Shuck and Jive


Friday, December 14, 2007

Have You Been to Jail for Justice?

That is the title of a song from Peter, Paul, and Mary on their CD In These Times.

I dedicate this song to The Rev. Chris Lieberman and Le Anne Clausen who "both face up to six months in federal prison and fines of up to $5,000 for trespassing on military property during the peaceful demonstration Nov. 18."

Here is the story on the Presbyterian News Service.

At least two Presbyterians — one of whom is a pastor — are among 11 demonstrators facing federal charges after being arrested for crossing onto the U.S. Army’s Fort Benning in Georgia to protest a controversial training school for Latin American military officers.

The Rev. Chris Lieberman, 54, of Albuquerque, NM, and Le Anne Clausen, 29, of Chicago, both face up to six months in federal prison and fines of up to $5,000 for trespassing on military property during the peaceful demonstration Nov. 18.

Lieberman was released after posting $500 bail. It was unclear how much bail was posted by Clausen, who is traveling in Iran as part of an interfaith peacemaking delegation and could not be reached for comment.

Federal court hearings for the two are scheduled for Jan. 28.

The demonstrators were at Fort Benning near Columbus, GA, to protest it housing the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA).

Opponents want the combat training facility shut down. They say forces from Latin American countries are taught counter-insurgency measures at the institute and use that knowledge to commit murder, torture and other human rights abuses in their home countries.

The event marked the 18th anniversary of protests at Fort Benning — disparagingly referred to by critics as the “School of the Assassins” — demanding the training facility be closed.

Federal authorities said the 11 protesters were arrested when they went onto the military base during this year’s rally organized by a group that calls itself School of the Americas Watch (SOAW). Lieberman said he ventured onto the grounds by slipping through a hole in a chain-link fence.

More than 100 Presbyterians are believed to have taken part in the demonstration, which involved as many as 20,000 protesters from around the country. (Read More)


This song is for you!


Was it Cesar Chavez or Rosa Parks that day?
Some say Dr. King or Ghandi
Set them on their way
No matter who your mentors are
It's pretty plain to see
That if you've been to jail for justice
You're in good company

Have you been to jail for justice?
I want to shake your hand
'Cause sitting in and laying down
Are ways to take a stand
Have you sung a song for freedom
Or marched that picket line?
Have you been to jail for justice?
Then you're a friend of mine

You law abiding citizens
Come listen to this song
Laws are made by people
And people can be wrong
Once unions were against the law
But slavery was fine
Women were denied the vote
While children worked the mine
The more you study history
The less you can deny it
A rotten law stays on the books
'til folks with guts defy it!

Have you been to jail for justice?
I want to shake your hand
'Cause sitting in and laying down
Are ways to take a stand
Have you sung a song for freedom
Or marched that picket line?
Have you been to jail for justice?
Then you're a friend of mine

Well the law is supposed to serve us
And so are the police
When the system fails
It's up to us to speak our piece
We must be ever vigilant
For justice to prevail
So get courage from your convictions
Let 'em haul you off to jail!

Have you been to jail for justice?
I want to shake your hand
'Cause sitting in and laying down
Are ways to take a stand
Have you sung a song for freedom
Or marched that picket line?
Have you been to jail for justice?
Then you're a friend of mine
Have you been to jail for justice
Have you been to jail for justice
Have you been to jail for justice
Then you're a friend of mine



27 comments:

  1. Here's another activist priest for you, John. I don't know if you've heard of Father Roy Bourgeois or the SOA Watch. I had the honor of spending an evening with him in Minnesota about 20 years ago.

    www.soaw.org/article.php?id=412

    There was also a nun from St. Paul who, at 70, served 6 months for trespassing at the SOA.

    Though I have fogotten her name, she is a hero in my eyes. As is Father Roy and these others who have given up a life of comfort for something that does not personally affect them. I wish I had their strength.

    Incidentally, I have a book you may be interested in, written by Father Jim Carney, who was essentially martyred by the Honduran death squads for his work with campasenos. I sat on the board of the Central America Resource Center with his brother, Pat, back in the late 80s.

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  2. Thanks for that and the link! I would like to see that book, too!
    j

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  3. These are very brave people. True dissidents in the tradition of Jesus himself.
    It's sad. Filth like Pat Robertson can threaten people's lives and no one in this Satanic gov't even says a word. But stand up for peace, truth, and love and you're going to jail.

    But we officially recognize a holiday ritual gleaned from 15th century Eastern European Paganism!!! Hallelujah!!! Can I get a witness!?

    It's good and righteous that you honor these fine, fearless Christians. Real Christians, that have the courage to oppose evil perhaps even to the point of death.

    Even more than the rest of us, it is for such as these that Jesus gave his life.

    And yeah, I've been to jail and prison standing up for the rights of infirm persons in need of Marijuana as medicine. Thankful for every second I spent there too. ;)
    I figured if Jesus can go to prison for opposing evil, it's good enough for me too.

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  4. Thanks TN,

    Good for you about taking a stand on the medical marijuana issue. I will post something on that. What are some links?

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  5. You know, guys, part of me is torn between wanting to honor my brothers and sisters in Christ, and respecting their convictions, even if I may not always agree, and at the sametime wondering if it shows wisdom to disrespect the "rule of law," in this way.

    We were discussing on another blog awhile back concerning an Episcopal bishop who basically got himself arrested for blocking the entrance to a govt. building.

    We live in a free society, with some hard won rights and liberties. What's wrong with sticking to legal protests and other actions, rather than trespassing, blocking other's access to buildings, etc.

    I mean it all sounds great when it comes to causes that we feel are just, and close to our hearts. But, how would everyone here feel about just as sincere protesters staging a sit-in, or blocking access to the local abortion clinic. Can you see my point, friends?

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  6. Grace,

    Thanks...

    Two things:

    1) You have the issue of justice.
    2) You have tactics.

    Breaking laws is a last resort. That is where many people feel we are with SOA.

    My evaluation of this is that this is a cause of justice. One's conscience can lead a person or large group of persons to break a law as a sign of protest.

    As far as abortion clinics go, sure someone may feel sincere about that. Go ahead then. However, I will work against them, because I think the sense of justice is skewed in the case of the anti-abortion people.

    You may feel that the SOA protesters are wrong. OK.

    Everyone has to do what s/he has to do and be willing to accept consequences.

    So, back to the issue at hand. What do you make of SOA?

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  7. Grace,

    Thanks...

    Two things:

    1) You have the issue of justice.
    2) You have tactics.

    Breaking laws is a last resort. That is where many people feel we are with SOA.

    My evaluation of this is that this is a cause of justice. One's conscience can lead a person or large group of persons to break a law as a sign of protest.

    As far as abortion clinics go, sure someone may feel sincere about that. Go ahead then. However, I will work against them, because I think the sense of justice is skewed in the case of the anti-abortion people.

    You may feel that the SOA protesters are wrong. OK.

    Everyone has to do what s/he has to do and be willing to accept consequences.

    So, back to the issue at hand. What do you make of SOA?

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  8. I don't know, John. I've never heard of this before, at all, and have no knowledge of this school. But, if this allegation is true, and can be documented, then , yes, I agree that the facility should be shut down.

    Either that, or there needs to be a very careful screening of who is coming there for training, and for exactly what reasons.

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  9. Just to scratch the surface....

    Wiki

    Chemical in MJ fights Breast Cancer

    Drug War Facts

    Medical Marijuana

    Science of Medi-Pot

    Neurology Now

    I am concerned. A year or so ago the PCUSA GA officially supported Medical Marijuana and actually ordered Mr. Kirkpatrick to lobby Washington on behalf of Medi Pot.
    As far as I know, nothing has come of it.

    I wrote and volunteered to conduct this effort myself. Heard nothing since.

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  10. Hello, Grace.

    Not to butt in...

    But I find a dramatic difference between protesting peaceably and blowing up abortion clinics and murdering doctors.

    There are no Eric Rudolph's on the Left side of the dial.

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  11. Oh, of course, I agree Tn. But, why not protest and object in legal ways?

    I really seldom have conversation with other Christian people who are very politically radical, so forgive me if my questions seem naive or very basic. And, I hope I"m not seeming disrespectful or causing offense. But, seriously, what is the help and virtue in spending months in prison. I can't understand it.

    I could see this if we lived in a closed society where there was no other legal recourse, freedom of speech, assembly or a free press. But, why not respect the "rule of law, and still protest, and get the point across?

    Seriously, I really don't understand. Can you share some insight? It almost seems to me that some protesters actually set out to get arrested, and are even happy about it. I totally don't get it, friend. Why?

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  12. Grace,

    If you are not affected, tactics make no sense. If you care about it, tactics follow. The question is not about whether you agree or do not agree with their tactics.

    The question for you is, what do you think about SOA? What will do about it?

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  13. I will try and contact them, John, and express my concern. See what they say, and take it from there. Also, I have some sons in the military. One who works at Ravenrock, the underground Pentagon. I'll see if he knows anything of this.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention on your blog.

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  14. This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

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  15. Why didn't Jesus just follow the rule of law instead of getting himself executed by the Romans?

    Why didn't Martin Luther King stick to legal forms of protest?

    Civil disobedience isn't for everyone. I've never partaken in an act of civil disobedience myself. But I admire those who are willing to put themselves personally at risk for their heartfelt convictions in opposing injustice.

    For understanding the reasons for peaceful civil disobedience, there is no better place to go than to the source itself--"Civil Disobedience", by Henry David Thoreau.

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  16. Grace -

    I'm not an expert on this by any means, so please correct me if I am wrong. However, my understanding is that the money changers in the temple were technically performing within the law, yet Jesus called for a protest of their actions, and the temple was sacked, which was against the law.

    As John said in a speech he gave at an anti-war event this September, one must do something when it becomes more painful to do nothing.

    Please check out the SOA Watch link I put in my first comment. I hope you will come to understand why this institution needs to end, and why civil disobedience is warranted.

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  17. Thank you tn420, and everyone for sharing your thinking.

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  18. snad...

    You're exactly right. "Legal" is often construed to mean "right" and "illegal" construed to be "wrong". This is not always the case.

    soaw is a wonderful site. :)
    As credible as any on the web.

    Fact is, Alcohol is legal and kills thousands per year. Tobacco is legal and kills apx 400'000 people per year.

    Marijuana is illegal and never killed even one solitary person in it's entire history. All it's done is heal body, mind and spirit.

    Laws that are clearly for the common good should always be obeyed. But as our Lord taught us, laws born of greed, political gain, and religious zealotry, that are based on lies and manipulation, must always be broken. It's our duty to God and country.

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  19. Snad, and tn,

    I would agree that if a law is clearly unjust, and the only way we can speak out, and do right is to break the law, then we should all go for it. Scripture says, "To obey God, rather than men."


    But, I think whenever possible we should respect, and work within the "rule of law." Let's face it Jesus could hardly apply for a permit to stage a protest at the temple. (laughing) Rome, at the time, was not exactly a democracy.

    A huge difficuly can arise, IMO, when everyone and his grandma individually begin to decide and to interpret what's right and just for themselves, and feel free to violate any law where they may personally disagree. I can see how this could easily lead to anarchy and chaos. Where do we draw the line, friends?

    I have friends right now who oppose any laws giving civil rights based on sexual orientation. These folks just feel, for instance, it would be wrong for them to rent an apartment to couples which they feel are "living in sin." Should these sincere people be free to violate the law based in their personal conviction?

    Just the other day I read of a physician who on his own decided that it would be immoral for him to give an oral contraceptive to a woman who was a rape victim in the ER. The poor woman was left without treatment.

    And, then as I've mentioned, what about the folks who are totally sincere about violating the law by staging sit-ins, and blocking access to the local abortion clincs.

    Oh, I'm telling ya, the list could go on and on.

    Plus, I"m thinking all this money that's going to go to attorney fees, court costs, use of the police, upkeep of folks in jail, etc. could be put to good use helping the poor and needy.

    So, in short, when at all possible, keep the protests and demonstrations legal and non-violent,IMO. In this country, I'm not sure it would ever be necessary to do otherwise, friends.

    But, if I"m wrong, may the Lord open my eyes!! :)

    Pax.

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  20. Hey, nix that part about Jesus applying for a permit to cleanse the temple. In retrospect, that's a pretty stupid illustration..(Reaches for the white-out.:) )

    But, seriously, can anyone see my concerns at all, here??

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  21. Grace,

    I do see your point about where to draw the line, as you say. But, I would caution against assuming that it should be a straight line. In reality, I imagine it is a pretty wiggly one, if there is one at all.

    Your examples have some merit - particularly those of people blocking abortion clinics. They are doing the same thing the SOA Watch people are doing, and like the SOA Watch people, are going to jail for it. That is part of the statement they wish to make, not an ancillary result.

    As far as the doctors and pharmasists denying women the right to contraceptives, that is a different case. These people are placing their legally protected individual freedom over the legally protected individual freedom of others, and are using a cloudy moral precept to do it.

    As for honoring the "rule of law", obviously that is done more than it is not done. The people who participate in acts of CD are infinitesimally small compared to the percentage of people who live within the rule of law. Also, keep in mind that these people live within the rule of law in every other aspect of their lives, They feel strongly, however, that the "spirit of the law" sperceded the rule, and that those in authority should function within that spirit as well.

    The School of the Americas was created back in about 1980 as a training camp for the Nicaraguan Contras. It was funded by the US and used by the US military and the CIA to train Samosas death squads in torture and interrogation techniques that were in blatant violation of the Geneva Convention and the International Charter of Human Rights. It has operated outside those laws ever since. The name was changed a few years ago because they are no longer focusing simply on the Americas (meaning Central Amercia).

    There is still great concern that the facility is being used to train international military personnel in illegal torture tactics. We - you, me, and all Americans - are paying for this with our taxes. I am grateful and humbled to the point of tears that there are devoted people like Roy Bourgeois and others who are willing to set aside their personal comfort to confront these violators of the "rule" as well as the "spirit" of the law.

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  22. I'm sure our thoughts and prayers are with these brave folk who crossed the line at the School of Assassins. Let's keep them and their families in our prayers.

    Let's also keep their churches in our prayers as they'll need to step up and offer more tangible support after sentencing.

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  23. This is/was a good discussion. Alan is right, good vibes for these folks are in order.

    The SOA went off my radar, so this protest reminded me to keep track of this thing...

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  24. If the press were doing its job, CD would never be necessary in a democracy. I see CD as an alternative form of expression when others are failing. What we really should be protesting is the abysmal state of the press in America today.

    Now wouldn't that be post modern? Have the press report on the protests against the failures of the press?

    The SOA is just one example of the lack of moral character that permeates our foreign policy. In the 50s it was the FBI that was training the Latin American armed forces in the interrogation techniques they had learned from the NAZIs. Later the Brazilians held torture classes with live subjects and bragged about "advancing the state of the art in torture", and exporting it back to the Americans. See "Torture in Brazil" - University of Texas Press.

    But I warn you about reading this book. It is based on official transcribed records kept by the military. You have to have a stomach made of stainless steal to get past page 3.

    Grace, if your son works where you say he does, he is forbidden by law to tell you anything he may or may not know. You have to rely on the free press. Which takes me back to my original comment. They are not doing their required part in protecting our democracy.

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  25. For all you good Presbyterians who are willing to bear false witness against your fellow man--do a little serious research and put a little bit of truth in this discussion. SOAWatch is a fraud on all you who seek peace and justice, because its basic premise is false. There is not one example, from SOAW or anywhere else, of anyone using what he learned at the School of the Americas to commit any crime--not a single one! To say so is a moral libel of the Soldiers who taught there. Think about it; the whole argument of SOAW is that any association with the SOA is proof of a connection to wrongdoing. The Army gave SOAW the entire list of students who attended SOA until it closed in 2000. Look at that list. You will see people who took one or two courses, most six weeks or less. Less than one percent of those people are accused of any crime, less than half that are accused of human rights crimes, and none are charged with a crime related to their studies. The most absurd example? Leopoldo Galtieri was a 23-year-old lieutenant in 1949 when he took a 12-week course in engineer operations. Would someone like to link that to his part in the military junta 32 years later? Get real. The protests go on quite legally in Columbus, GA. Those who trespass onto Ft. Benning are being cynically used by SOAW for publicity. That is the only result of their trespass, other than a certain federal conviction on their records. I am the public affairs officer for WHINSEC, which replaced the SOA when it was closed seven years ago. Pres. Clinton signed the law that closed the one and created the other. I invite anyone to come see what we do. You don't have to stand at the gates of Ft. Benning. Show a photo ID and drive to our door. Sit in a class, talk with students and faculty, review our instructional materials. I'll introduce you to our chaplain, who happens to be endorsed by PC(USA). Sincerely, Lee A. Rials

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  26. There may actually be some truth in what Lee Rials says as far as the physical location of the SOA at Ft Benning.

    And most of the guys who committed the hands on crimes in Central and South America were never trained in the US. Too low on the totem pole.

    But their commanding officers all were required to do advanced training here. It was a requirement for promotion.

    Did we teach them to commit the crimes, or only that we would look the other way when they did?

    Like I said, the Brazilians were bragging that it was they who were teaching the Americans.

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  27. Mr. Rials,

    Thank you for commenting. I certainly do not want to bear false witness but there seems to be a difference of opinion on what this school does currently and has done in the past.

    This thread is a little old in blog time, so I am going to open a new post with your comment.

    Thanks again for visiting. This will be an opportunity, should you wish, to make your case.

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