Profound and Healing Experiences at Freedom Square, D.C.

by Doug Zachary

Certainly you all have heard about the risks taken and the suffering endured by several Code Pink Members and their allies in Washington DC at the hands of ill-trained police defending the public’s right to salivate at the sight of military drones. The authorities behaved in an unreasonable manner and they will be held accountable in the courts.

I’d like to share with you all (briefly) an understanding of the two camps in DC (Occupy DC and Oct2011) — their differences and their necessary confluences. Below is the report I have sent to VFP Austin. Thank you for allowing me to post here.

I have just returned to Bastrop from the Washington, DC occupations; I hope to return after taking care of some family obligations here. There are two foci for the protests in DC; the Veterans For Peace-led activity that has been in the works for many months at Freedom Square and the Occupy DC action at McPhearson Park. The Freedom Square activities have emerged from the vfp action team that began building toward this with the 2008-09 actions on the ledge of the national Archives building and the banner drops at the Newseum among other places and that has morphed into the Oct2011.org coalition (Within which CP has contributed much.). There were VFP chapters from around the country represented here.

The differences between the two encampments in DC are striking. The average age at Freedom Plaza is well over fifty; at McPhearson Park the participants were half our age (or are we twice theirs?). We are veterans of the nonviolent movement, many — if not most — of us have been at the barricades in some form or another since the American War against Viet Nam. The younger people are products of the more deeply alienated generations that followed us. There are many liberals and even more Socialists (of every stripe) among us; the youngsters at McP are the radical, ultra democratic Left (I found myself drawn over to their activities and attitudes.)

There is a lot of process knowledge, if not wisdom, among us at Freedom Square. That said, some of the best facilitators among us were in their twenties. All decisions are being taken in consensus and as you all can probably imagine . . . it is thorny. Using Freedom Square as a base we have launched demonstrations and actions around the city including a very dramatic anti-drone action at the Aerospace museum that turned violent (police violence) when several members of Code Pink and allies were pepper-sprayed without any justification whatsoever by the private security guards there. There will be a lawsuit and the victims will prevail.

Although I had been on the planning committee for this activity as VFP, I attended and participated with about a dozen of the original Winter Soldiers from the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. We did an action at the Wall that was very moving and attracted a lot of attention from the citizens visiting the Wall, including a Westy’s Warrior or two who glared but did not venture to speak to or at us. At the Wall with all these old comrades, I did not descend into the usual anger that has characterized my previous visits there; it was a healing experience.

I would have to sit at the keyboard for another five days to tell all the wonderful stories from this action. It was and is a profoundly moving experience.

I am going to be involved in Occupy Austin and also hope to go to Wall Street soon, but my main focus will remain the VFP presence at Freedom Square. I would encourage any of you who can make this trip to do so.

Note: originally posted to Austin Codepink, re-posted by permission — gm

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