Tuesday, January 26, 2010

At 78 years, lifelong protester racks up convictions, marches on



For those who have not met Eve Tetaz, you have a void in your life.  As an agnostic, I would argue she is a living saint.  Finally, I can always say that I was arrested along side Eve Tetaz, who always speaks truth to power.








At 78 years, lifelong protester racks up convictions, marches on


By Keith L. Alexander

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, January 25, 2010; 3:03 PM


It's a familiar scene for Eve Tetaz. She sits in the cold, damp holding cell, crammed together with other women. Some, like her, were arrested for protesting. Others are locked up for drugs, assault or prostitution.


The other women in the D.C. jail affectionately call her grandma. Her cellmates, or as she calls them, her "sisters in chains," let her sleep on the bottom bunk so the 78-year-old doesn't have to climb to the top. Instead of letting her stand in line to get her jail-issued bologna or cheese sandwiches, many of the women bring them to her.

"These are women I probably even wouldn't see passing on the street.

They are very gracious to me," Tetaz says.


With her white hair and black glasses, Tetaz is a familiar figure to the Capitol police and at the courthouse. Since 2005, court records show, she has been arrested 20 times and convicted 14 times of various offenses, including unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct, contempt and crossing a police line. As she and other demonstrators march around various parts of the District, from the White House to the Supreme Court to the Capitol, her protests center around the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


Most District judges who have heard her cases either dismissed them with a citation or fine or sentenced her to time served, usually one or two days in jail, and sent her home. But her repeated arrests have left prosecutors and some D.C. Superior Court judges exasperated.


Last Thursday, just days before a D.C. Superior Court judge was scheduled to sentence her in another case, Tetaz picked up her 21st arrest when she and about 40 other protesters were charged in a war demonstration on the Capitol grounds. A hearing was scheduled for March.


On Monday, an obviously frustrated Judge Lynn Leibovitz sentenced Tetaz to 25 days in jail and placed her on probation for a year after a jury found her guilty of disorderly conduct in October. Prosecutors say Tetaz and at least three other demonstrators attended a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing May 21, stood up as Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) began to speak and yelled out: "No more blood money. Stop the war." Police said Tetaz and the other protesters then threw dollar bills into the aisle of the Senate chamber. The money had been covered in Tetaz's blood as well as the blood of the other demonstrators, drawn from each by a physician friend.


Standing next to Jack Baringer, her court-appointed attorney, and wearing a T-shirt that read, "I'm not disturbing the peace, I'm disturbing the war," Tetaz often smiled as Leibovitz criticized her decision to disrupt a Senate speech and pass out blood-tainted dollars. The move, Leibovitz said, "demeaned the action of protest" and bordered on assault. "Ms. Tetaz has repeatedly over time ignored court orders and our laws," the judge added. She sentenced Tetaz to

75 days in jail, but suspended 50 days -- unless Tetaz is arrested again while on probation over the next 18 months.


Tetaz, whose supporters in the audience risked being kicked out of the courtroom for cheering her on, read from a statement, vowing to continue to "give voice" to nonviolent protest. "I believe that nonviolent protest against government policies will continue to be the only authentic form of individual political action," she said.


Just eight months from turning 79, Tetaz is one of the oldest demonstrators of the District- and New York-based group Witness Against Torture. Matthew Daloisio, one of the organizing volunteers, said police, noticing her frailty, often offer Tetaz the option of receiving a citation and release from jail, but she declines, choosing to remain locked up with other demonstrators. "Eve lines up her life with how she thinks the world should be," Daloisio said. "She has a spirit that transcends her age and her physical limitations."


And it is her physical limitations that concern her attorney and family members. She carries bags of medications for glaucoma and heart trouble. She also has leukemia, which doctors said they can treat with medication. Judges must speak loudly or she has to wear headphones to be able to hear the proceedings.


Widowed since 1995 and with no children, Tetaz says she's the perfect demonstrator. She has no responsibilities. She is retired after spending 30 years teaching English in D.C. public schools such as Eastern and Dunbar, as well as a brief time in 1948 when she taught school in Harlem, N.Y.


Protesting isn't new to Tetaz. During the Vietnam War, she and other demonstrators were arrested on the steps of the Capitol. She spent three days in jail.


"It's often the poor, uneducated, inner-city kid who has no other recourse than the streets or the Army. I'm fighting for him," she said, days before Monday's sentencing. "This is a terrible waste."


Tetaz, like many of her fellow demonstrators, is very spiritual. She often speaks of wanting to "follow Jesus" and lives a simple life in an Adams Morgan apartment with her two cats and pet bird. "In everything I do," she said, flashing her large smile, "I want to be a reflection of my faith."


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


No comments: