Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Waging Peace: Littering, and with Fr. Berrigan

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, NY


Waging Peace: Littering, and with Fr. Berrigan

By Linda LeTendre  <linda@scolex.org>




I was able to spend part of Good Friday how and where I wanted to -–

in custody in a NYC police station.


I attended Metro Pax Christi's 28th annual “Good Friday Way of the

Cross, The Way to Peace” (which is a Stations of the Cross across

Manhattan) in NYC this past Friday and took advantage of the Kairos

Community's opportunity to take the “Sacrament of the Handcuffs” at

the end of the walk and the reflections.


A quick primer of the 14 Stations of the Cross: They are the sequence

of events that happened to Jesus from being convicted/condemned, to

the walk to the execution place, to dying on the cross, to being laid

in his tomb. Pax Christi adds a 15th Station -– The Resurrection of

Jesus. The walk goes from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the UN to 42nd

Street between 8th and 9th Avenue near Holy Cross Church. Pax Christi

invites local Christian communities to give a reflection at each

station on a social justice issue as it relates to peace and justice

(if you're Glenn Beck you should stop reading now). For example, at

the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company's building at 42nd and 2nd, there is

reflection about health care and how it relates to Jesus' call for



At the end, if you chose, you can process to the Intrepid Sea, Air and

Space Museum, at 12th and 44th Street, witness for the Gospel call to

peace, and participate in nonviolent civil disobedience. The Intrepid

is a recruiting center masquerading as a museum and glorifies war and

killing. A few years ago when they had an exhibit about the Enola Gay,

the local peace groups asked that they include photographs of what

people looked like after having a nuclear bomb dropped on them in the

interest of truth; that request was refused.


Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ joined us at Station 11 (Jesus is nailed to

the cross) which was held at the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in

Times Square. I was thrilled to see him and much to my delight he was

glad to see me. “You just seemed to come out of nowhere,” he said. “I

just turned around and there you were!”


“It is because of you that I'm here,” I told him. “You've ruined my

life for the better.” To which he chuckled.


As we were stopped at Station 13 (Jesus is taken down from the cross)

I told him about my Christian signs being photographed several times

over at rallies. “It looks like Jesus is welcome at peace rallies,” I

said, “Either that or the FBI thinks I'm a hot chick!”


“Maybe both,” Fr. Dan replied, smiling. Twenty years and 20 pounds ago

that might have been true, I thought to myself.


A group of us processed to the Intrepid carrying banners, with NYC

police officers clearing our way on the sidewalk and keeping us safe.

I must tell you that the majority of the police officers who walk with

us for the entire way have volunteered to do so -– some for several

years in a row. It is their way of supporting and being part of our

peace work. It is one of the great gifts of the day. The lead

detective, Badge number 17, has told Sister Elizabeth that if he was

not a detective he'd “be out there with us.” He's volunteered for this

assignment for many years -– so he's been with us.


The officers lad us to the plaza at the Intrepid where we held our

signs. There was a very long line of people waiting to get in. Six of

us placed ourselves at the beginning of the line and one of the people

from the Catholic Worker Joseph House told the crowd that we were here

to witness to the suffering and peace of Jesus. We began to read 250

names of Iraqi, Afghani and Americans killed in the wars along with

their ages. The names were printed on pieces of paper shaped like

coffins and outlined in black and we reverently set them on the ground

as we read each one.


One older man began to shout “NO” at the top of his lungs each time

any one of us said or read something (“Give us Barabbas.”). Others

yelled at us for putting the names of American soldiers on the ground

(“Crucify him!”). Some crumpled up the paper coffins. Some walked on



I had just finished reading the name of an 8-year-old child; pointing

out that she was about the same age as three children about to enter

the museum, and a woman in the crowd called to the police officers,

“Officers, arrest those people for littering!”


Littering. We read the names of innocent children (and I consider the

American 19-year-old PFC I acknowledged to be a child as well as

innocent) killed in a war that is bankrupting the country, a war that

we were blatantly and without shame lied to about to get us to support

it, and someone in the crowd complains about littering.


Her shouts in the midst of our witness is the most powerful metaphor

for our fellow citizens' response to not just our current wars but war

in general. Collateral damage is OK if it is not your loved one.


We did pick up the pieces of paper when we were through, by the way.


After the names were read I stood by Fr. Berrigan in the doorway -–

letting anyone who wanted to pass through. The police officers huddled

and asked each other what they could arrest us for –- we really hadn't

not done anything illegal. Finally they read us the requisite three

warnings to leave and one of the lieutenants politely asked each

person if s/he would like to be arrested.


“Yes, thank you,” I replied.


I asked the officer cuffing me to be tender with my wrists as I have

had surgery on both of them. The plastic cuffs are hardly tightened.

“The cuffs are just for show, “ one of them says, “Just don't pull

your hands out of them.” No problem!


There are only 11 of us, so we are all in the same transport wagon

with four women in front of the partition, and the seven men,

including Fr. Berrigan in the back. The police were exceedingly tender

with Fr. Dan; he's almost 89 years old and uses a cane. It is clear

that he is frail of body. They cuffed him in front and helped into the

wagon, an officer on each side.


At the 18th Precinct we were greeted with smiles, respect and a joke

about being “criminals.” We trade pleasantries and funny lines.

Several of us have been arrested on Good Friday at the Intrepid more

than once. The seven men were in the small cell downstairs and us four

women were right outside of the cell on a small bench. They let us get

our lunches out of our pockets and share them. The female officer on

duty took a couple of us to the “real” bathroom (one with stalls and a

door -– not the open ones in the cells), a courtesy that was a truly



We were processed quickly and given a summons for disorderly conduct.

“Disorderly conduct?” I asked my arresting officer, Miguel Cruz (who

was just lovely by the way).


“You were blocking the door,” he said.


“But I stepped aside for anyone that wanted to go through,” I replied.

“I know,” he said, shaking his head. “I don't know where they're going

with this.”


I have to appear in Criminal Court at 9:30 a.m. on June 1. My guess is

the charges will be dropped.


After we all had been released, we went for coffee at the “Bagel Bite”

around the corner and talked about the Catholic Church's latest sex

scandal disaster and how it relates to past sins of the church

hierarchy and policy. I got quite an education.


We also regaled Fr. Berrigan with stories about how he led each of us

into the temptation of standing with Christ for peace and justice. He

was clearly pleased.


They are stories that should not be lost, and we thought for his 90th

birthday, coming up next year, we should plan a celebration that

includes these stories.


May it come to pass!



No comments: