I was arrested at the foot of the Capitol Building on Sept. 15 in an act of civil disobedience as a result of my participation in a protest to end the war in Iraq. Consequently, I keep getting asked, “Why did you cross the police barricade?” My actions were entirely symbolic. Certainly I did not believe that I was going to get to the Capitol entrance, demand to speak to my representative and senator, and convince them to end the occupation of Iraq. The Capitol is meant to represent “democracy;” while 70 percent of Americans want an end to the Iraq War our congress continues to fund the occupation. Is this the will of the people?
Creating an illusion that they hold opposing views, Democrats and Republicans divide the nation into believing there is actually discussion of ending the war. In reality, both Democrats and Republicans are fighting the same battle; neither wants an end. If they wanted to bring the troops home they would simply not pass a bill to fund it.
Author Howard Zinn wrote, “The problem is civil obedience.” I stepped over the barricade because I have given up on government. I no longer believe that change will come from politicians. I now believe substantial change will only occur from a demand by the people. People should not be afraid of their government; government should be afraid of their people.
I saw the fear the government has of a mass people’s movement after acting in civil disobedience against the state and being held for 14 hours. In an effort to curtail any further growth of the antiwar movement, the government stripped 200 of us of our legal rights by detaining us and acting with spite. They delayed releasing us, as if to tell us, “How dare you disobey.” In addition, the media painted the peace protest as violent and reported a drastically reduced number of participants.
Disobedience is what is needed to fix America. Every social movement in U.S. history has been formed through people acting in defiance to the government. Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony, W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Henry Thoreau – the list goes on. These are the people that demanded change and should be a constant reminder to us that true democracy is not built by compliance but through descent.
I stepped over the barricade because I hold no loyalty to our government. One might say, then, why not act through your right to vote? But can we really consider the United States a democracy? “Totalitarian states love voting,” Zinn wrote. “You get people to the polls and they register their approval. I know there is a difference – they have one party and we have two parties. We have one more party then they have, you see.”
If the Democrats win the next election will life really be any different for Americans? Or are both Democrats and Republicans working for the same cause of developing a corporate American state hidden by the shadow of their fake debate and the minute differences they possess and only creating social change when it is needed to cool off an angry citizenry? If this is the case then we should stop believing we are a great democracy and begin realizing that we are certainly a most perfected corporatist government driven by the will of the elite and dependent on the ignorance of an obedient population.
I acted in civil disobedience because war is fought only for the rich and by the poor, because violence is wrong and peace is right, and because we should hold no fear of our government, but our government should hold constant fear of us.