On April 18 I was detained with ten other anti-drone protesters, including internationally recognized peace activist Kathy Kelly, following a Good Friday prayer service. The others who were detained included: The Reverend Dr. Gerald O. (Jerry) Pedersen, retired Lutheran pastor and member of Veterans for Peace, from Sacramento; The Reverend Elizabeth Griswold, pastor of Parkside Community Church, United Church of Christ in Sacramento; The Reverend John Auer, retired United Methodist Pastor from Fresno, California; Michael Kerr, a Veteran for Peace from Bay Point/Pittsburg, Rodger Stall from San Rafael, Arthur (Buff) Whitman-Bradley from the Bay Area, Nancy Reiner from the Bay Area, Bob Russell from Pleasant Hill, and Pamela Osgood from Grass Valley.
We gathered at Beale, in the shadow of killer drones, modern-day equivalents of the cross, to pray, to act, and to continue our work of building a community of peace. Although the Global Hawk Drones that are operated from Beale are surveillance drones, they assist in finding targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones and are an integral part of the US drone warfare program.
Over fifty people attended the service, which included prayers, songs, Holy Communion, and reflections by Kathy Kelly. Following the service, eleven of us crossed the demarcation line onto Beale property in an attempt to deliver a letter to the base commander, along with two statements about drones from religious groups: The World Council of Churches’ Statement on the Use of Drones and the Right to Life and “A Call from the Faith Based Community to Stop Drone Killings,” signed by religious leaders from around the country.
As I write about these events, it is already Easter. Christ is risen. But even, perhaps especially, in the events of Good Friday, the resurrection is apparent. The Spirit of Christ is alive.
Empire goes along just fine for a while, unchallenged. The dominant institutions demonstrate the prevailing wisdom of our current global corporate Empire: that money equals value, that might makes right, that nature is commodity, that victims are expendable, that the status quo of the current order must be maintained at all costs, that people who are not enthralled by the system must be forced to comply under penalty of imprisonment or death.
But wait–here come the people, awakened to what is at stake. Here we stand at the gate of Beale as others take their stand at other gates of Empire, defying the demand for obedience, defying the fear that paralyzes, demonstrating that where two or three of us are gathered in his name, Jesus is in our midst.
While we were detained, we women were separated from the men. We got taken into an air-conditioned room with comfortable chairs and a bathroom. The officers who were processing us were cordial, even joking at times. We didn’t know that the men had to stand outside facing a wall with their hands gripped behind them by base officials, or that our friend John Auer, in a wheelchair, had to sit all that time in the hot sun. (Fellow demonstrators called out to base officials, who finally got him a drink of water.)
We were all fingerprinted, photographed, and released. We all received “ban and bar” letters, which prohibit us from entering Beale without permission. (Well, we already knew that.) The only people who received citations were those who had previously been detained at Beale: Jerry, Elizabeth, Michael, and me.
Christ is alive among us as we stand in solidarity with the crucified man Jesus and with all who are crucified on the altars of Empire through the ages. Christ is alive among us as we speak truth to power and witness to our hope of a world transformed by Love.
I invite you to join us.
To find out about upcoming actions go to Earth Justice Ministries or Occupy Beale Air Force Base websites. More detailed updates can be seen on the Earth Justice Ministries FaceBook Page or the Occupy Beale FaceBook Page.
For a theological rationale of this Good Friday Action, see my blog posting “Why I’ll be at Beale on Good Friday.”
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