Bismark #59 Report Back
I drive into Bismarck about 15 minutes late for the protest. As I approach the Federal Building, home to Congressman Pomeroy, I hear the uplifting sounds of a beautiful protest before I can actually see anyone! I am delighted to see a long line of hot pink protestors holding banners and posters, singing, dancing, playing drums and tambourines – making a loud, vibrant, and visible stand for peace!
The youngest awesome outspoken activist tells me she turned 17 a couple of days ago! The oldest awesome outspoken activist didn’t tell me how old she was but it was delightful to see so many wimmin and several fellas, in the middle of North Dakota, willing to come out in the rain with just a few hours notice to stand for peace and to express their determination to end war.
After bannering for an hour, we gather to touch base & get on the same page before going up to speak with the Congressperson’s staff.
The circle is large, probably 2 dozen activists. Energy is very high, determined and sparked with anticipation. Everyone has seen how much love and support Bismarckans have bestowed upon us and our message while we vigiled – some even parking their cars, pausing their journeys to come stand with us & for peace for a few moments.
We introduce ourselves, go over the talking points, express our joy at being there together and our rage & confusion at Pomeroy’s recent votes. We claim our position as activists in Bismarck and as leaders of the anti-war and peace movements.
We proceed into the Federal Building where at their ‘security’ post, surly old white male guards refuse to allow us to take cell phones or cameras into the building, and debate whether we should be allowed to carry in signs. The oldest turns over a stick a little wider but no thicker than a tomato stake & ponders it's lethalness as a weapon. Hmmmm. We all certainly feel safer after going through that gauntlet.
Once in the congressman’s office, we ask to be seated. They are surprised to see our numbers – at least 16 have remained and want to speak to Pomeroy. We are shown into a conference room with only 6 chairs around a table, and a large desk with a chair behind which the aide positions herself. The other aide, a very tall, slinky white male, perches somewhat wobbly on the corner of the desk facing us as we gather around the table, some sitting, some standing.
We begin expressing our wounded disbelief and outrage that Pomeroy could betray our mandate for peace and vote in the way he did to prolong war against Iraq – and vote so contrary to the will of North Dakotans, who are a peaceful people.
Almost every womon around the table speaks, strongly and from her heart, reiterating the ways in which we are NOT going to accept anything less from him than ending the occupation of Iraq NOW and pleading for Pomeroy to be that force that helps bring peace to our nation and an end to the occupation of Iraq.
The staff claim they have no words to explain Pomeroy’s vote. When challenged to at least explain why staff would not be informed about such a vital policy matter as the war against Iraq, staff tries to say there are many issues and votes facing the Congressperson that staff is not aware of.
We do not accept that as the whole truth but challenge the staff to please become informed, as we live in a state that wants the occupation to be OVER, as we live in a country that also wants the occupation to be over and over NOW. And to pass that information to us the beginning of the week.
After clarifying that Pomeroy DOES meet with his constituents, that he DOES come home to North Dakota on the weekends, that he DOES have a week break over the 4th of July holiday, activists request a meeting with Pomeroy for the next weekend.
Staff site his family obligations, not to mention other constituents with pressing ‘issues’, over the weekend, until we remind them that the people in Iraq would like to spend the weekend safely with their families, as would all of us sitting in this room – but we are willing to sacrifice our family time over the weekend to meet with him, as getting his support ending this war is the MOST important thing confronting us this weekend and always.
We also point out that this is not an ‘issue’ we are speaking of – but it is truly a matter of life and death: human being people’s lives and the future of our state and nation.
Several of us suggest that Congressman Pomeroy take this appointment a step further and call a town hall meeting over the 4th of July weekend to talk with the people of North Dakota, his constituents, and find out what their position really is so he can better represent us.
All too often those that are for war are so aggressive and violent, their voices tend to wipe out or at least cover over the calmer, more soft but titanic voices for peace.
Our awesome activist Karen is going to follow-up with Pomeroy’s office and let us know when an appointment has been set – or when we must return to his office, perhaps at 4:30p.m. on a Friday to await his presence!