It is a strange feeling to drive 17 hours over the course of two days to arrive at a chain link fence. The gate of Ft. Benning has become a heavily militarized line, where military police and activists simply stand face to face, soldiers and protesters separated by a thin membrane of steel. The military’s strategy is clear, intimidation through overwhelming display of force. As we watched the puppetista’s a helicopter repeatedly buzzed over the crowd, police and soldiers lined the fences separating our two-block “demonstration zone” from the remainder of the base, temporary watch towers peered over the gates, and a man in plain clothes with a camera stood just inside the base photographing activists.
Standing at the gate I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I had come so far only to be stopped in my tracks, that I had traveled nearly 1,000 miles only to stop in front of a fence a short distance from where new tragedies where in their incipient state. So after days of endless traveling, I began the process of becoming content with a motionless witness.
I sat on the ground, with the fence right in front of my face and placed my hand on the white line in the pavement, a line that many had given up so much to take a few steps across. I placed my hand on the fence as a police officer came and stood on the other side, directly in front of me. For the first time in days I was still, my presence rather then my journey was the witness. As I sat I prayed for God’s peace, and was intent that my peaceful presence in this militarized space embody resistance.
And as I sat in silent presence, I listened to a recorded message blared through loudspeakers from inside Ft. Benning, over, and over.
“No demonstrations, marches, or organized political activities of any type will be permitted on Ft Benning, GA. If you enter this installation you will be in violation of title 18 United States code section 1382 and subject to fine and imprisonment.
The proper forum for such activities is provided and available in the civilian community. The sole purpose of this installation is to provide for the military training of soldiers. This policy is completely consistent with the American constitutional tradition that military must remain politically neutral and under the control of a democratically elected civilian government. “
I do not have loudspeakers, or fences, or a police force to support my goals, but I do have the voice God gave me to speak, and so I say to those still teaching torture and assassination at the School of the Americas:
“No oppression, injustice, or systematized violent activities of any type will be tolerated anywhere in God’s world. If you continue to participate in these atrocities you will be in violation of God’s law, and the divine intent for the liberation of the oppressed toward peaceful life on this Earth.
Everyplace where injustice is done is our God-ordained forum for resistance, the sole purpose of our witness is to evoke the Spirit present in every life, and deny the lie that any value can be higher. This attitude is completely consistent with the reflection of faithful people throughout time and across space, who stand with us today to pronounce our voice and reclaim control of the structures of this Earth to steer them towards God’s justice and peace.”
May this be our witness tomorrow, and may it be so.