Many states are criminalizing acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, clearly violating First Amendment rights.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Earlier this summer, President Trump visited West Des Moines for a GOP fundraiser. Bold Iowa was there to expose the president’s climate denial to the donors who came to support him. Five of us — Todd Steichen, Kathy Byrnes, Miriam Kashia, Martin Monroe, and I — blocked an entrance to the facility’s parking lot. We then carried our banner toward the building and were arrested by West Des Moines police. We were charged with simple misdemeanor trespass.
We risked arrest because it’s important to capture the attention of politicians, the press, and the public. Our message is that climate change threatens our very survival, and a president who denies the problem — whose policies in fact greatly exacerbate the threat — must be called out and challenged.
We knew we had to do something creative. So we settled on holding a sign reading “Climate denier in the White House scare the S#*T outta you? IT DOES US!” To further bring home the urgency, we dressed in black and wore adult diapers.
“This was a difficult action to plan and implement, and yes, it was a little embarrassing, too, to wear a diaper in public,” said Kathy Byrnes, a grandmother of three who lived on the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. “While we would have preferred to share our message with the President’s audience and not be arrested, our upcoming trial is an important opportunity to prove that non-violent action in defense of our very survival is justified.”
We go to trial Thursday, September 5 at 2:00 at the Polk County Justice Center, Courtroom #110, 222 5th Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50309. We’ll hold a press conference outside the building at 1:30. We’d be thrilled to have you and other supporters join us for both the press conference and the trial. The trial should wrap up by 4:30.Iowa Climate Activists on Trial for Arrest at Trump Fundraiser Ed Fallon
We grappled with what it means to be peacemakers in a violent society. U.S. politics have descended into deadlocked ideologies, neglecting real imperatives. Our country has expanded its military operations around the world and militarized its local police. State sanctioned violence has killed unarmed people. Denying basic needs for clean water and air, food, housing, education, safety and medical care is also violence.Peace and Social Concerns Committee Report, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017.
The witness and commitment of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock inspire us, as does the support for them from Indigenous Peoples all over the world. Nahko Bear, a Native American activist and spiritual leader, told the gathering of youth who had been attacked by dogs the message he was given repeatedly as he traveled around the world: “remember that nonviolent direct action is the way to a successful revolution.” An Iowa Conservative Friend was arrested in nonviolent action protesting the Bakken pipeline in Iowa.
Stories collected by Don Laughlin remind us of the witness of Iowa Quakers who were imprisoned for refusing to participate in the military. We seek ways to share these stories with the wider community.
Members of our Committee were encouraged to study the new book calling for national nonviolent direct-action, The Gandhian Iceberg, by Chris Moore-Backman, who sent us the following message:
I pray that Quakers and others will move to hold bold action far above the careful crafting of right answers. In the end Jesus’ teaching is simple. Letting go of our attachments to our personal status quos is the catch. Intellectual rigor and discernment has its place, of course, but only – I believe – in service to direct, loving action and sacrifice.
We accept the admonition of the Rev. William Barber, who called for us to be the moral defibrillators of our time; to shock the nation with love and justice; to remember that Jesus was a brown skinned, Palestinian Jew; to return to the public square. We encourage Friends to provide witness with peace vigils in public squares and to speak out in print and social media and legislators’ offices.
In 2006 the Yearly Meeting approved the following Minute:
Basic to Quaker belief is the faith that the same Light we recognize in our own hearts illuminates the souls of all other people. This belief leads us to seek nonviolent means of resolving conflicts at all levels— interpersonally, within communities, among nations—and to work for justice as a basis for lasting peace. We find ourselves bound in many ways as citizens of the United States to policies of our government which are abhorrent to us and in violation of our most deeply held beliefs. Our efforts to encourage our government to establish policies that will lead to peace and justice here and around the world have not been adequate to bring about the change which is so urgently needed.
The destructive forces unleashed in our world threaten the future of all people and the planet itself. Throughout our history, Quakers have at various times found ourselves called to suffer for beliefs which have placed us in opposition to our government. Based on this history of courageous witness, we challenge Friends to now consider participating in nonviolent civil disobedience.
This call is even more urgent today. We encourage Friends to discern how they are called to bear witness for peace and justice and to support each other in doing so.
Below is an amazing video of Nahko Bear performing solo at the Water Protectors Youth Concert Sept 8, 2016. He says the resounding message he hears during his travels is:
Remember that nonviolent direct action is the way to a successful revolution. And that is a hard one, because they are so bad (chuckles). When they come at us you just want to hit ’em, you know? Just sit with that. I know it’s tough. They’re going to try to do everything they can to instigate you. But remember what we’re here for. We’re here to create peace for our Mother. We’re not here to create more violence.
When you’re feeling bad, when you’re feeling frustrated, put all your prayer into your palms, put them to the ground, put them back to the sky, honor the Father, the Mother, just know it will be alright.
Are you guys feeling proud, are you proud of yourselves? Because the whole world is watching. The whole world is watching. So whatcha gonna do? Gonna show love? Are you gonna be smart? You gonna think before you act? Take care of each other? You’re gonna show ‘em what family does. They don’t know what that’s like.
You gotta put down the weight, gotta get out of your way.
Get out of your way and just look around the corner at your real self and look at all the potential that this beautiful Earth and love has to offer you.Nahko Bear #NODAPL #MniWiconi #RezpectOurWater #AllNationsYouth