From: Sent: Wednesday, December 11, 2002
Subject: [ShalomCenterME] Jail in NYC, a Fast for MLKing Day
I spent three hours yesterday in a New York City jail, one of about
150 people who were arrested in a deliberate act of civil disobedience
as part of a religiously defined vigil to challenge the Bush
Administration's pressure for war against Iraq.
Among us were Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's (his first arrest), Rabbis
Michael Feinberg and Ellen Lippman of NYC, a rabbinical student at
Academy of Jewish Religion -- Michael Rxxxx [I'm sorry, can't recall
his full name] who blew the shofar and read the "beat your swords into
ploughshares" passage from Micah to start the vigil.
Just before the arrests began (our act of "disturbing the peace" was
clustering in front of the US Mission to the UN), a Buddhist priest
chanted a prayer for the peace and well-being of all beings and I read
the Torah passage about Shifra and Puah, the midwives who undertook
the first recorded act of civil disobedience in human history,
resisting Pharaoh's order to kill Israelite babies. (I was privately
delighted all over again that my newest grandchild, less than a month
old, is named Shifra.)
There were also Rev. David Dyson, founder of a national anti-sweatshop
organizing effort, dozens of other Christian clergy, at least one
imam, a couple of Buddhist prests, Daniel Ellesberg and his son (first
arrest), David McReynolds (long-term leader of the War Resisters
League), and many religiously motivated folk.
Besides those arrested, there were aboiut 200 other people who took
part in the vigil who did not choose to be arrested, including retired
Episcopal Bishop of NY Paul Moore. Many of those presnt gave moiney
to buy food for hungry children in NYC, and medicine for the children
of Iraq (some of whom are suffering from cancers caused by "depleted
uranium" bombs with which the USA showered Iraq during the Gulf War --
300 tons still remaining).
Chief organizers came from Judson Memorial Church, led by Rev. Peter
Laarman. Three times as many people were arrested as they ahd
originally expected. The whole event was part of the national December
10 (Internatl Human Rights Day) effort of United for Peace. There
were protests in more than 100 cities across the US.
I spent my three hours crowded with 61 other men in a holding pen in
the 17th Precinct. The atmosphere was joyful and determined. Many of
us had cell phones, and used the opportunity to call the press and
radio stations in our various constituencies. (A very odd feeling,
first in my 40-year experience with occasional civil-disobedience
arrests: our bodies were in prison but our voices, literally, were
not.) The police were polite. We are to return for trial on January
The Shalom Center has initiated discussions with a range of groups in
and beyond the religious community about calling for a nationwide fast
for peace and against war on Martin Luther King's real birthday,
January 15, the Wednesday before the weekend of official observance of
his birthday. Bob Edgar, the head of the Natl Council of Churches,
and Ben Cohen, head of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities,
support this effort.
Today I am off to Washington DC for the founding meeting of a new
anti-war coalition, "Keep America Safe," and a gathering of leaders
from a broad range of religious traditions under the aegis of
Progressive Religious Partnership to plan anti-war efforts.
We are convinced that we can address the possibility of highly
dangerous weapons that may or may not be held by Iraq, without
ourselves bringing mass destruction on the Iraqi people. Our numbers
are growing, our commitment is deepening, our knowledge is increasing.
As did Shifra and Puah, we revere God, Who speaks in every baby's cry
and appears in the face of every parent, full of life. No Pharaoh can
force us to kill them.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow,