrong guy" or "arrest bush" as people were handcuffed and taken away. Lisa Fithian organized a pee circle, enabling several women to fill improvised receptacles out of view of everyone except perhaps the snipers on the White House roof. I aided the cause by cutting off the top of a water bottle with a soda can tab as the circle tightened and was sealed with a banner.

Several folks lined themselves up, surrendering easily, but a bunch of us (Lauren, Rebekah, Lori, Debbie, and a few others) saw this as too sheepish for our taste. We decided to lock arms in a circle, and force the cops carry us to the buses that had pulled in front of much of the crowd. We did this with great pride in representing Camp Casey.

Three hours after Cindy was arrested, the independent media still had their cameras rolling. Scott from Truthout has some fine footage.

The police kept asking me if I was going to stand up. I let them know that I would not resist them, but that I would not get up. Two of them carried me away from our circle (our plan was to loosen our arm lock when the cops removed one of us by lifting us off of the ground), still in my sitting position, as I heard “arrest Bush, not Jesse” being shouted.

I think they tied my plastic handcuffs a little tight because of my refusal to stand up. This also happened to Lori, and perhaps others. Once incarcerated we were not mistreated and we remained cordial in our relationship with law enforcement. Each busload of folks had their own unique experience.

Fellow Ditch Witch and Camp Casey alumni Lauren Sullivan writes:

James has film of what happened next - the Camp Casey women started moshing on the bus, and when we started pogoing, the whole bus bounced up and down. Code Pink was arrested right behind us, and as they were put on the bus, they began jumping up and down too, which made it even crazier. It was so out of control they couldn't process us, and we all screamed out the windows all the way through DC, past Camp Casey on the mall, with people on the streets either staring or waving and cheering.

The buses were gender segregated. I sang my song “Sons and Daughters" on our bus as the cops began to take our photos, and we stomped our feet to keep rhythm. There were four guys who had dressed in orange prison jumpsuits for the occasion. When they led us (in small groups) to the bathroom, they cut off our plastic handcuffs. They then put our new cuffs on in front, rather than in back, making it slightly more comfortable, and enabling a number of people to slip their hands out.

Some of the women hid their cell phones in their bras. I hear that one group was able to order pizza to the Anacostia Park station. Our bus was given sandwiches and bottled water that tasted funny. We were allowed to roam around our bus at times, and at one point one of our officers held his cell phone up so that we could yell "hello" to his girlfriend as he explained why he still wasn't home at 2 in the morning. I overheard another officer saying that they had been completely unprepared for 400 people, and that he was going to buy a flat screen HDTV with all the overtime.

We spent at least eight hours on the bus. At one point I urged Nick Przybyla to pull the “stop requested” rope, which he gladly did. After having our citations written (for demonstrating without a permit), and after some other paperwork inefficiencies, we were taken off the buses and into holding areas. We were there for a number of hours, where the male and the female pens could at least see each other through a fence. People were singing, sleeping on the floor, and a few were still trying to get out of their handcuffs. After a few hours we proceeded on into the main building, where more documents were processed and we were thoroughly fingerprinted. The slow churning bureaucracy eventually had us sitting in a hallway, awaiting the return of our possessions. By this time, the cops wanted to go home as much as we did.

I was one of the last people released at about 4:30am. Cheryl (one of the first people arrested, who had already been sprung) was waiting for me outside the station grounds, wrapped in a blanket. A Camp Casey-esque system had been arranged, effectively taking care of us from the outside. Our support group (Elliot, Zac, Mary Ellen, James, Cheryl, Cree) had arranged shuttles, adapted to getting moved around by the police, and took phone calls. Many of us had written Elliot's number on our bodies, though I never needed to make the call. James was there in a flash to take us to Elliot’s, where there was beer and food waiting for us, and a sign welcoming the Camp Casey Detainees posted on the front door.

After a sleepy cab ride up to our hotel, I was left with enough time to pack my bags, have a shower, grab less than an hour of sleep, and then make for the Metro and my flight home. When we took off I could see the Camp Casey tent still standing at 15th St. and Constitution Ave. – in the shadow of the Washington Monument.

Rose Gentle, Gordon's Mother

Rose Gentle, and me carrying a tent with her son's name, as we marched to the gates of the White House.

Other Ditch Witch Stories

from Lauren Sullivan:

Jesse sneaked out of the hotel while we were passed out - I can't believe he
made his flight. What a trouper. And our support team rocked. For awhile, it
seemed that the cops were preventing water from coming through, but it got
there eventually. Elliot told us later that Camp Casey was being recognized
as the group who brought water, and SHARED it. And Lisa asked Code Pink
to make a pee circle, which for some reason I found very funny, but then I did
have to pee. I told Rebekah, next time we're going to be the group who brings
the Depends - I kept thinking the delay in getting us all busted was just that
the cops hoping we'd all wander off to find the porta-potties. Yeah, right.

They separated the men and women so we didn't get to hear Jesse sing; we
were on the last bus. A number of unaffiliated people opted to not comply
also, and they formed a semi-circle around the Camp Casey contingent.
When the cops came for them, we chanted their names as they were carried
away - "Arrest Bush, not Mitch/Aaron/Maura" etc -- when they were gone, the
cops began taking us, one by one, and we continued yelling: "Arrest Bush,
not Jesse!" "Arrest Bush, not Lori!" "Arrest Bush, not Rebekah/ Deb/Jamie!"
etc... One by one, until I was the last one. I was still yelling "Arrest Bush!!" as
they leaned down and asked if I was going to go quietly, and I shook my head
no - then they asked if I was going to give them any trouble, and I shook my
head no, still yelling. It was good seeing Mary Ellen and James in the crowd
waving and cheering as they carried me off, still yelling at the top of my lungs.
Yes I'm still hoarse.

James has film of what happened next - the Camp Casey women started
moshing on the bus, and when we started pogoing, the whole bus bounced
up and down. Code Pink was arrested right behind us, and as they were put
on the bus, they began jumping up and down too, which made it even crazier.
It was so out of control they couldn't process us, and we all screamed out the
windows all the way through DC, past Camp Casey on the mall, with people
on the streets either staring or waving and cheering.

Lori apparently got the mean cop on our bus - her cuffs were so tight she was
in agony until another cop relented. But later at Anacostia, the cops loosened
our handcuffs and while we were in the holding tank they brought us some
KFC and chocolate cake.

It was a really long night but worth it. Camp Casey made their stand, or took a
seat, as it happened. The revolution is on.

(I mosh for the revolution.)

and from Mary Ellen Goodwin:

Acts of Civil Disobedience require two things 1) a coalition of the
willing to be arrested, and 2) an unwavering and resolved support team.

I was part of the second group.

Being on the legal side of the barricade was as hectic and at times as
chaotic as those last two weekends when we were inundated with visitors
to the Prairie Chapel Road encampment. The tents that were carried
from Camp Casey, DC to the White House were eventually set up on the
lawn across the road from the protest. It's actually illegal to raise
a permanent structure on the lawn (yes, tents are considered permanent
structures), but authorities turned a blind eye and we were allowed to
stay there until the last person was arrested. A few passersby handed
me monetary donations, some of which was given to an individual who
offered to walk the few blocks to a CVS to buy a case of water for the
trespassers. (The rest was used for taxi rides back to hostels,
hotels, etc. after detainees were let out of jail). At one point, a
volunteer grabbed an empty box and went through the crowd of onlookers
asking for donations of bottled water and didn't take long
for the box to fill up and be passed on to the coalition of the

It often appeared that Camp Casey was the only support group that was
getting water through to the front line. Officer Bransome of the
National Park Police was the hero of the day as she was the only
officer willing to come to the barrier to accept the boxes of water and
food. Whenever a box was delivered, the crowd would chant Officer
Bransome's name until she appeared. It was later reported that someone
overheard her talking on her cell, telling the person on the other end
that it was one of the most exciting events she had ever witnessed in
front of the White House. It was also reported that the mother of one
of the officers who arrested Cindy called her son on his cell after
seeing his picture on CNN coverage of the protest and scolded him for
arresting Cindy as he lamented that he was just doing his job!!!
Throughout the week, the Park Police were great to us at Camp Casey, DC
and often reminded me of the County Sheriffs in Crawford---they had our

The 15 tents pitched across the street from the White House bared the
names of 15 sons and daughters who lost their lives in Iraq and was a
powerful symbol. During the few hours of the occupation, Camp Casey,
White House was visited by many people who stopped by to thank us for
all that we have done to galvanize the movement. Some stopped for a
quick moment, others stayed to ask questions and talk about Crawford
and that whole experience. When the wind came up (which was often) and
tents started to fly away in all directions, people from the crowd
quickly and good-naturedly chased them down and returned them to the

As the Camp Casey affinity group was about to be arrested, the folks at
the front made room for me at the barrier when I exclaimed "those are
my peeps!" Upon learning who they were, the crowd began chanting
"Thank you Camp Casey!" In short time, James joined me and we proudly
watched as one by one our friends were carried to the buses waiting to
haul them off to jail. When it was over, we wept...the Camp Casey
spirit was alive and well. And as the buses rolled away, we knew the
revolution had truly begun.

In Peace,

mary ellen


Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The following is a report from Dennis:

Casey III, day five: Four cities Five Days

Red Cross was working on the internet getting people recognized when I woke this morning. The Bus has become an information portal, a reunion vehicle, and an office and home in the past five days. We are stretching out a little. We are establishing a cover for people to use the internet outside of the bus, and we are awaiting the arrival of equipment to establish permanent internet access for the shelter we are covering at this time.

We have been told that it is inappropriate to call for equipment and funds to establish technological gear in these parishes. I hope everyone knows where we are working, the infrastructure for the work we are doing was not here. We are not sending out daily updates from a coffee shop. We are working from a 1977 Gillig Bus, that has thousands of dollars of modern technology on it. This is how we are making this mission happen. We need to duplicate this model. We are a four man crew, who picks up help along the way. There are a lot of communities who need to have basic needs attended to. This equipment was borrowed, begged, and paid for with donations that we have collected. And now we are intending to duplicate this model, and leave these communities armed with the appropriate technology to get people stabilized. Do not worry about the gear, we are leaving it here.

Today we had a nice stream of arrivals. I did not get a look at James photos today, and we are hoping to start posting them soon. Gary, from came in with another load of goods. James left with Gary and Ralph from the crew, and set off to pull some more people out of the swamp. If you want that work, it looks like James is going to stay on point in the struggle to keep people from dying in the toxic soup of New Orleans.

I got to talk with Paul, from, he arrived with Lenora, Katherine, Kara, Ralph and Gary. Plenty Inc., is over thirty years old and has been involved in disaster relief for as long. We are honored they arrived with such urgency and we are happy to say we will be working with them to assist the people in need after Katrina.

Scott Johnson and Ben Breneman showed up today, and all I can say is, "thank goodness."

Here is what these guys pulled off: They brought in a great deal of supplies. After we got settled, they broke camp with a truck load of supplies headed for Bogalusa. First attention to this community, and the connection also allowed us to look North for other under attended parishes. We see Franklinton and Slidell in the sights for tomorrow.

Jaime took a hill full of goods in her truck to Folsom. Most of the goods were distributed, and we can say we believe Folsom is weathering the storm safely. If you hear differently please let us know at on the message board.

Reunions are starting, people are coming to this shelter at Pine View Middle school from East Louisiana, the stories are not pretty.

The daily distribution at Reverend Peter Atkins park continues in Covington, and today a shelter was recognized in Hammond. Craig stopped by and told us they needed toothbrushes and paste where they are housing two hundred evacuees. We gave them what we had and expect to have more provisions for them tomorrow.

We have distributed every day in Covington, twice now in Folsom, today we introduced ourselves to Bogalusa and Hammond. Four cities in Five days.

Andrea and Jeff, arrived this evening with a load of supplies they have collected since departing Camp Casey. With a van and a trailer in tow they set up camp. They are the fourth vehicle we have to perform distribution. This is going to be a major part of the infrastructure is the volunteers to drive and distribute. Many people say the shelters are served. OK, but not everybody is homeless, so they are not at the shelter. They, too, need these supplies.

Andrea and Jeff are from the 9th Ward, New Orleans. Not knowing what kind of shape their house is in. Looks like James will get into the city with them tomorrow and we are hoping to establish that as the vein to feed the people in that region.

So, if you want to meet Southern Louisiana, bring some supplies to this ditch and we will have a guide take you out to distribute yours and other provisions we are having sent as I write.

Gordon took some video tape of the kids here at the shelter and the young man with cystic fibrosis loves the camera and wants to be a videographer. Community is being established between the sheltered and the volunteers.

The bus is back from New Orleans, Gary from reports that:

Subcontractors are already here and locals are out of a job.

There are a lot of people around who need immediate help, just a bottle of water or sandwich to get them down the road, Gary and the crew took a full bus load of water and goods and came back empty, they were able to stop in three communities. Food was distributed, In the Garden District, and French Quarter, as well as the Convention Center.

Five Cities, Five days, the food is getting out, the food is needed. We need your help.

We are calling on the world to come here and help. Go to the message board and let us know what you think we should do.
Support the Truth

Veterans For Peace Chapter 116 is going just that!

Pine View Middle School in Covington, LA.
1115 West 28th Street
Covington, LA. 70434

We are providing food, water, shelter, transportation, and supporting the Red Cross and the refugees. They have come from Slidell, New Orleans, inside Covington and other areas to the Pine View Middle School for help.

We have gone into New Orleans and Pulled people out. We have distributed several tons of goods and needed services directly to the people of the effected areas.

We have set up a Food Bank, Volunteer Camp, And Satellite Media Hub right next to the School. We use this as base camp to bring in volunteers & supplies from all points. We then organize it and distribute it into the communities we can reach.

We have limited power, but we have more generators on the way.
We have access to bathrooms with portable Johns coming.
We have real cooking facilities and shower (1).
We have wireless Internet access with more one the way.
We have some cell phone service and it is improving.
We have millions of people ready to help!
Do We have you?

Our mission:
#1 Do No Harm
#2 Support Each Other
#3 Feed The People
#4 Shelter The People
#5 Give To The People
#6 Rebuild Our Lives
#7 Rebuild Our Cities
#8 Rebuild Our Shores
#9 Reclaim Our Humanity
#10 Learn From Our Mistakes

Who Wants To Help?

We need trained Volunteers! NOW!

We need Food, Water, Supplies, and Equipment, Transportation and Shipping.

More will be posted as people sign up for jobs in Camp Casey Covington, LA. When jobs are filled by Volunteers They will post updates needs lists and give their comments as to the results.

There is no time to waste, the storm clouds are returning, Thunder is rolling, the rain is falling and people are dying.

We have set up a permanent Camp Casey at the Pine View Middle School, 1115 West 28th Street, Covington, LA. We are supporting The Red Cross with power and medical supplies and kitchen service, food bank, and distribution and Internet communications and trained medical personnel.

Volunteer Kitchen, Food Bank and Distribution Center
Pine View Middle School
1115 West 28th Street Covington, LA. 70434

Veterans For Peace Chapter 116 C/O
645 Kimbro Drive, Baton Rouge, LA. 70808

We are using the school to support Veterans For Peace hurricane relief efforts from Covington, LA. for the people of the region.

This petition is to the US government to open closed military bases to house the Hurricane victims- please sign and pass on.

Sign the petition

Monday, September 05, 2005

Rick Burnley, the poet in action

A place for contemplation at the Crawford Peace House

Sunset at Camp Casey II

Tents pitched right along the property line

Sumner Erickson and the Texcentrics

Our new address

The Bush compound is out there somewhere

Bily blogs from the sound board

Bily Foster of Air America Phoenix, after hearing my song "Sons and Daughters" at our very first late night round table session the previous night, was the first to get it up on the web, which quickly led to some airplay of the tune. He is seen here, along with Scott from Truthout, Mari, Ian, Fish, and an unidentified onlooker.

Marcia Ball performs

Camp Casey II in its early stages

Fred Mattlege, resident of Crawford, generously granted us access to an acre of his property...right next to the Secret Service checkpoint leading to the Bush "ranch." This massive tent (reminiscent of the Denver Airport) was allegedly the very one that was used for the Republican fundraiser days earlier. Thankfully Carmelo was on hand with his bell to ring out the heebie-jeebies, making way for what would become Camp Casey II