NO DRONES Bus Caravan: Day 1
We have rented a 15 passenger minibus to take us from the MRS (marine recruiting station) in Berkeley to Creech AFB, Indian Springs Nevada. And we are taking the CodePINK truck as well, to carry our stuff, food, and our billboard!
This morning, we gather at the MRS around 7:00am. Womyn – and Ralph – arrive in excited yet mindful clusters anticipating our imminent work and road trip. There’s an aura of fierce yet quiet determination that accompanies the loading of sleeping bags, duffels, suitcases and huge pink banners onto the truck.
KPFA Sharon is swiftly interviewing as many of us as she can, asking why each person decided to take 5 days from their ‘normal’ lives to get on the bus and head for Creech.
Several local womyn, including National CodePINK staffer Janet, have showed up to send off the bus! And an older white man supporter who has come with a large american flag he has hung upside down to signal the increasing distress our nation – not to mention our ‘enemies’ – is suffering.
The day is gorgeous, crisp, sunny, pleasant. We circle up, singing, of course, and then speak of our upcoming journey. Our first stop will be Travis AFB. We have huge banners Phoebe made for us that read “REFUSE”, “RESIST”, and “DON’T GO”.
Photo by Meg Whitaker-Greene! (All wonderful photos by Meg! THANKS MEG)
We have letters to hand out to soldiers who are brave enough to accept them. We have our deep concerns and our righteous indignation at the impending threat to escalate war against Afghanistan. (see post on 11/27)
And our deep horror and outrage to express at our military’s practice of overt assassinations, wiping out 50 civilians to every one ‘bad guy’. Assassinations by remote control. Assassinations by video.
One participant has not showed up, but we have to begin our journey. We head out University Ave, a caravan of three vehicles now, to I-80 and Travis AFB.
By the time we arrive at Travis, gale winds must be 50 mph. It is still California bright and sunny but forces operating here are severe and chilling.
We are in what proclaims to be the ‘visitor’ parking lot about 20 feet from the main gate. Several TV cameras and press folks are waiting and filming our arrival. Cindy pulls in moments after we get parked.
And a sergeant decked out in military garb and with the normal paraphernalia approaches us to point out we were standing on land that belongs to the base. He indicates two white signs maybe a block away, signs that designate where he wants us to stand. He orders us, as if we are in the military and should obey, to leave the 'visitor' parking lot - not a lot for peace activists!
Over the next few moments, he approaches us several times, with that underlying warning insinuating arrest should we not comply. We point out it is our - as in u.s. citizens - tax money that not just pays for the rental of this property, but his wages as well.
We talk with the press, gather the one banner we are going to attempt to hold up, move through the parking lot and along the edge of the road so we can face oncoming traffic, and begin to push our way against the forces impeding our way.
By now, several local police officers have arrived and more military. Few cars are approaching the gate. Suddenly an angry older stocky white man jumps out of a parked car bellowing one syllable words as if aiming at a dart board: IDJETS, UNAMERICAN A..., LEAVE, etc.
Womyn attempt to talk with him but he is enraged, looking thru everyone. He perhaps has been one of those screaming drill sergeants in his earlier life. Or maybe a wanna be.
I calmly attempt to let him know I would love to talk with him. He refuses to make eye contact, let alone discuss anything but continues with his violent ranting dart assault. We move off and ignore him.
Cindy has the bullhorn. She begins to address the crowd, speaking both of the upcoming SURGE, and of our NO DRONES caravan to Creech.
Suddenly, the old white man who has now donned some kind of blue military-like uniform, appears a few feet from Cindy. He has not stopped his verbal assault but moves directly into her space, screaming obscenities into her right ear.
The police, the military guards, no one of that ilk steps forward to contain him. Police rarely recognize the violence of these men as it occurs. The police often spout adamantly if not patronizingly, that they are here for our safety. Yet it is the very rare occasion (rare both in frequency and in police response), if ever that the police move to intercede with right wing violent men.
We are always the ones to move forward and provide the protection we need and the diffusion the violent perpetrator needs to calm him down and contain his violence.
This morning, the old (probably a few years older than I am) angry white man is not contained by the police but moves swiftly into Cindy's space bellowing with a voice that is used to inspiring fear and swift movement in the young - and those who have given up their power over their own selves i.e. soldiers - I'm sure.
Cindy tells him to stop and get out of her face. He keeps menacing. She swings with the bullhorn to face him - he is that close to her, a bullhorn length away. He leans into it and punches the bullhorn, almost knocking it into Cindy's lips. I move in swiftly between them, attempting to protect Cindy and contain his violence.
He attempts to reach around me, shouting his vile projectiles at Cindy. He shoves me with his body, kinda subtly, expecting me to fall out. I am solid, centered, my feet planted on the mother earth.
It takes a lot more than one absurd bullying angry white man to unbalance me, although I think if I would have fallen to the ground, then the police might have responded - and not by threatening ME with jail.
He launches forward again. I am trying to get his attention, trying to make his beady eyes focus on me. I raise my arms, hands flat outward, to try to calm him, try to make him back down, slow down, trying to hold a mirror up to him.
I can't remember my exact words but I attempt ask him if this is the way he really wants to act, does this make him feel so big, so strong, shouting at womyn, pushing womyn, raising his blood pressure.
Kathy has moved in as well. The police never move but the military flows in finally, surrounding him and moving him off to the side.
The press swarms him, of course, and a few quick-thinking CodePINKers move to speak with him and the press. Leeza attempts to counter his attack on us as he claims to know that we do not support the troops, we are against the troops, we're so powerful we are ruining the troops.
Leeza states clearly and constantly that what we do not support is the KILLING; it is the KILLING that must end. The violence. The torture. Our troops MUST come home.
In the meantime, the police have finally moved in and I am taken aside to be threatened with arrest for the second time this morning. This does not bode well for our trip, should we not even get out of the Bay Area without the threat of arrest!
I am with my police, Cindy is with hers, and we are demanding that the perpetrator be arrested for attacking us.
The police officer is telling me such ridiculously incredulous things: no police witnessed the attack! WHAT? They were ALL standing there. It's on tape for gawd's sake, probably 3 or 4 TV cameras, etc.etc.etc.
Then he informs me that if I press charges against this perpetrator, he will be forced to take me to jail!
I tell him to go ahead and arrest me - much to Grace's distress - but to cite and release me. He actually tells me he can't; he tells me it is the perpetrator's decision whether I go to jail or not.
I am just speechless. As I am attempting to find my voice, Grace fills that space with words begging me not to get arrested so soon, pointing out that we have work to do, that we are just beginning our mission.
I agree. We put this assault and justice on the back burner as we pack up through the still gale force winds and get back on the bus and truck.
At least we all get back into our vehicles except for one woman. Cindy begins to leave, then notices that woman has not returned to the truck but is smoking and talking on the phone.
Cindy pulls over, puts on her blinkers and we all follow suit, putting on our hazards waiting for Kathy to finish and get on the truck.
The police (finally) spring into action. We are waiting directly outside the parking area on a lane of the wide, 2-line exit frontage road from the gate, that had maybe 2 or 3 cars passing over the past 45 minutes that we noticed, but none passing as we are waiting.
The police surround Cindy's vehicle, pull her over to the shoulder on the opposite side of the road, and detain her and proceed to treat her like some criminal.
I am once again, for the third time that morning, threatened with arrest as I attempt to approach Cindy's car to find out what the hell is happening.
CRAZY - and what a way to begin our NO DRONES/NO SURGE work. If only these police and good citizens of this country felt as strongly and acted as determinedly about ending war and the use of DRONES - we'd surely have peace.