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Posts Tagged ‘demonstration’

We can do it, you know. We can get there. We can have it all. The Third Millennium AD can be the green millennium, the time in which we learn to live as responsible human beings at last. There is no law, natural or divine, which demands that the world we live in become poorer, harsher, and more dangerous. If it continues to become that way, it is only because we do it ourselves.

—Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl

PHOTOS

I’ve long wished to join the series of actions at the West Roxbury lateral pipeline in Boston, which often includes civil disobedience. The actions attempt to stop a pipeline being laid thru land taken by eminent domain. The 5-mile pipeline is part of a 1,100-mile pipeline being built by Spectra Energy of Houston, Texas, and its subsidiary, Algonquin Gas Transmission in Waltham, Massachusetts, to carry natural gas from Pennsylvania. Some claim it will transport gas extracted by hydraulic fracking further south in the States for sale in Canada. This presents a multiple whammy.

  • The process of fracking pollutes water and releases methane, making it allegedly more destructive to the earth than coal.
  • While much of the pipe is under roads, causing little inconvenience except during construction, some pipe I suspect is under useful land snatched by the law, such as home and school lands.
  • The gas in this high pressure line could explode and destroy buildings and lives along the route. In addition, as a final seal of potential doom, one stretch is next to a quarry where explosives are used to mine the rock.
  • It increases the potential for gas leaks, already a major problem not only in Boston but widespread in the nation.
  • It encourages more use of fossil fuel rather than emphasizing renewable energy.

To be convincing in this article, I would need to research and corroborate all these claims. This would include reading counter claims about the economic benefits and safety of the project. Sufficient for now, I reference this article about the debate:

“Debate about the pipeline heats up” (September 2015)

The action itself on Saturday, June 25, 2016, billed as running from 10 to noon, lasted until about 3 pm. It consisted of a rally along the pipeline route, opposite the quarry and the compressor station also under construction; a march of about 1/2 mile to the pipe laying site, blocked by a police line; another march of about the same length to the other end of the police cordon with a short vigil along a main road, Washington Street; and then some unscripted but highly anticipated activity.

Compressor construction site

Metering and Regulating construction site

 

During all this, a smaller group of about 10 people who were prepared for arrest with their support people sniffed their way thru the warren of small country-like roads to the mid-point of the project. Searching for a way past the police who otherwise would block them, suddenly 3 men from this contingent who expected to be arrested, darted down the road past the police, onto the site, and soon were in the 10 ft deep ditch dug by a huge Caterpillar hydraulic mining shovel preparing to lay the pipe.

Police hurried into the ditch, extracted and arrested the three young men, handcuffed them, and brought them to a curb where they sat awaiting the police van to be delivered to the West Roxbury police station.

Arrest of Jay O'Hara and two others

Arrest of Shea Riester and two others

Where was I in all this, I the ever-seeing, or hoped to be the ever-seeing photographer, trying to be in all places at all times, hovering over the action, omniscient, omnipresent, a form of photographer god or angel, free to pass thru police lines with my magical fantastic credentials? I had been at the far end of the construction site, unable to see much about what happened at the site, casually photographing police juxtaposed with cranes and trucks behind them, when I noticed a flurry of activity. This included the only person with a large video camera and tripod. He must know something that I don’t; why else would he race away with all that heavy gear? I thought. So I followed, wondering whether I was about to photograph something important, or just go for a futile self-tour of West Roxbury.

West_Roxbury_Pipeline_IMG_4280

I call myself (usually not openly) an “opportunistic photographer,” that is, I often exploit opportunities presented to me rather than plan my work. Entering Gaza in 2003 for the first time is one example. I failed twice to gain entrance and then happened upon an international NGO thru a friend and slipped in with them. Or, also in Gaza, I was working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) when they told me they planned a trip to one of the most heavily destroyed parts of the Strip, called Zeitoun (the Arabic word for olive tree) to deliver donated winter clothing. I accompanied them and made nearly a day’s worth of photos. Waking up that morning I doubt I knew where I’d be later in the day. That is “opportunistic photography.” Or maybe a better word is “spontaneous,” guided by my muses which I pray to and thank every day.

So I found myself virtually the only photographer at the most appropriate location to show the three young men, later a fourth, questioned by the police, searched, and stuffed into the police van. All close up. I did however miss their drop in visit to the ditch, trying to block construction, and the police response. This for other photographers, other opportunistic or simply lucky human beings with cameras. I do not work alone.

The action continued. By the same backwoods route used by my predecessors who were arrested and their supporters,the group and I found a way to join others prepared for arrest. This included an older woman in a wheelchair, waiting for a long period under hot sun. Altho our numbers had shrunk, from about 90, we 30 or so constituted an ongoing vigil, observing the ditch making and pipe laying, pieces of an evolving national labyrinth which could contribute to disaster not only of this neighborhood but of the planet itself.

The long road around the two police barricades

The long road around the two police barricades

West_Roxbury_Pipeline_IMG_4343West_Roxbury_Pipeline_IMG_4341

As I write this, today (June 28, 2016) on Democracy Now a few minutes ago Amy Goodman broadcast a troubling report about extreme weather in the United States.

From Aravinda Ananda, arrested with her husband Joseph at the demonstration on June 28, 2016:

Joseph and I did our business owners’ action earlier in the morning. They arrested Joseph immediately after crossing the police tape. I sat by the trench for maybe 3 minutes before they had me cuffed and taken away. No construction stopped.

30-40 people had come from western MA to risk arrest, but the police liaison made a deal with the police – protestors would approach the police line and construction would stop for an hour or something and there would be no arrests. I think they only ended up stopping construction for 40 minutes, but there were no other arrests.

We were in custody from about 9:30 until perhaps 3:00. They brought us to precinct 5 and we were in a holding cell for about 4 hours while they booked us. Then they brought us to lockup/the courthouse, and two holding cells later we went before a judge who offered us the same deal all other pipeline protesters have been offered thus far: to convert the charges from criminal to civil ones so long as we are not arrested again in this same protest in the next 6 months. So our journey through the court system may or may not be over. 

…I offered some Work That Reconnects practices including “bowing to our adversaries” at a conference two weekends ago at Pendle Hill on “Powerful Faith-Based Organizing for Climate Justice.” I have been feeling that piece a lot recently. Before the action yesterday, I had to pass through the construction site twice in search of a bathroom. I made a point of saying good morning to all of the construction workers and police officers. On the way back from the bathroom the sidewalk was closed, but an officer escorted me through and we chatted about the rain – I told him how much I appreciated it for gardening. I said “wow, this is a big project” (about the construction). He said “yea, some protesters are not happy about it.” I didn’t tell him I was one of them… Maybe next time. 

…We were singing kirtan chants in the police transport vehicle, and when I was in the holding cell alone for four hours whenever I would get restless I would quietly chant. I ended up sending a lot of loving kindness to the police officers in the precinct. It was so helpful to have had these spiritual tools (bowing to the adversaries, chanting, etc.) to steady me through this. All in all, the police were really kind to me. The arresting officer asked me if I had any medical conditions or arthritis before cuffing me. Joseph didn’t get the same courtesy (knee on his back!) [He’d not cooperated during the arrest, going limp.]. The officers who booked me asked me three times if I needed to use the bathroom, which is good because there were no facilities in my first holding cell. They also brought me my jacket which they had previously taken from me saying they thought I might be cold. It wasn’t too difficult to send them loving kindness. I wonder if I could have done it so well if they had been violent to me as I know people caught up in that system often can be…
Peace,
Aravinda

LINKS:

Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline

Resist the Pipeline

“Should Massachusetts Oppose Further Natural Gas Pipeline Construction In The State? Boston Globe South” by Scott Gustafson, organizer, Laborers International Union of North America (May 2016)

“Unitarian Universalists fight to stop Boston-area gas pipeline” by Elaine McArdle, March 14, 2016

Watch out for those Quakers! 20 arrested blocking construction of Boston #fracked gas pipeline #StopSpectra #350mass  (by Bill McKibbon, June 2016)

QuakersPipelineJune 23, 2016

From Friends Meeting at Cambridge, at a recent pipeline action

“Following on weeks of actions at the Spectra West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline construction site, a Quaker-led group placed themselves in the way of construction….” (May 2016)

“Vice President’s Daughter Karenna Gore Arrested in the Trenches of a Climate Protest” Democracy Now

“Tim DeChristopher Arrested Again in the “Age of Anticipatory Mass Graves” for Climate Victims” Democracy Now

2016-01-04-wrl_gasleaks-Image of gas leaks in West Roxbury- Gas Safety USA. Courtesy BU professor Nathan Phillips

Gas leaks in West Roxbury, April 2016, Gas Safety USA, courtesy of Boston University professor Nathan Phillips

 

 

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Yoga in front of the Federal Reserve Bank, Dewey Square, Boston

A UN observer inspecting an unexploded cluster bomb-laden rocket in southern Lebanon. (AP)

Photo courtesy of The Independent 2011

Pages from my journal about the Occupy Movement

Occupy Boston

International Day of Solidarity with the Occupied Movement & a march to end US wars :: October 15, 2011

Occupied Wall Street—1

Occupy Boston March on Indigenous Rights Day, Oct 10, 2011 (video)

October 16, 2011

Another iteration of Occupy Boston yesterday [October 15, 2011], my third. The main camp remains. With some reported violence last week the police had dismantled the second camp along the Greenway. Yesterday all seemed calm, even when the peace march reached Verizon and stopped to chant slogans, and later outside the Bank of America, a hated symbol of corporate greed and congressional and administration malfeasance. At this second site, I stationed myself between marchers and the bank, joining a surprisingly small phalanx of bicycle cops to stand between institution and opposition. Speeches, chants, waving fists, and the march continued. I filmed and photographed, prepared at any minute for violence. This reminded me of clashes in Israel-Palestine at spots like Bil’in, the Palestinian village which for more than 5 years has resisted the separation barrier, where one could not predict outcomes. The power of a crowd, a mass, a mob is not easily directed. Or might be effectively directed by the likes of Samuel Adams. Oh Sam, where are you now?

In front of the Bank of America

In front of Verizon

I believe the march had been planned by the Boston branch of the United National Antiwar Committee before Occupy Boston started, as a demand to end US wars. It turned into a march that also supported Occupied Boston. Because of the multivalent nature of the march young people were not the usual high proportion.

Guarding the Army recruitment center

Wishing to not bore myself or any possible audience I strove for unusual photos. One might be at the Army recruitment center, the march reflected in the glass wall with its Army signs. Another might be the low camera angles.  Another might be faces. I tried.

A travel and couple dream. With others we rode in a bus thru the night, arrived in Cambridge after one leg of a longer trip. We all helped the driver remove the folding chairs serving as seats so the bus could be cleaned. I’d acquired 2 large loaves of crumbly bread, one I dropped on the ground but retrieved to eat later. I wished to save both loaves for the rest of my journey.

A young man and young woman who’d also ridden on the bus intended to go further. They needed to catch their next bus somewhere in East Cambridge. I directed them thru Central Sq, confident I knew the way. By now I might have been on a bike. I looked longingly at them, this newly forming couple and thought fondly of when I was in a similar stage of life with P. I felt grateful that P and I had met and loved and married and had children, all when young, and by recalling our history I felt less old, less left out. I kept all this meditation to myself.

In a hotel I found for my overnight stay, I showered by turning the entire bathroom into a shower, spewing water all over walls and floor. I did this wantonly but with permission.

October 18, 2011, Tuesday, home in Cambridge

Australian Delegation Visits Cluster-Bombed Areas of Lebanon, Calls for Ban

I see a connection, albeit a slender one, between our Quaker meeting’s monthly prayerful witness at Textron Industries in Wilmington Massachusetts, manufacturer of cluster bombs, and the popular movements now erupting internationally. Some 85 of us “occupied” a conspicuous space in front of the building, held it for one hour as a multitude of people rode by, prayed for peace or whatever we felt impelled to do during our “occupation,” and created a visible and irrefutable sign and question about the meaning of this building—what Textron made, how it profited, and who lost limbs, sanity, and lives because of its product. One year earlier I’m not sure we’d have found many from Friends Meeting at Cambridge willing to sit in prayer in front of Textron. Or if we had that we’d have so many participants. Our visits to Textron date back nearly 2 years when John Bach—love that man!—initiated nearly single-handedly a monthly series to Textron. I joined early, regularly participate, and for this recent manifestation, contributed a display about the company and its nefarious work.

John Bach, founder of the Textron Industries monthly prayer sessions

October 20, 2011, Thursday, home in Cambridge

Cool and wet, after a day of rain, heavy at times, mid 50s, overcast, calm.

Photographing the tents at Occupy Boston reminded me of the Simplex Tent City set up in 1987 to contest MIT’s take over of residential property between Central Sq and the university. So I investigated my archive. The negatives must be at P’s and so for now remain unavailable.  In my basement I found a few prints, and then I remembered that I have photocopied sets of many of my earlier photos on the shelf above my computer. So I dragged a bunch of notebooks down and perused them. I found only a few from that tent city, and they were not very inspiring. I found other photos from various political projects. I’d assess them as of mixed value. Juvenilia perhaps. One or two images might warrant inclusion in a retrospective. (Will I ever reach such a point? Hang up my cameras, get out my archives, make a selection for a retrospective?)

1970 MIT Tech File Photo

1987

1997 Agnes Borszeki — The MIT Tech

The important point is precedent. Simplex Tent City is one small but important local precedent, as is the wave of factory takeovers during the labor movement, and after that the lunch counter sit in’s and the freedom bus rides. And obviously the much more recent uprisings and revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Israel, to a limited extent Palestine, and extending to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Kansas. (Before that, Serbia and the downfall of the dictator Milosevic and the “Battle of Seattle” in 1999 and other revolts against dictators and world domination by corporate and financial institution powers like the World Bank and IMF.) Each of these was a takeover or occupation of territory and with that, the claim to human rights.

Textron is one immediate local manifestation that’s affected me powerfully. Another is the recent temporary occupation of the Israeli Consulate in Boston. Tomorrow’s rally [November 9, 2011] to sustain Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in the face of pending cuts might be joined by Occupy Boston. Across the country such occupations supply an often eager cadre of marchers, ralliers, and occupiers for a variety of issues. I hope the list lengthens. Occupy is an infectious model, a template for building awareness and expediting action. It is curiously and perhaps unconsciously reminiscent of occupation—the occupation of Iraq, the occupation of Palestine. Whether this is a productive reference or one that is self-defeating is yet unknown.

Another unknown of the movement is the meaning of declining public support, or so suggest some polls. Currently it’s something like 45% oppose, 35% support. However I suppose this is true of all movements and actions. None garnered widespread support thruout their entire duration. I know many people opposed the Freedom Bus Rides, and later the Poor People’s Campaign organized by Martin Luther King Jr shortly before his assassination. Certainly his stand against the Vietnam War was unpopular among many supporters and might have been one factor that led to his murder. This is simply part of the dynamic. We now laud at least the Freedom Bus Riders, and many of us view the Poor People’s Campaign as a paradigm for wide-spread action. One works to increase support but lack of support does not necessarily point to failure.

OK, the dream: about X for a change. She agreed to help me conduct a photo workshop about rivers or some other element of the environment. The assignment was vast and challenging. I asked her to do lots of background reading. She was taking time off from her studies which were about law (the professions of medicine and law eliding together in my dream). I looked forward to working with her. She was to share a house with me and others.

Around this time, D came to visit. She brought lots of her stuff and we couldn’t manage to find a space to store it that wouldn’t interfere with X’s stuff. While trying to sort out space I introduced D to X. At that very moment X was on the computer and D recognized the program X was using. It was about international law. They immediately connected. I felt good about this.

The phone rang, one of many mobile phones, it belonged to X, I answered. It was Amory. I think I knew that he was X’s lover or boy friend. I answered, hello, this is Skip answering for X. I then announced the call to X who seemed overjoyed to receive it. I was jealous. Dream ended.

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

Occupy movement

Occupy Boston

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Together

Simplex Tent City in Cambridge

Ten Years Later, Simplex Issues Remain Unresolved

Boston project creates new niche, November 28, 2005, by Christopher Montgomery, in the Plain Dealer Reporter

Textron Industries in Wilmington Massachusetts

Made in Mass., bomb stirs global debate

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Photos

Occupy Boston—1

International Day of Solidarity with the Occupied Movement & a march to end US wars :: October 15, 2011

Pages from my journal about the Occupy Movement

October 6, 2011

Oh, yes, Occupy Boston! A grand event, modeled after Occupy Wall Street (OWS) which has been running for 3 weeks [as of October 31, 2011], spawning local variants around the world. Boston began about 1 week ago, taking over, with municipal participation and approval, Dewey Square which is opposite South Station and at the end of the Kennedy Greenway. I dropped by yesterday on my way to M’s, emailing her to join me or at least to accept my tardiness. Some 100 tents were implanted side by side, a blazing variety of tent gear, many with signs, some showing solidarity with labor organizations. Tents for food, clothing, medical assistance, legal assistance, media, coordination, etc. And a nightly round of General Assemblies at 7 pm, which is a meeting to discuss plans, using the consensus model, but bending this to agree to a plurality. So far the police have been mostly cooperative. As far as I know, no large-scale civil disobedience is planned. This information comes mainly from one young man who’s been volunteering for the past 3 days.

I arrived around 3 pm, as Cornell West, the preeminent scholar, university professor, author, rapper, preacher, and activist co-led a large contingent of nurses in a small march around the square. Even tho I was aware of his key role in supporting the Occupy movement, I’d not expected him here. There is a very powerful YouTube video showing him leading chants for the occupiers on Wall Street. Yesterday many gathered around him, hugged and kissed him, called him a hero. He looked embarrassed by this attention, joyfully hugged and kissed in return. I did my best to show this energy and chemistry, accidentally in a position within brushing distance.

Needless to confess: I am ecstatic about this popular movement, how rapidly it’s spreading across the country, based on the simple call of We are the 99%, that is the 99% of the population who are not rich and dominant. The unifying call is against corporate greed, and spreads out from there to oppose war, advocate for better health coverage and education, and regulations of commerce, especially the financial industry. One young man tried to gain support for marihuana legalization. He began imperiously: the single most important issue is the marihuana laws. Change them. Are you with me? People booed. He moderated his call, but only a handful of supporters cheered him on. This reminded me of a poetry slam or a film festival when the audience votes for their favorite movie. At Occupied Boston, by popular assent, perhaps, the participants may clarify their platform.

October 12, 2011

I’ve minimally edited and posted a 2.5 minute movie about the Occupy Boston march on Monday, Indigenous Rights Day, altho I spotted few indigenous people and no indigenous organizations. Estimates were as high as 10,000 marchers—I guessed 3,000 when pressed by Rachel and Abby. Lots. And mostly young, I’d estimate mostly students. Most white, most looked middle class. Which might be one key weakness in this movement. R pressed me to join the support group on Monday night that would try to block the police from removing the occupiers who by then had expanded their zone past Dewey Sq. to another nearby site along the Greenway. Police justified this removal by stating that the Greenway had been recently improved there and would be ruined if occupiers used it.

Park Street Station & Boston Common

Guarding the Army recruitment center

In front of the Bank of America

In front of Verizon

By some accounts the removal was violent. I’ve seen several photo sets and movies which have not clearly demonstrated this quality. In fact, in most of the media I viewed the police did not wear riot gear. Reportedly the Veterans for Peace group stood between police and occupiers to “protect the kids,” and the police handled the vets roughly.

I declined R’s invitation on the grounds that 1. It would be late and dark and so it would be nearly impossible to photograph, 2. I’d already been on the job for the afternoon with lots of photos, 3. I’m not too interested in photographing yet another confrontational scene, and 4. My role is primarily a photographer, not activist.

There seemed to be confusion about leadership and communication during the march. Who is leading? Periodically everyone sat down and the “peoples’ mike” was brought out: this is a novel technique for amplifying voice. For instance, I might speak, using short phrases, as if expecting translation. The crowd nearest me repeats my phrase, thus amplifies it. Anyone can call for the mike. At the Charlestown Bridge, the projected end of the march, chosen because it represented how money could be better spent on infrastructure rather than bank bailouts and Wall St. support, blocked by police (with the justification that the bridge would not support so many people), once again the peoples’ mike was put into use. Several groups shouted out their requests: one to stay at the bridge and one to return to the campsite to protect it. The former were mostly the anarchists, most of them wearing black and covering their faces with bandanas. They suddenly and inexplicably ran down a side street.

I asked one young man wearing a bandana, why the bandana? For the gas, he replied. Really? I said, quizzical. And might have asked, what gas? The police give no sign of shooting tear gas. I suspect the mask is primarily to prohibit identification in case the group decided to attack property. And also as a fashion statement and a way to identify one’s politics. However, for many viewers it might signal terrorist, criminal, someone with something to hide. Not a very positive statement.

In photographing the march I searched for high places, like the parking garage, for an overall view. For the climactic photo of the series I anticipated they’d cross the bridge and rather than photograph them from a first person viewpoint, in the march itself, I cleverly chose a different position—from the waterfront near the Charlestown locks so I could show them streaming across the bridge. I anticipated this position from prior experience. So I sat awhile, took the opportunity to pee into the water, waited and waited—no marchers. No signs of marchers. A helicopter hovered overhead so I knew they were still nearby. Had the police blocked them? Probably. Wouldn’t surprise me. I phoned R, he’d left the march (Wimp! And then he berated me for not showing up for the nighttime confrontation.) Reluctantly I left my treasured position, abandoned the final dramatic view, and found the marchers stalled by the police.

Providentially the Program on Negotiation and the Harvard Law Documentary Studio at Harvard Law School had scheduled a screening of the new movie last evening about Gene Sharp, How to Start a Revolution. Sharp, the movie director, and the deputy head of the Albert Einstein Institution which is Sharp’s main vehicle for disseminating his ideas about nonviolent change, were present. During the discussion following the screening and talk I asked Gene, how can a leaderless movement like the Occupy movement formulate the detailed strategy that you call for? He answered humbly, I don’t know. I have my doubts that they can.

Had I the opportunity I might have asked a second question: some, like Grace Lee Boggs, Martin Luther King Jr, Vincent Harding, and Joanna Macy, suggest that the revolution should be about values rather than regimes. Since your methods seem most useful for regime change, as with Serbia, Egypt, Ukraine, and other nonviolent eruptions, how can we adapt your principles to this shift in focus? One of his latest writings, Self Liberation contains the phrase “and other oppressions” to suggest the methods can be translated to this new orientation. I should read the booklet. All his writings are downloadable from the Einstein Institution website below.

His lessons, effectively portrayed in the movie, suggest careful attention to detailed planning: know one’s adversaries, prepare for different contingencies, be resilient, etc.

On a personal note, the film and Gene himself resonate with me in at least 2 ways. Like Gene and the movie, someone made a movie that features me, Eyewitness Gaza. And like Gene I find myself in a mentorship role, sometimes with very attractive young women. In Gene’s case it is Jamila, head of the A Einstein Institute, a refugee from Iran, extremely beautiful and youthful, devoted to him as a daughter might be to a father. He is in his 90s, I have no idea about his interests in her, whether they range further than mentoree or father-daughter. Perhaps at one time they did. Now he looks feeble. Might I be him in 20 years (if I survive that long)?

The various manifestations of the Arab Spring bring needed attention to Gene Sharp, nonviolence, and the movie. I wish all well.

I should apply his techniques to my own life, at least my life as an artist and activist: what are my goals (to open eyes, doors, and hearts to new realities, so that my deeper goals of enlightening myself and others and ending suffering can be realized), what is my strategy (make evocative media, true to my heart, prepare for harsh criticism and much avoidance), who are my adversaries (“good liberals,” pro-Israel folks, many Jews, some Quakers coming from a misguided culture of peace, etc), how to deal with them (by truly working from an open heart as I attempt to practice with Sderot, the Israeli town frequently attacked by rockets from Gaza), and who are my allies (such as Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, some Quakers, some Israel-Palestine activists), etc.

Lent by the Peace Abbey of Sherborn Massachusetts

One major recalled dream from last night: I was on a hiking or camping trip with a large group and I knew no one. First we were to climb down a long ladder and then swim. I’d brought only my mobile phone, camera, and wallet, but, altho I knew we’d be immersed, I’d forgotten to bring plastic bags. Following an older woman who needed help climbing down the stairs, we reached a respite spot. It was connected with a Protestant church and featured a bar filled with liquor. I wanted some. But I wanted plastic bags more so I surreptitiously scouted the kitchen and toilet. I finally found a few bags that I believed might protect my gear.

As central as the bags were, even more central was my need to shit. Where would I do it and when? Somehow the toilet exploration didn’t figure into my calculation. Seemingly a non sequitur, when I emerged from the bar—happily with my plastic bags but still needing to shit—I walked thru a porch on which a young black boy was getting a haircut.

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

Occupy Boston

Dr. Cornel West – We the People Have Found Our Voice (video)

“Occupy Boston: Veterans clash with police, scores arrested” by Elizabeth Flock in the Washington Post

Gene Sharp

Gene Sharp – How to Start a Revolution

Gene Sharp: Author of the nonviolent revolution rulebook by Ruaridh Arrow, Director of Gene Sharp – How to Start a Revolution

Albert Einstein Institution

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Together

Eyewitness Gaza

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Northern wall, border with Israel


Excerpts from my journal during a recent 6 week journey to Gaza—now back home in the United States.

December 15, 2010, Wednesday, Gaza City, my apartment in the Rimal neighborhood

PHOTOS

I worried about my participation at the buffer zone demonstration that I’d agree to photograph and Adham and crew would video. I recalled the incident 3 weeks earlier that both Inge Neefs and Adie Mormech told me about, that Ken O’Keefe had videoed and uploaded—the whizzing bullet incident, when the group, as they left the area, was shot at.

Yesterday about 15 of us, mostly males, with 2 Gazan females, and about 5 International Solidarity Movement (ISM) participants, male and female, marched to the zone, marched thru a garbage area adjoining a stone recovery area filled with young men desperately trying to earn money by picking thru garbage, and collecting old concrete from demolished walls and roads to refashion into building materials, marched thru a shrubbed area which was once an orange grove, past destroyed homes, one remaining occupied, marched past what I think someone called tank tracks, and finally stopped. We were very close to the Erez crossing into Israel and the separation or apartheid or security wall (depending on one’s politics), much closer than I’d anticipated. Adham, Hesham, and Josef, the video crew, were exemplary, never once complaining about the danger.

Salvaging construction materials from buildings demolished by Israel

We planted a Palestinian flag, made a few pronouncements, heard a helicopter (I never saw it), discussed going, and turned around. While we were leaving I heard voices from near the watchtower that to me were indecipherable. As we walked back, interviewing Adie and Inge, she reminded us that during a similar phase of a demonstration 3 weeks earlier, without warning, at least one bullet slammed right thru the group, narrowly missing all, less than 1 meter from Inge.

The bravery of the Palestinians and their friends the ISMers amazed me. I asked Adham, my Gaza movie director, to interview Adie and Inge about safety and courage. Inge’s response was, I’m cautious, but willing to take the risk. Very simple and clear, and plain and stalwart and laudable. I might say the same but unlike Inge, Adie and the others, I’m not willing to attend every buffer zone demonstration and vigil while I’m in Gaza, partly because I have other things to do and partly because I wish not to press my luck.

Saber Al Za’anin, coordinator of the Local Initiative group

Inge Neefs, ISM

Adie Mormech, ISM

ISMers were often in the lead, not from the impulse to take leadership away from the Palestinians—at least this is how I read the move—but perhaps to shield them. In front they’d be the most likely victims of any attacks. I found myself alternating between hanging back where I might be safer and rushing forward where the risk is greater but the photos better. On our way in, talking with Hesham, who was operating the sound boom, I told him the story of Robert Capa’s last days, walking thru a mine field during the end of the Indochinese War the French were waging on and losing to Vietnam, perhaps to get a better photo—we may never know what went thru Capa’s mind when he decided to accompany the French soldiers thru a very dangerous zone.

I was surprised by the decision to leave after hearing the helicopter. I overhead some discussion that in the past such a presence led to rocket attacks. A few people claimed to have heard the words, get out, shouted. Those words also were yelled just prior to the whizzing bullet incident 3 weeks ago—first the command, then turning around to leave the zone, and finally the bullet. We ended our demonstration with a rousing chant about boycott Israel or end the buffer zone, I forget the words. The chant brought life and energy into faces, and I hope I showed this.

I was overjoyed that we were leaving, that we had emerged intact, but also disappointed that there’d been little action. The photos are bland.

The light for that entire day was usually a big problem—harsh overhead light for most of the day, except for the morning demonstration at around 10:30 (when the sun shone on the backs of the marchers, rendering their front sides in deep shadow), and the setting sun effects later around 4. Plus being with others and not having much time, despite their patience, to thoroughly explore a scene. I might have chosen my lenses better, using my normal zoom for the moving car photos later rather than the telephoto and the wide angle. We’ll see. I often wrongly evaluate my photos, judging them better than they become, or worse.

Having a video crew with me changed everything. From time to time at Adham’s urging we resorted to setting up scenes. For instance, later in the day at Erez crossing I pretended to be leaving (carrying Josef’s camera bag and wearing my backpack), speaking about how Palestine continues past the so-called border of Erez into the West Bank and perhaps into the Diaspora. We then turned around and I “entered,” announcing how joyous I always feel when finally in Gaza. Thru Erez—big accomplishment. About to meet friends—another big accomplishment. And further exploration with photography.

Throughout most of the day I felt more than my customary agility. I’ve been feeling creaky and slow lately, a product of aging. Yesterday, perhaps because of the video crew, I jumped around and felt about 10 years younger.

The day’s Hamas anniversary celebration hovered over everything for the entire day of photography and video. Traffic around katiba, the site of the celebration and near my home, was dense. Hesham met me in front of my building and we walked to the Metro Market to meet Josef and the taxi. Periodically as we traveled we ran into crowds assembling in conjunction with the celebration (there was only one anniversary site, the katiba; people were bussed in). The main impact on our work was security—it was tightened. We were stopped several times and interrogated about who we were, what we were doing. One man took down information after checking my passport number. Luckily I’m not yet on a Hamas enemy’s list.

~~As I write electricity went off 30 minutes ago, at 6:15 am, and is not yet returned. We are 6 days from winter solstice, so it is dark late in the morning and early in the evening. Sunlight is just beginning now at 6:45. Power was off when I returned from the day’s work yesterday. Bumping into Hassan [the owner of my building] on the patio, I thought I asked about an electric heater to warm my chill. He seemed to understand, said the word electricity, and then turned on the feeble cranky generator outside my unit. I thought that noisy smelly device was of the past. Not so. Apparently the alternate power supply to our building was not available. Ah well, at least my candle provides a little heat along with its tiny light. I may have to mention my need for heat again to Hassan.~~

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

Video of whizzing bullet incident (because I was recently in the Tel Aviv airport overnight waiting for an early morning flight home I discovered accidentally that the version made and posted by Ken O’Keefe is blocked on the airport’s wireless system)

International Day of Solidarity in Gaza greeted with more bullets in Beit Hanoun

“Gaza Olive harvest begins in the Beit Hanoun buffer zone while strawberry picker in Beit Lahiya is shot by Israeli Snipers,” October 9, 2010

International Solidarity Movement (also blocked at the Israeli airport)

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© All text & photos (unless otherwise noted) copyright Skip Schiel, 2004-2010

A series from my earlier writing, not always directly about Palestine-Israel, this an attempt to understand and express my journey of discovery that continues to enthrall and mystify me.

Originally written for the New England Yearly Meeting sessions (Quaker) keynote presentation on August 6, 2005 (revised February 17, 2010)

(This version is expanded from what I presented at Bryant College in Smithfield RI.)

PART ONE

Photos: US Army on the Cambridge Common, June 14, 2005

For the complete slide show that accompanied the original keynote presentation

Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to gird your loins and go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your arms, and someone else will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go. (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he [Peter] would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

 

—John 21: 18

May I write from an open heart and may you read me with a likewise open heart. May words and pictures lead to useful lives.

First political arrest

How odd, that in 2005 for five months I explored the political, religious and cultural landscape of Palestine and Israel, and altho I had a few close calls, I was never arrested, never detained, never brought to trial, never even directly threatened, that I know of. And then, a few months after returning home, just a few blocks from my house, I earned my first political arrest. On June 14 2005, on the Cambridge Common, the US army arrived, ostensibly to honor veterans and the army for its accomplishments at home and abroad, but in truth, many of us feel, to bolster the ranks of the not so willing.

Hearing of the plans just one week before, many people were shocked and quickly assembled to speak out about what the US army is doing in Iraq and world-wide (the proposed military budget for the following year was nearly 1/2 trillion dollars, 500 billion). We arrived on the Common with signs, banners, chants, and other messages of resistance. I was present primarily to photograph, concentrating on the children regaled by the displays of weaponry and the re-enactors and soldiers with cannon, Humvees, field hospitals, and even four men parachuting from a helicopter in plumes of orange smoke. I resonated with the children, because as an impressionable boy I had wished desperately to join the Navy, more about this episode in my life later.

We insisted on exercising rights granted to us by the first amendment to the constitution, which reads in part—

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

We risked joining the ranks of people such as Mary Dyer, an early Quaker in the colonies, a founding mother of this nation, a martyr, who gave her life for freedom of religion and speech more than 100 years before this amendment was written. Or John Woolman, the luminary Quaker, compassionately and dangerously visiting American Indians on the then frontier of New Jersey to discover if he might learn from them, and going to slave owners to gently encourage them to free their enslaved people.

On June 14th, Flag Day, as I photographed the Tactical Police Force pushing the dissidents, someone, probably an officer, knocked me to the ground and I was arrested. I am now reluctantly but proudly one of the Cambridge Seven, along with 2 American Friends Service Committee staff who were in retreat at the Cambridge Friends meeting center just a few blocks away when they first heard about the event. In a phone message of support to me, a good friend of mine, Jonathan Vogel Borne termed me an “unwitting hero.” At moments however, I have to wonder if I’m not a witless witness.

Louise Dunlap, photo by Polly Atwood

The American Civil Liberties Union defended us and planed a civil suit against the city of Cambridge for curtailing our civil liberties. I’ve put my voluminous writing and photographing about this experience on my website, teeksaphoto.org. I mention all this as a prologue to my presentation, as one possible example of what I’m advocating—off our benches, out of our meeting houses, enough writing of minutes, into the streets, into the throbbing regions of this world that need our attention, to enact a more daring resistance to the ills and wrongs of our world.  And with that resistance, acting from our testimonies of equality, peace and nonviolence, civic and community responsibility, and justice, finally hearing that still small voice, that greater call, creating, enacting a vision of a better world. Despite the risk.

Police chief ordering vigilers to leave the stage area for an off-site “free speech” area

Many are called, and many are the calls, ranging from calls for justice, human rights, respect for the environment, orienting to what American Indians call the Seventh Generation, all the way to calls for retribution, vengeance, wrath, occupation, and imperial dominance. Some feel grounded in scripture, some in personal contact with their deity. Perhaps I am wrong in my direction, as I feel the Christian Zionists are tragically mistaken. Perhaps I am at least partially correct in my path, grounded in not only my own conscience but in that of a greater force, a more universal gravitation toward justice and freedom. The belief that all beings, all of creation is sacred, all interconnect, Mitakuye Oyasin, All my Relations, as my friends, the Lakota Sioux express it. Or as Dr. King said, the arc of struggle is long but it bends toward justice.

My arrest, photo by an anonymous person

TO BE CONTINUED

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