FWD: Report on Civil Disobedience at the White House

Michael Shell brightcrow at InfoAve.Net
Tue Jun 8 21:46:40 JEST 1999

To: Kosovo Network
From: Mike Yarrow, Kosovo Peace Education Coordinator
Date: June 7, 1999
Report on Civil Disobedience at the White House

Thanks to Max Obuszewski of the Baltimore office of AFSC for the First
Draft of this report.

Twenty-six arrested trying to deliver peace letter to President Bill Clinton

On Thursday, June 3, the American Friends Service Committee participated as
an organization in an interfaith rally in Washington, DC.  It began at the
Yugoslavian Embassy on California Avenue at 11 AM, then moved to LaFayette
Park for speeches by the leaders of a number of peace and religious groups
including Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detriot, and concluded at the White
House. This rally of 150 people including 25 from the AFSC was organized by
the National Coalition for Peace in Yugoslavia, which now has 27 member
organizations, in order to visibly demonstrate a concern about the ethnic
violence perpetrated by the Yugoslavs as well as the devastation of the
US/NATO bombing. 

A letter to Milosevic was left at the embassy and delivered to the
Yugoslavian Mission to the UN demanding an end to attacks on Albanian
Kosovars. A letter was sent President Bill Clinton two weeks prior
requesting a meeting to express our concerns about the war. Since there was
no response from the presidentĘs office, our twenty-six member delegation
assembled in front of a White House gate and refused to move. They were
arrested by the US Park Police and charged with "demonstrating without a
permit." Coincidentally, while the delegation gathered in front of the
gate, President Clinton was preparing to deliver speech announcing the
tentative accord with Yugoslavia on the White House lawn. The Detroit News,
Florida Times Union, Des Moines Register, Atlanta Constitution, Washington
Post, the Washington Times and the Associated Press, among other media
outlets, covered the protest.

Those arrested were Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, four
members of the Atlantic Life Community, including three Roman Catholic
nuns, Joe Volk of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, three
representatives of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, including Rev. John
Dear, three members of Pax Christi USA, including executive director, David
Robinson, eight members of the American Friends Service Committee--Gary
Gillespie, Bette Hoover, Sam Legg, a conscientious objector of World War II
and retired Quaker educator, Patricia Murphy, Max Obuszewski, Lorrie
Schoettler, Susan Segall, and Mike Yarrow --, Quaker Ann Scott from the Bay
Area, Gordon Clark, the executive director of Peace Action, a United
Methodist minister, two members of the Dorthy Day Catholic Worker and one
other. They were assigned a trial date in federal court on July 21, with an
option to pay, within 21 days, a $50 fine to avoid a trial. Some of those
arrested, however, suggested that the $50 protest tax should not be paid
and that instead the money be given to a relief fund for victims of the war
in Yugoslavia. 

By the time they were loaded into two (his and hers) prison trucks, the
Bishop had slipped out of his handcuffs.  For Quaker Mike Yarrow this was a
near conversion experience.  While they were waiting for 4 to 5 hours in
his and hers cells to be processed, they had a fine time getting to know
each other, comparing sources of information on the Kosovo crisis and
planning future actions.

A text of the National Coalition for Peace in Yugoslavia's statement follows. 

"An Appeal for Peace in Yugoslavia"

We speak out of deepening concern and anguish over the continued bloodshed
and human suffering in Yugoslavia. We call for an immediate end to NATO
bombing and intensified efforts to bring a just peace in Kosovo. We condemn
the atrocities and human rights abuses committed by Serbian forces in
Kosovo, and we do not believe that NATO bombing will solve the problem. We
are also horrified by the environmental degradation caused by the bombing,
with its long-term consequences for all the people of the region. 

We seek a solution that ends the killing and destruction on the ground and
from the air. Proposals for diplomatic settlement have been put forth by
number of governments and institutions of the international community. We
encourage all efforts made in good faith toward a diplomatic solution and
strongly urge our nation's leaders to pursue nonviolent alternatives.

We urge an immediate cease-fire; a halt to NATO air attacks; and
negotiations involving all interested parties. An end to the bombing is a
prerequisite for any peace process to begin. We support the return of OSCE
monitors in conjunction with the introduction of a truly international
peacekeeping operation that would monitor the activities of the Serbian
military force and the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Here is the statement which Joe Volk, Director of Friends Committee on
National Legislation made at the rally at Lafayette Park prior to the civil
disobedience in front of the White House.

Some members of NCPY requested a copy of the text of my remarks.  My
remarks were impromptu.  I didn't have any notes.  Here's my attempt to
reconstruct what I said.  These are, as Congressional Records says, my
"revised and extended" remarks:

We are all here for peace in Yugoslavia.  For peace to be made, enemies
have to talk.  We support and pray for a successful outcome to the
negotiations in the news today.  Whether today's negotiations succeed or
not, the killing must be stopped.  President Milosevic, stop ethnic purging
now.  President Clinton, stop NATO bombing now.  Respect that of God in

What are the lessons of Kosovo?  That you get what you pay for.  That
genocide has to be prevented, because once genocide has begun, wars do not
stop it.  That the NATO bombing has been a catastrophic failure in
protecting civilians.  That military tools are the wrong tools to fix
problems such as those we have seen in the Balkans, Rwanda, Burundi, and
elsewhere.  Until and unless other tools are used, we will see more
"Kosovos" in the future.

I believe that President Milosevic and his forces are guilty of committing
war crimes and genocide.  He is in violation of international laws
prohibiting these terrible crimes.  He must be held accountable for what he
has done.  To challenge him is a just cause, but a just cause and a just
war are not the same thing.

President Clinton is in violation of important laws in Kosovo, as he is in
Iraq:  the U.S. Constitutional provision on the declaration of war, the
U.S. War Powers Act, the UN Charter that requires UN Security Council
authorization for the use of military force, and the Geneva Conventions and
Protocols which prohibit the targeting of civilian infrastructure.

We are going to the White House at noon today to tell President Clinton,
"Mr. President, you do not teach dictators to embrace democracy by
violating the highest law in your own land, your Constitution.  You do not
promote respect for international law by violating international law.  You
do not prevent a humanitarian crisis by creating a humanitarian crisis.
And, you do not punish war criminals by committing war crimes."

As a Quaker lobbyist in the public interest, every year I see the President
call for increases in military spending.  I watch Congress follow the
President like sheep to approve his requests to increase military spending,
and then Congress turns lion-like by going to the President and demanding
increases of his increase in military spending.  Each year we spend
billions and billions on military power to create security.  But military
power is for fighting wars - to engage and kill the enemy.  Military power
does not create security, promote democracy, protect human rights, or
prevent genocide.

Every year the President and Congress ignore and reject the appeals by
human rights groups, development organizations, foreign policy and
religious groups to fund programs for the protection of human rights, for
the identification of potential hot spots, for the prevention of armed
conflict, for curbing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons,
for worldwide information and education projects to counter hate
propaganda, for an International Criminal Court to hold war criminals
accountable.  These and other such programs are the tools for creating
human security, for protecting human rights, and preventing genocide.  But
our political leaders continue to pour billions of dollars into the
military and virtually nothing into these sensible programs.

The fact that the NATO bombing not only failed to protect civilians and to
prevent genocide but also created a humanitarian disaster that will take
generations to recover will not be reported by the press, will not be
remarked upon by Congressional "watchdogs," and will be a dirty secret
tucked away in the archives.  Our weapons industry lobbyists will say, "If
you think our weapons worked well in Yugoslavia, just wait until you see
the next generation of high-tech weapons your tax dollars are going to buy
us!" As a result, we will have more "Kosovos" and "Rwandas" in the next
century. You get what you pay for, and we are paying for war.

When this war is over, the President, the Pentagon, and the weapons makers
and dealers will lobby Congress using your tax dollars to demand more of
your tax dollars.  They will call the NATO bombing a victory, appeal to you
to dig deep in your pockets to pay to replace the cruise missiles and the
"smart bombs," and they will ask you to dig deeper still to buy the next
generation of high-tech weaponry.  They will continue to purchase weapons
named for the victims of genocide in the U.S.- the Apaches and Blackhawks.
President Clinton has sent Apache and Blackhawk helicopters to the fight
against genocide in Kosovo.  These helicopters are named for indigenous
people of North America against whom forces of our government committed war
crimes and what today would be defined as genocide.  There was no law
against genocide when the Apaches, the Blackhawks and other people were
being forcibly removed from their land, when their villages were being
burned, when their children were being taken away, and when their
identities were being expunged, and no U.S. president was or ever will be

Our political and military leaders have persuaded Congress to pay any price
for military readiness, and we are all set for war-fighting.  They refuse
to pay a penny to purchase peace readiness, and we cannot maintain peace or
human security.  Our President, Congress, and military leaders do not know
or understand peace.  They think of peace in only two dimensions, pre-war
and post-war.  We must engage in the long and difficult political work to
open their eyes, to unclog their ears, and to soften their hearts so that
they can see the three-dimensional peace envisioned by the people of civil
societies everywhere.  That will mean shifting federal spending choices
from weapons to people programs.  Then we will create a world with no war.

Mike Yarrow
Kosovo Peace Education Coordinator
American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street 
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Tel:215 523-5693
Fax:215 241-7177
E-mail: mnyarrow at afsc.org

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