There were 700 of us and 30 of them, but the anarchist youths who came to Sunday’s peace vigil in Asheville succeeded in disrupting the vigil with violent chants, air horns and drums.

 

We held a peace vigil in Asheville on Sunday and about 700 people came out to denounce racism and violence and to remember and honor the three who died in Charlottesville, Va.

As we were about to start, a rowdy group of about 30 young people came running onto the scene carrying banners. Most of them weren’t old enough to vote and most of them were dressed in black. All of them were white. Some covered their faces with bandannas.

When we started speaking, they started blowing air horns, drumming and chanting violent slogans.

They told us they were Antifa, short for anti-fascists. They’re also anarchists. They came to disrupt and they did.

Unfortunately, the amplifier we have used for rallies for eight years died on us, so we had to try to speak over their noise. They wanted their voices heard and they were intent on blocking anyone who disagreed with them.

So we sang. We sang “This Little Light of Mine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “We Shall Overcome.”

And we chanted: “We will not condone violence,” as they chanted, “Black Lives Matter! Blue Lives Don’t,” and “Kill the cops!”

A number of us tried to talk to them one-on-one, and what they want is chaos. That was their answer. They want to “tear it down!” They want to kill all police. They want government gone because our current government is corrupt.

I allowed them to speak as long as they didn’t promote violence. One of them came up and grabbed the microphone, which was sitting on the ground. She thought she was going to take over the vigil. I offered her the “stage,” a 2-foot wall at the front of the space near the Vance Monument, and she spoke about how she thought all white allies were racist because they have no idea what black people want (she was white).

When I talked to one young man about my commitment to nonviolence, he called me a coward. I thanked him for talking to me and walked away.

They appropriated other people’s belongings (including my umbrella) to hold up their signs and then called us names when we wanted our things back because we were leaving. One young man accused me of assaulting the woman who had my umbrella when I took it from her. But it was fine for them to assault a news reporter who came to cover the vigil.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a ruder, more inconsiderate group of people, or people who are so fully unaware of their own privilege.

We welcomed them when they arrived, we were happy to have them participate, but they didn’t come to participate, they came to disrupt.

Several people I knew who came for a peaceful demonstration left. Others tried to talk to them but came away with the impression that they only want their views to be heard and no one else’s thoughts mattered.

The group that pulled down a Confederate statue in Durham the next night also identified as Antifa. They at least were a diverse group and from what I hear, they weren’t chanting, “Kill the cops.” So, while I’m happy to see the glorification of a system that owned human beings shut down, I’m not happy to see the kind outburst I saw on Sunday from a group of people who are doing all they can to promote violence for their own glorification.

These young people — most of whom were not old enough to vote — think violence and chaos is the solution to the world’s problems, as though they have the experience or the wisdom to solve the complex problems we face as a nation and as a planet.

Our government is corrupt as hell. Our entire economic system is a nightmare for most of the population right now. But to tear it all down and say we should each fend for ourselves is not a solution.

But there was no reasoning with the members of this group. I tried to speak to several of them and not one wanted to hear what I had to say. They shouted me down, calling me cowardly, racist and homophobic.

Yes, I’m white. So are they. There was not a person of color among them. I’d be OK with that if they weren’t calling me and others these hateful things as though they were the only ones who could be allies against the system.

The Vance Monument, which towered over us, is a tribute to a slave-owning former governor. The ground on which we stood still carries the shame of having been a slave market. I suggested we could consecrate this ground and rededicate it to justice and equality. The crowd applauded, and the Antifa folks chanted, “Tear it down!” But they weren’t talking about just the monument, they were talking about everything — all of it.

We held our vigil in spite of them. We will do the same if they show up again. Only next time, we will have an amplifier, and we will spread our message of peace.

I was so disheartened by what happened on Sunday, as were my fellow organizers. I want everyone to have a seat at the table, but I can not ally myself with people whose only aim is the violent overthrow of everything, and the members of this group who I spoke to on Sunday advocated nothing more than violence.

Violence begets violence. Hate begets hate.

There is a better way.

Love trumps hate. Yeah, that was another one of our chants.

 

Black tag of courage or a Liberal learns about war

I was a Paramedic in the Air Force in the early 90’s.  Joining the military was one of the better decisions I have made in my almost 50 years and even at the old age of 27, the training I went through gave me a wealth of discipline I previously did not have. There’s a plethora that I completely disagree with in how our military personal are utilized, but I was lucky to be at their disposal before the right wing, corporate quest for empire began to pick up speed in earnest.  Pretending to assist the wounded and pick up dead soldiers on the battlefield is all fun and games until it really happens.

The Air Force Medical Core / Paramedic training was (at that time) conducted at Shepard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. I love Wichita Falls, but that’s another post. We slept in tents, ate MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) out of plastic pouches plucked out of 55 gal. drums of boiling water, rescued the pilots of a long forgotten war from their rusting C-2 Greyhound and learned about triage. The pic to the left was taken during my time at the Med Red (Medical Readiness) training grounds somewhere near or on Shepard Air force Base.

The one and only time I ever argued with a superior officer was in triage class over the black tag. In the military they call the black tag “expectant” and in the civilian world the term “morgue” is used.  The protocol for the black tag soldier was a simple one… pain meds until dead. How could anyone not do all that could be done to treat all the wounded, no matter how badly they were injured, I asked? To the instructor’s credit he was very kind to me as he explained that war is not about helping the few, it’s about helping the many. Maybe I was not the first bleeding heart liberal he ever had in his class. That was probably lesson one for me on my way to seeing what all soldiers probably know, even the person of peace is sometimes called upon to fight and die for it. A person who hates war must sometimes wage war to stop it. Until humans decide to deal with our differences differently, create a world where despots have no place and stop ignoring that our precious freedoms depend on all of us finding our common ground and contributing what we can to that common good… there will always be bloodshed.

I wrote the following letter to the editor of my conservative, East Tennessee town in early October, 2004. It was my first act of publicly putting my thoughts in front of the Republican faithful. I didn’t get lynched and a couple of people even told me, in confidence of course, that they felt the same way.

The Policy is not the Soldier

A Memorial Day flashback to October 2004

The Republican party would have you believe that their policy is the Soldier. They would prefer that no one make the distinction between their personal agenda and the Soldier that dies in Iraq.  As Mr. Bush’s comments clearly stated: that would simply send the wrong message, “mixed messages” to our brave troops.  How indeed could they follow a leader of questionable intent, morals and leadership?

How indeed? The Republican Party’s story is that this is all about freedom, bringing democracy to the middle east and fighting terrorists wherever they may be.  Those of us who don’t believe that story is entirely true are considered by many as un-patriotic and un-supportive of our sons and daughters fighting and dying in Mr. Bush’s war.

Every person that I meet who cannot allow my right to that opinion has cited the same sentiment, that it disrespected the soldier. No! The Soldier and the policy are not the same thing.

As a Gulf war veteran, I respect those who have chosen to protect our country. I do not respect a commander and chief that would spill their blood for profit, power and a personal vendetta while lying about it.

This president seriously underestimated the consequences of his actions; he will not admit his error in judgement and he hoping that Americans will not be able to separate his failed policy and premature actions from the brave men and women he put in harm’s way.

The spin is relentless in keeping the idea going that one cannot disagree with poor decision-making without disrespecting the troops, and sadly, it seems to be working.  I imagine Mr. Bush and his cronies having a good laugh at just how much the American people are willing to swallow.  And after numbing us out with the unprecedented fear this administration generated in the wake of 9/11, the religious right was waiting to take us all in and show us the error of our ways and their path to salvation.  The path of writing discrimination into the constitution, the path of altering the idea of separation of church and state, the path of intolerance and judgement.

The right to disagree, the right to speak out belong to us all for the moment. Even Mr. Bush and his ilk have the right to express themselves under the same principles, but they do not have the right to legislate for their own purposes and enrichment. It is our duty as informed citizens to keep them in check for the day they overtake us the “other” terrorists will be the least of our worries.  that will be the day none of us are free any longer, not even the right-wing, Republican, Moral majority, Christian Coalition, NRA life member.

Happy Memorial Day and Peace Y’all

 

 

Back stage pass – Speaking truth to power

Publisher’s note:

I met Tamara at the Speaking Truth to Power – a permanent state of war event in Asheville last month and asked her to give us a glimpse into the behind the scene world of putting together this great event. She was kind to take the time to do so for us!

Speaking Truth to Power EventWhen I was asked to share my experiences of working on this event, I wasn’t really sure where to start or how to go about it. First off, let me just say that I do not consider myself to be a peace activist of any kind. I have never attended a peace rally or been thrown in jail for standing up for my beliefs. I am, however, a liberal individual who believes in the greater good of mankind and believes that violence begets violence and therefore peace is the only way for us to move forward in our world today.

With that being said, in January of this year, I was asked to be a part of a small team of four whose mission was to put on an event called Speaking Truth to Power: a permanent state of war. I was tasked as the social media and marketing specialist for this first-time ever event.  It would also be the first time for all of us to work together on an event such as this one and it would be a great learning opportunity for all of us.

The event itself would be held at the Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, NC on Saturday, April 9th, 2011. We would be showcasing two keynote speakers, Gareth Porter and Ray McGovern, along with four young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Our goal was to bring attention to the permanency of war and how the American people need to know the truth regarding the political power and financial policies that drive our nation.

At this point, I had never heard of neither keynote speakers, nor any of the vets. The genre of peace activism and those organizations in that field were all very new to me. I realized early on that I was going to learn a lot about something I had little knowledge of or had taken any personal interest in up to that point.

The creators of the event, Paul Turner and Ymani Simmons, wanted desperately to get this message out to everyone they could possibly get to listen. As Americans, we need to know the truth and see it for what it truly is and hear about it from those who have experienced it first hand. This is no small task and I greatly admire their sheer devotion and commitment to this very worthy cause.

This event was their first step in helping to get that truth out to the public at large. We brought in seven incredibly bright, intelligent and dynamic speakers. We tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, hung posters, contacted media, contacted college professors and like-minded organizations, placed ads, set-up radio interviews and did everything else we possibly could to promote this event. Over the course of three months, we made hundreds of decisions that all culminated into a three-hour event. And the evening was beautiful!

Behind the scenes, we worked as a team the whole time. No stone went unturned. Our speakers were impressed and graciously applauded us on our professionalism and attention to detail for each of their experiences. The audience stayed in that theatre until almost 11:30 at night listening and singing to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, which was being played instrumentally. It may have been a small and intimate audience in the theatre that night but every single person was moved by what they had witnessed. Once the DVD of this event comes out it will begin to ripple out to the mainstream via YouTube…and I can’t wait! And if all things go as expected, this event will begin to make it out to other cities and continue to spread the word.

I met several new people while working on this project and I observed and learned several things. I learned that it only takes a few willing and devoted people to begin to make a difference. I learned that the smaller you keep a group with a common goal ahead of them, the easy it will be to accomplish that goal and find success. I witnessed the passion and fierce determination that one person has can quickly impact those around them. At a time when people are fatigued and depressed by our political and financial systems, there are several people out there energized and working feverishly to show us the light to a situation. The beauty of working on an event of this nature is to see people at their best and to actually see into their hearts and feel what they feel in real time.

I feel blessed to have been able to work on this event. I stated earlier that I wasn’t familiar with this particular subject matter when I started working on this project. Well, I am now. I felt a direct experience during the event that will stay with me forever. I look forward to being a part of future projects like this one and know that I will continue on my path of speaking truth to power as I move through my own life.

Tamara Lee
Talee Professional Services

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