Around noon on January 20th, Inauguration Day, more than 25 activists from the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance gathered in Columbus Circle, just outside Union Station in Washington, D.C., in solidarity with up to 1,000 other protesters. We crossed Massachusetts
Avenue and conducted a ceremony to memorialize drone victims on 1st Street. We selected this area as several military vehicles were blocking the street leading to the US Capitol where the Inauguration was taking place.
Various participants were holding banners and signs. Max Obuszewski of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center and I held my banner: Stop the War Machine: Export Peace. Some members of the group handed out a petition to President Donald Trump for a redress of grievances—income inequality, climate chaos, racism, militarism and the effects of killer drone strikes.
Nick Mottern of Know Drones brought his replica of a Predator drone that attracted a lot of attention by observers, including Trump supporters who were departing from the Inauguration. Also on display were large photos of children killed by the US assassination program. After a brief ceremony memorializing drone victims, especially the children, we moved to the street, and ten citizen activists did a die-in to symbolize the victims of a drone strike. As the “victims” were covered in shrouds, I wailed over each body. A police officer told us we could stay as long as we wanted: we would not be arrested.
The Trump supporters, as expected, were not supportive of our re-enactment. Some mocked the demonstration and made hostile comments. Others looked surprised. After about thirty minutes the “victims” rose from the dead, and the group circled and heard some final comments. In closing, we sang a few songs, one of which was the classic, “Down By the Riverside,” led by Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. A number of us decided to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which was reportedly at an Inauguration entrance at 14th and E Streets.
This was a long walk, and by the time we arrived, we did not find any protesters. So the group went to a restaurant to break bread and discuss today’s action. We agreed that we would try to meet on Saturday at the Women’s March on Washington.
The next day we were among the hundreds of thousands making their way to the Women’s March. We took the Metro to Metro Center with the idea to transfer to a train which would take us close to Independence Avenue. However, the trains were packed. So we walked several miles to get to Independence Avenue where the rally was to take place. Along the way, we continued to hand out copies of the petition we used at the drone die-in. We were trying to make contact with friends, but there was no cell phone service during the rally.
People from around the country seemed to be coming from every direction! It was magnificent! Many more women than men, and the participants were of all ages, colors and size. Diversity ruled! Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, friends! Plenty of youth and families with children, even some in strollers. It felt like Pentecost, this empowering Spirit of solidarity and community!
When we reached the Department of Education, we unfurled our peace banner. Many people, especially seniors, gave us the thumbs up and nodded approvingly. Sometimes people came over to talk with us. Numerous people took a photograph.
After a few hours, we decided to switch over to a colorful banner by South African Dina Cormick of Phoebe and Eucharistic Community supporting the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests: Reclaiming Our Ancient Heritage. It evoked wide-eyed smiles and an enthusiastic response. The banner initiated many conversations with protesters about our movement. As with the first banner, we again were the object of many photographers. It caught the eye of an Irish radio station reporter who interviewed me. I made sure to say women priests supported Tony Flannery’s public Mass in Ireland!
Later, on our trek back, a television reporter from Channel 9/WUSA also interviewed us. Max addressed what he considers the most important issue facing us today – militarism, which was not a part of the agenda for the Women’s March On Washington. He elaborated by pointing out that more than 50 percent of the Federal Discretionary Budget goes to the military. This in turn shortchanges much-needed social programs. A corollary to this military madness is that the Pentagon is committing ecocide.
While it was so wonderful to be a part of the Women’s March, it was disappointing to note that militarism was not on Saturday’s agenda. On Sunday, we attended the forum “Challenging Trumpism, Wars and Militarism” at American University. There CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin informed us that the organizers refused to include militarism as an issue to be discussed during the rally.