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Linda LeTendre's Waging Peace
by Linda LeTendre

Waging Peace

A Daily Gazette community blog
Linda LeTendre fights for a peaceful world.

Occupy DC off to a good start

I managed to get myself down to Washington, DC, on Oct. 6 for the beginning of the Occupy DC action which is similar to the Occupy Wall Street action that was planned at about the same time. The idea is to occupy Freedom Plaza, in the same way that Wall Street is being occupied by citizens, until the wars end.

While I was thrilled to see many of my beloved colleagues who work very hard to bring about peace and justice, I must admit to being disheartened in realizing that there were only about 1,500 to 2,000 people gathered in Freedom Plaza.

Organizers were hoping for thousands more.

My friend and fellow Saratoga Peace Alliance member, Jeffrey Halpern, reminded me that Occupy Wall St. started out small and grew. This put things in perspective and rekindled my hope.

On the trip down I began to feel a bit ill with what I thought was an upper respiratory infection (courtesy of my dear husband), so I did not risk arrest in any actions, not wanting to subject my potential cell mates to whatever contagion I was carrying so I stayed the night in the Hotel Harrington (the DC lodging of choice for the peace movement).

There were daily marches and protests around the city.

To see a video of me talking about the war economy -- this was one of the few actions I was able to participate in -click here.

People risked arrest by staying all night in Freedom Plaza, which is not far from the White House. Apparently it is illegal to sleep in the plaza, but you can sleep on the sidewalks bordering said plaza. A fine line of distinction that can invoke a dispensing of the Sacrament of the handcuffs by the DC constabulary.

The police showed up early in the evening about 11 p.m. and remarked to folks wrapped in sleeping bags that it was going to be a cold night. DC's finest returned about 10 police vehicles strong at 3 AM and everyone thought this was going to be the mass arrest -- but they just hung around the plaza for maybe an hour and left.

Last word was that the permit which was supposed to run out on Sunday has been extended for four months and the police are not arresting anyone in the plaza.

There was a problem on Sunday during a witness at the National Air and Space Museum against our use of drones where some kind of scuffle happened and 10 to 15 people were pepper sprayed by the museum guards. I've read a few reports from the folks who were there and no one seems to know what exactly happened. An Internet article alleged that an assistant editor from the conservative magazine "The Spectator"  infiltrated the protesters and may have provoked the violent response from the police.  NBC Nightly News did manage to cover said scuffle with slant that the protesters got violent and had to be subdued.

Some of the people I admire most are in the Occupy DC for the long haul, Tarak Kauff who is one of the principal organizers. Margret Flowers, MD who is one of the national organizers for a universal health care plan and Christine Gaunt, a hog farmer from Iowa. Christine is one of the most deeply committed peace workers I know and when I stand next to her I hang my head in shame. She has taken unpaid leave from hog farming and her position at Grinnell College to be in Freedom Plaza until mid January of 2012. She has been arrested countless times for having a “die in” at her Senator's office and was one of the 14 people arrested for witnessing against illegal war making activities at the National Security Administration (America's version of the KGB) this past Sunday. She is this unassuming woman that looks for all the world like one of those mid-western ladies that bring their great Aunt Tillie's favorite casserole dish to a church supper. She could not be further from that stereotype. If I ever get my peace museum Ms. Gaunt will be a shoo-in for the hall of fame.

I intended to stay until Saturday or possibly Sunday but on Friday said to my traveling companion, John Amidon, that I was ready to go if he was...I was just out of energy. At about 4:30 PM in DC rush hour traffic I began to get sick and threw up the entire 8 and half hour trip back to Saratoga Springs.

I was so sick and dehydrated that instead of going home I went straight to the ER at Saratoga Hospital and was never so glad to get stuck with an 18 gauge needle to get the IV started. I lost three days being sick and unable to really get out of bed. I've just begun to feel better in the last day or so.

So, I'm glad that I was able to help kick off the Occupy DC but still disappointed that I was not able to be more active and stay longer.

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