Report on 911 Actions
Thinking in Resistance
By Sue Wheaton
Excerpts from a journal that AfD Secretary Sue Wheaton of Takoma
Park, Md., kept during the "Days of Remembrance" around the
anniversary of 911, September in Washington, D.C.
Perhaps in this Internet era we need to start judging our efforts
by the quality of what they reap in increasing perception and understanding,
real connections between people and organizations, and building an "under
the radar" movement of informed and caring people, rather than how big
crowds are or what is or isn't reported in the major media.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 7 - WOMEN IN BLACK VIGIL, 17TH AND K
About two dozen people dressed in black--mostly
Jewish, one a woman from
Bosnia--stood in a line along K St. holding signs about Palestine. Mine
said "Thirty-five years of detention." On the back, facing me,
were rows and rows of names of victims of violence, with ages by each.
All were children, most between 12 and 17; a few were babies and
toddlers. The group has been witnessing on the same busy corner every
Friday evening since March. Talking with them afterward, I felt like I was
among more evolved humans.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 8 COMMUNITY MEETING AT DOWNTOWN MLK LIBRARY, sponsored
by the DC Alliance for Democracy
At first it was just a few of us, the usual
suspects. Despite our efforts the announcement of the meeting hadnt been run
in the [italicize title] Washington Post or [italicize title] City Paper (even
though [italicize title] Takoma Voice gave it a full page spread). Then Betty
arrived, then Sister Nia. We started a great discussion on war, peace and
whats really going on about Iraq (its hard to figure out why someoil barons
dont want to overthrow Saddam and some chickenhawks do). Steve reminded us
about President John Adams, who as a Federalist epitomized the monarchical
presidency and jammed the Alien and Sedition Act through Congress to keep out
foreigners and shut down Ben Franklins sons newspaper because it was running
things Adams didnt want run about the French Revolution.
Two young black people, Jared and Mark, came in, having heard
about the meeting from the Washington Peace Center. Jareds a dynamic, informed
alternative radio person; the talk got even more stimulating. More came
in, having seen the signs in the library. A woman who works for the Red
Cross expressed her thoughts about the rip-off of 9-11 contributions to the Red
Cross. Finally, my friend who works at the Library of Congress and is
very upset over Iraq ("Wheres the peace movement?" shes asking)
joined for the last 30 minutes. We were 12 in all, half white, half
black. It was a thoroughly engaging three hours, and we left feeling in touch,
not isolated; more informed, and very glad we had found each other.
(Meeting and speaking freely to each other is definitely the antidote to totalitarianism--that
must be why theyre first and foremost in the Bill of Rights.) Well for
sure stay in touch.
Afterward, four of us went to see the amazing 9/11 video footage
of ground zero, videoed witness accounts, and "democracy of 9-11 photographs"
display at the Corcoran Museum. I was spellbound listening to a woman
describe her escape and descent from the North Tower 92nd floor. On the
street, she dived under a car as the tower collapsed and found under there her
best friend, who unbeknownst to her had dived under it first. They
MONDAY, SEPT. 10 DEMONSTRATION OUTSIDE THE CARLYLE GROUP ON PENNSYLVANIA
AVE., sponsored by the DC Alliance and the DC Anti-War Network.
Jared, Mark and I went inside the elaborate building
where the Carlyle Group is headquartered. Guards were everywhere in the
rico place--"the banks are made of marble" as Woody Guthrie
sang--huge globe lamps and palm plants, too. We tried to take photos, but
were stopped at once.
Back outside, we stood on Pennsylvania Ave. and chanted to the
passing taxis, "War Profiteers Headquartered Here," and "The
Carlyle Group Gets Military Loot." Lots of taxi drivers gave a thumbs up
to my sign (which I had borrowed from a Massachusetts demonstrator):
"Regime Change Begins at Home: Impeach Bush and Cheney."
A Carlyle public relations man came down to talk with us.
He was explaining that Democrats were in Carlyles revolving
military-corporate-government door as much as Republicans, and he challenged us
to demonstrate how personal ties influence government spending and other
decision-making. We explained how "deep politics" works, and I
said it wasnt so much who knew and talked to whom, but what an enterprise is
about--that Carlyle is promoting weapons systems that are far beyond the scope
and cope of human beings, arent needed, and destroy innocent people and the
planet. I told the gentleman that if the people at Carlyle used their
formidable connections to promote life-enhancing systems, such as sustainable
energy, instead of life-destroying ones, Id have no quarrel with them, but
that he was shilling for people who are profiting from war and terrorism.
When I tried to take a photo of two men in suits
watching us (probably FBI,
headquartered just a block away), one of them turned his back--and kept on
turning as I walked around him, looking through my camera and saying "You
watch and photograph us, why wont you let us photograph you?" About
eight building guards, people at a nearby sidewalk cafe, and a few pedestrians
were watching all this.
The street theater by the DC Anti-War Network was
brilliant. We sang "Old McCarlyle Had a Farm" ("with a weapons
factory here and a weapons factory there and a Secretary of State here and a
Secretary of Defense there"), as the farmer (Pat Elder) milked his Carlyle
cash cow, and we sang "Listen, Do You Want to Know a (Carlyle)
Secret?" as giant ears marked "Bush Jr." and "Carlyle"
listened to what Uncle Sam whispered to them. Bush Sr. and Jr. (accurate
likenesses in their giant paper mache masks) came through a revolving screen
door, and Jr. whined to his Daddy, "I want it; I want it; gimme, gimme,
gimme" and his Daddy assured him that Carlyle and everything it stood for
would all be his some day.
Despite thin numbers and an embarrassingly disorganized
beginning, we left energized and in high spirits, knowing that at least we had
let some taxi drivers and building guards know what Carlyle is about--and let
their PR man know that we know. And we had a great time doing it.
TUESDAY, SEPT. 10 CANDLELIGHT VIGIL AT EINSTEIN STATUTE AND VIETNAM
MEMORIAL, sponsored by DC Alliance for Democracy and American Friends Service
We gathered around the large, wonderful statute of a
smiling Einstein (sitting casually, with no socks), and I felt warmed by his
presence and his sure approval of what we were about that evening. I
stood for a while on Constitution Ave. holding my sign "Honor Them With
Peace" and received many favorable responses from motorists in the slow,
heavy, evening traffic. After some good folk singing by my neighbor Jane,we had
an invocation in the Native-American style and readings from books of
various faiths, including a Muslim cleric's reading from the Koran. After
that, we settled into reading the 9-11 and Afghan victims names (an Afghani
man read the Afghani names), interspersing this with quotes about war, peace
and justice from Einstein, Gandhi, King, Ben Franklin, Jeanette Rankin, George
Washington, and others and lighting candles, involving everyone to the degree
they wanted. By sundown about 50 people were there, including a few who
had lost friends at the Pentagon--their young daughter read a quotation.
About 9 that night we processioned with candles across
Constitution Avenue to a grassy area overlooking the Vietnam Memorial, where we
held our candles, sang, and continued reading names, names, so many names.
Several small groups visiting the Vietnam Memorial stopped to observe. It
was a soft, sad, observant, 9/11 eve--and beautiful, with the many candles
twinkling on the dark hill as we looked toward the memorial, the Potomac, and
the Pentagon beyond and listened to the names of those killed in this eras
terror and war.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
Women in Black Art Project Procession on Memorial Bridge.
Beginning at 9:30 in the morning, just before the
time the plane hit the Pentagon,
about 60 people dressed in all black or all white began walking silently across
Memorial Bridge behind three women dressed in striking black costumes and a
sound box of Londons Big Ben tolling in intervals. We walked in pairs,
taking two steps with every ring of the bell and stopping. The sky was a
hard blue; the river below reflected the brilliant sunlight and mesmerized me
with its depth and swirling power.
As the ceremony at the Pentagon ended, four jets
screamed overhead. We formed a line, witnessing silently for peace as the
buses of congressmen returned from the Arlington cemetery to the Capitol and a couple
of helicopters flew overhead--perhaps one carrying Bush? Later, we sat on
the grass and reflected about the symbols of war on the bridge (Lincoln at one
end; Lees mansion and the Cemetery at the other end) and the statutes
"Valor" and "Sacrifice," named for attributes of war, at
the head of the bridge. We discussed the importance of appropriating
symbols and rituals (such as walking in cadence) for peace and life, not
leaving them only to war and religion, and reflected on examples of valor and
sacrifice for peace and life, rather than war. I thought of the valor and
sacrifice of the unknown man with the red bandana over his face on the 78th
floor of the World Trade Center north tower who had carried numerous people to
the safety of a stairwell, down which they escaped before he and the others
died in the crash.
Malcolm X Park: morning, noon and evening events organized by my husband Phil
Wheaton and sponsored by numerous local groups--Native North and
Meso-American, African-American, Latino, Middle Eastern, Persian Gulf and
The speeches (some profound), prayers, singing,
dancing and drumming, celebrated our common humanity in all our diversity
and our hope for a future of community, not chaos, in what Martin Luther King
described as the World House. We learned later that an enraged Puerto Rican man
who had shouted obscenities in Spanish at one of the African-American speakers
(Phil had had to physically block him from accosting the man) had lost his
pregnant girlfriend in the WTC and was crazy with grief on 9-11-02. A
total of about 200 people came throughout the day. There were Pacifica Radio
interviews with AfD Council member Steve Cheifetz and Phil. The evening
event was a benediction of community and hope, deep and powerful for all in the
singing, swaying circle of people of every hue and many cultures.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 - Videos: 911 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the
French authors speaking on Democracy Now about their book, Bin Laden, the
A dozen people came. The 911 Families video was
short but powerful in depicting the grief of an Afghani victims family member
and the rage of a 911 victims family member over what was being done to
innocent Afghan families in response to the 911 horror. We told each other
facts we had learned about the causes of 911 and reflected on the new paradigm
emerging during this watershed era, with plenty of time and space (and respect)
for everyone to say whatever they wished.
I asked if anyone had had dreams about the current and future
era. A woman in town from Arizona, from England originally, said she had
dreamed she was caring for someone elses child, which was malformed but
extremely precious. The child began to disintegrate and melt down into a drain.
She tried to pick it out of the drain but couldnt; she tried to call to
others, but had lost her voice. Now that she is finding others with whom
to talk, she is finding her voice. I told about a friends Sept. 11,
2001, dream after the plane had hit the Pentagon: a force had blown a hole in
the Pentagon, releasing into the world the evil spirit which had been contained
there, and we had to find a new way to contain it. I told my dream about an
epic, exhausting, lethal struggle going on in the dark, a struggle in which
many people had died, and our adversary--an old, out-dated, vicious man--and I
emerging into the light of a clearing. I was disheveled, in dark, dirty
clothes, exhausted from the struggle. The man was looking around for
something to fire his blunderbuss at, anything, he just had to fire his old
weapon, and finally he fired a blast at no target in particular and fell
backward, spent and dead.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14--DC ALLIANCE-SPONSORED COMMUNITY MEETING AT THE
CHEVY CHASE LIBRARY
Eight people came, and a ninth, a woman who when she
realized the tenor of the discussion left, disapproval all over her unsmiling
face. We had another rich conversation, freely sharing our thoughts and
questions. John began by saying we needed to use humor in discussing the
situation with others, but he ended passionately and angrily declaring that if
the U.S. invades Iraq it will be the end of the U.S--we will no longer be the
country we have known and thought we were. "Anybody with a suitcase
or a Greyhound bus ticket will be able to wreak terror, and well become a
fearful, fragmented place of various provinces and much danger
everywhere." He was eloquent and moving in his rage.