83-Year-Old Teacher Gives Drone Squad a Civics Lesson – Reads Constitution, Gets Arrested

Eve Tetaz, 83, was found not guilty on Tuesday, Sept.16, in De Witt Town Court for her protest opposing Reaper Drone war crimes at 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, N.Y.

I’ve spend many extremely hot or bone-chillingly cold hours with Eve sitting in the back of police vans. She’s a wonderful soul. And Mark Goldstone is one of the heroes of the D.C. legal community. I’m a huge fan! He’s helped so many of us press our points in the court and helped us use the law to improve our country.

According to reports:

Immediately after Onondaga County prosecutor Jordan McNamara rested his case against D.C. peace and justice activist Eve Tetaz, DeWitt town judge David Gideon granted Ms Tetaz’ motion to dismiss. Ms Tetaz represented herself pro se with the support of D.C. attorney Mark Goldstone.

Ms. Tetaz had been arrested on April 28, 2013, along with 30 others as she stood reading aloud the Preamble to the UN Charter and the First Amendment of the Constitution on the edge of the driveway leading into the Hancock Reaper drone base. The prosecution’s video of Ms Tetaz’ arrest showed the arresting officer grabbing those documents from her hands and tossing them aside.

Continue reading “83-Year-Old Teacher Gives Drone Squad a Civics Lesson – Reads Constitution, Gets Arrested”

‘Pussy Riot’ Sentencing: Can’t Jail Female Fury

Handcuffed members of Russian punk feminist collective. T-shirt says "No Pasaran."

Three women from the Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot were convicted today of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were arrested in February following an uninvited “punk prayer” of protest against the iron fist and faux democracy of Russian president Vladimir Putin and calling to account the theological rubber-stamping of Putin’s repressive regime by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Their “performance prayer” titled “Hail Mary, Putin Run!” (see video and lyrics) was offered to the Virgin Mary at the altar of Christ the Savior Orthodox Cathedral in Red Square. After spending five months in jail since the event, they were sentenced today to two years–time served credited against the sentence, so they’ve got another 19 months to go.

While some have directly attacked the band as anti-religious, others have attempted to more subtly undercut them by saying their actions are just publicity stunts to get money. I say, Wrong and wrong. Acts of ecclesial disobedience are called for when institutions that are supposed to represent God fail to do so. And spending two years in a Russian prison – as a woman – is not the kind of thing we do for money.

According to Reuters,

“The girls’ actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church’s rules,” Judge Marina Syrova told the court as she spent three hours reading the verdict while the women stood watching in handcuffs inside a glass courtroom cage. … State prosecutors had requested a three-year jail term. Putin’s opponents portray the trial as part of a wider crackdown by the former KGB spy to crush their protest movement. “They are in jail because it is Putin’s personal revenge,” Alexei Navalny, one of the organizers of big protests against Putin during the winter, told reporters outside the court. “This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin.”

The Associated Press reported,

The judge relied extensively on the testimony of church laymen, who said they were offended and shocked by the band’s stunt. “The actions of the defendants reflected their hatred of religion,” Syrova said in the verdict. She also said that the defendants’ feminist views challenged church doctrine. The Orthodox Church said in a statement after the verdict that the band’s stunt was a “sacrilege” and a “reflection of rude animosity toward millions of people and their feelings.” It also asked the authorities to “show clemency toward the convicted in the hope that they will refrain from new sacrilegious actions.” The case comes in the wake of several recently passed laws cracking down on opposition, including one that raised the fine for taking part in an unauthorized demonstrations by 150 times to 300,000 rubles (about $9,000).

Supporter for Pussy Riot in the pink balaclava of the movement.

I wholly agree that “the defendants’ feminist views challenged church doctrine.” As a Catholic woman, I’m familiar with how sensitive church doctrine can be. Sometimes it feel like just existing is a challenge to church doctrine. Which makes me think that church doctrine had become too removed from the real lives of people. Jesus became incarnate in order to exist in our real lives, not an idealized dream state.

In Female Fury by Sergey Chernov (St. Petersburg Times, February 1, 2012), the women of Pussy Riot describe their own place in the current Russian resistance movement and their musical lineage with punk rock, riot grrrrls, and third-wave feminism:

“The grassroots protest force is more radically-minded than official rally organizers imagine. We believe that a large number of people are ready to demonstrate without a sanction. People were happy to share the quotes from our songs: ‘The time for a subversive clash has come,’ ‘Live on Red Square / Show the freedom of civil anger.’” The group — which features from three to eight performers — sees itself as being “on the border between punk rock and contemporary art.”

“Contemporary culture is characterized by diffusivity, mutual influence and the interaction of different directions, the intersection that leads to transgression,” Pussy Riot says. “It’s possible to find features of 1990s Actionism in our performances, while the motif of the closed face of the performer — which has been used by many music bands such as Slipknot, Daft Punk or Asian Women on the Telephone, for instance, is borrowed from conceptual art where the tradition of not showing one’s face is present.” …

According to the group, one of the events that led them to form Pussy Riot was Putin and Medvedev’s announcement made to the United Russia party congress on Sept. 25 that they would change posts in the upcoming presidential elections due on March 4. The move has been compared to castling in chess, when a rook and a king swap places. “We don’t like this kind of chess,” Pussy Riot said. Since then, Pussy Riot has held unsanctioned performances in boutiques and at a fashion show as well as on the roof of a garage next to the detention center where the imprisoned participants of anti-fraud rallies were held. They unveiled a banner, lit flares and performed a song called “Death to Prison, Freedom to Protest” and escaped without being arrested.

The group cites American punk rock band Bikini Kill and its Riot Grrrl movement as an inspiration, but says there are plenty of differences between them and Bikini Kill. “What we have in common is impudence, politically loaded lyrics, the importance of feminist discourse, non-standard female image,” Pussy Riot said. “The difference is that Bikini Kill performed at specific music venues, while we hold unsanctioned concerts. On the whole, Riot Grrrl was closely linked to Western cultural institutions, whose equivalents don’t exist in Russia.”

The performance in on the altar of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church is shocking, evocative. But I’d argue that it is not blasphemy against God. To blaspheme means to injure the reputation of a religious deity or holy person or thing. The punk band actually treated God and Mary with a certain level of respect. However, they do injure the reputation of an institutional hierarchy that too often promotes a theology more akin to a Russian civil religion rather than Christian faith.

“Christians should always live uneasily with empire,” writes Jim Wallis, “which constantly threatens to become idolatrous and substitute secular purposes for God’s.”

Let me be clear. Most Russian Orthodox Christians are genuine in their faith, worship, and ministry. They are devout and are a blessing to those around them. But as a member of a church that has also at times abused its power, I can appreciate the performance art needed and the sacrifice made to shake up an unshakable institution. Remember Sinead O’Connor‘s bold 1992 indictment on Saturday Night Live of child abuse within the Roman Catholic church? She tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II and said “Fight the real enemy.” Look where her “blasphemy” led; the slow uncovering of massive crimes against children and the building up of a process, yet imperfect, for restoration and justice.

So, say a novena for the women of Pussy Riot. Light a candle in church for them. Even more, take a public action for justice, women’s empowerment, and freedom. But whatever you do, don’t dismiss them.

Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning? is a Catholic peace activist and a Sojourners associate editor. She blogs at rosemarieberger.com.

Plowshares Action: ‘Transform Now’ at Oak Ridge Nuclear Facility

Oak Ridge, TN—Early on Saturday morning, July 28, three Catholic plowshares activists performed a disarmament action in response to U.S. government plans to invest $80 billion to sustain and modernize the nuclear weapons complex, which should in fact be phased out.

Calling themselves Transform Now Plowshares, Michael R. Walli (63) left, Sr. Megan Rice (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) right, entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as a prophetic Christian witness to prioritize people over bombs.

They released a faith-based statement citing Isaiah 2 and saying, “A loving and compassionate Creator invites us to take the urgent and decisive steps to transform the U.S. empire, and this facility, into life-giving alternatives which resolve real problems of poverty and environmental degradation for all.”

They also delivered an indictment citing U.S. Constitutional and Treaty Law as well as the Nuremberg Principles: “The ongoing building and maintenance of Oak Ridge Y-12 constitute war crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial authorities at all levels. We are required by International Law to denounce and resist known crimes.” This action is one of a long tradition of Plowshares disarmament actions in the US and around the world which challenge war-making and weapons of mass destruction.

At Y-12, the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to replace facilities for production and dismantlement of enriched uranium components with a new consolidated Uranium Processing Facility (UPF). It is budgeted to cost more than $6.5 billion.

Read the bios and full statements of Michael, Sr. Megan, and Greg here.

Flamenco Flatlines Big Bank of Spain

Guerilla theater prophets at Rev. Billy’s Church of Stop Shopping have turned their sites to the thievery of Big Banks saying, “We return to the shiny, silent interior of big banks, the lobbies where we hope to establish a visual wedge, an opening of possibility in the rogue empires of Chase, Citi and B of A. Why do Americans continue to reverence these criminal organizations called big banks. Trillions in assets – with the money spent around the world as if from a detached dirigibles, untethered to any democratic controls.” Below are the flamenco artists who brought their message to the Bank of Spain.

They are, as Rev. Billy puts it, “artists who brave the high church environment of the big banks’ insides.” You can watch more at Fearofbanking.com. And read Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann on Rev. Billy in What Would Jesus Buy?

Today 2 Alabama State Senators Join Immigration Law Protest

Two Alabama state senators, Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, joined an immigration law protest on Thursday, May 3, 2012, outside the doors of the Senate chamber in Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. The six Christian protesters from Alabama Rising were detained by police. A few of them were from Micah’s House community in Birmingham.

Send a “thank you” note to Sen. Singleton [bsingle164 (at) yahoo (dot) com]  and Sen. Ross [Quinton.ross (at) alsenate (dot) gov] for joining in and raising a stink for not being arrested along with the others.

To read more, check out Immigration law protesters detained outside Alabama Senate.

George Herbert: ‘Love bade me welcome’

In the middle of the night, I was reading the notes in Adrienne Rich’s new poetry collection Tonight No Poetry Will Serve. Rich quotes from Simone Weil’s The Iliad or The Poems of Force. The reference pushed me off to look up collections of Weil’s writings. While reading an article on Weil’s experience reciting the “Pater Noster” in Greek, I came across a reference to her favorite poem: “Love” by George Herbert (1593-1632). I leave it here for you, as an offering of gratitude.

Love
by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here.’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkinde, ungrateful? Ah, my deare,
I cannot look on thee.’

Love took my hand and smiling did reply:
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love; ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My deare, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

Plastic Flip Flops: The Nonviolent Weapons of the Poor?

Protesters in Jakarta, Indonesia, bring plastic flip flops to the police station in a satirical action criticizing the beating and arrest of a boy for allegedly stealing a pair of cheap sandals from a Mobile Brigade officer.

According to the Associated Press: Indonesians have found a new symbol for their growing frustration at uneven justice in this young, democratic nation: cheap, worn-out flip-flops.

They have been dropping them off at police stations throughout the country to express outrage over the arrest and trial of a 15-year-old boy for lifting an old pair of white sandals outside a boarding house used by police in northern Indonesia.

The teen — who was later interrogated and badly beaten by three of the officers in the Central Sulawesi provincial capital of Palu — faces up to five years in prison.

Thousands of people have dropped off their old shoes at police stations in recent days as a form of protest.

Twelve Thousand Circle White House to Say ‘No’ To Keystone XL Pipeline

I joined 12,000 people on Sunday afternoon to circle the White House. We were sending President Obama a message: Don’t sell the American Heartland to a Corporation. It’s not in the our national interest. Say ‘No’ to the Keystone XL pipeline.

“He’s got a difficult decision to make,” said one person I spoke with. “It will take a lot of moral courage for him to buck the system. The forces arrayed against him are obvious, so all we can do is pray that he will have the strength of heart and courage to take a step in the right direction and deny the permit.”

October 4: Francis of Assisi

October 4 is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, il poverello, the poor one, whose voice in the newly emerging mercantile class of the 13th century warned of the greed and corruption and destitution that would come when the world was run more on profit for the rich than it was on a prophetic commitment to the poor. And he was right.

But Francis was known for more than protests.

Francis loved animals, too. He was a walking apostle for ecology and the protection of woodlands, which, having been destroyed for parking lots and housing estates, leave animals who once lived in caves and forests to spill over into our largest cities. He talked to the animals. He understood them. He knew their place in creation.

No doubt about it. In a world where species after species is disappearing under the rubric of “progress,” where animals are being used for research on materials and cosmetics, where the boundaries between forests and cities are fast disappearing, where bears show up in shopping districts of major cities and crocodiles show up on people’s front lawns, we need St. Francis now.

It is also becoming clear that Francis knew what we are only now discovering.

Continue reading “October 4: Francis of Assisi”

Catch the Vision: Tar Sands Protest Art

Day 1: Sixty-five arrested. Locals were released by 8 p.m. Out-of-towners held in D.C. jail until Monday morning arraignment. The D.C. police seem to want to make an example of the first group in order to discourage the next 13 days of sustained protest.

What we know is that the small but real sacrifice of these few to be held over the weekend will be joined by hundreds of others. In determined peaceableness, we will flood the streets. We will raise the banners. We will fill the jails. Because we can not do otherwise. The cost of inaction is simply too high.

Some highlights from Saturday: Jim Antal, former head of Fellowship of Reconciliation and now president of the Massachussetts Conference of the United Church of Christ was arrested. Kristy Powell, originator of the One Dress Protest, was arrested. Lt. Dan Choi, leader of the protest against the former military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, was arrested. Fr. Jim Noonan, Maryknoll Catholic priest, who spent years in Cambodia under Pol Pot serving AIDS patients was arrested.