On Wednesday, August 26th members of Women Against War and a coalition of many other peace and justice groups, participated in a vigil and rally at the Leo O’ Brien Federal Building from noon to 1 PM which included a picket line with signs and banners, a rally with speakers and music and a walk up to Columbia Street where Representative Paul Tonko’s of ice is located, and where his new Chief of Staff, Ryan Horstmyer came out to greet us and hear our messages of thanks for his announcement of support for the Iran nuclear agreement.
I’m going to keep the text to a minimum since this has already been described in an article on our blog waging peace.
What I will share here is some of Mabel Leon’s photos of the three parts of the event and then a few photos of the sit-in that followed the coalition event.
First the picket line at the start of the rally:
The second part of the event was a rally held on the grassy area beside the Federal Building. There were brief, informative speakers, music of the sing along variety by Terri Roben, and a ceremony presenting signed petitions in support of the Iran nuclear agreement, with signatures of 27,500 New Yorkers.
Then the rally concluded with a walk up to Representative Paul Tonko’s office on Columbia Street where his new Chief of Staff, Ryan Horstmyer greeted us and listened to our appreciation for Paul’s decision to approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Agreement. [JCPOA]
After the coalition rally ended then my favorite part of the afternoon began. It was a sit-in in the Lobby of the Federal Building by the “Fantastic Five” and their supporters. I’ll let Marcia Hopple tell the story about how it came about and only add that it was a complex action to plan and to support but turned out quite well.
[Sue Clark, one of the Grannies for Peace], came to the Iran project meeting on 8/17 to announce that she intended to sit in at the Federal Building to urge Senator Schumer to change his mind and vote for the Iran deal . [ Before the end of our meeting] four other women… decided to join her in a civil resistance action. Many more of us sat in with them and supported them, but left before being arrested. I was one of the support people.
While we were sitting in at the Federal Building (from 1:45 PM to a little while after the building closed at 5:30 PM) we had a really good public conversation with Steve Mann in the lobby. Sue was able to read him our letter to Chuck Schumer
Then Wendy read her letter that explained how frustrated we were that we couldn’t reach his local office or his Washington DC office by phone to leave messages or talk to someone; and that we couldn’t arrange meetings in a reasonable time frame.
We had members of several other peace and justice groups who stopped by for much/ or a little of the sit-in. A couple of people stood outside with signs as well. Some of the people who joined us were members of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, the Beyond Afghanistan/No Drones Project of WAW, Peace Action, The Friend’s meeting, Schenectady Neighbors for Peace and Veterans for Peace. The size of the group varied during the 4 plus hours From 16 to 7, with five people arrested
Senator Schumer’s staff were kind to us and offered us water, which Jennifer and Esther brought down later in the sit-in.Two women from the Building manager’s office stopped by to let us know that we would need a permit for any action inside the Federal Building or on the plaza outside – if we planned future actions.
An Albany police Sergeant stopped by to convince us to leave by closing time, but Sue in particular wanted to make a point by getting arrested. He was really interested in what we had to say and stayed for a long time, Having been deployed in the military several times; he didn’t agree that the JCPOA was a safe deal but we gave him some points to consider. Anyhow, he left having decided that the APD would not arrest us and if any arrests or tickets were to be issued it would be the job of the Federal security officers.
However at closing time Federal Security tried to get the fantastic five to leave voluntarily and they refused. So they were issued $80 appearance tickets and released.
In a show of solidarity the Upper Hudson Peace Action chapter decided to pay their fines if they decide to pay rather than contest them. They have 30 days to decide. And we don’t know yet what they will do.
More about the arrest/booking process from Marcia again:
The arrest scenario was that we had been lectured during our four hour sit in by Property Management staff, then an Albany city police sergeant, and finally a Homeland Security agent, all well before closing time, to think about what we were doing, realize we weren’t influencing the Senator, be realistic about media coverage since they would not allow photographers in, and leave on our own. The woman who first proposed the sit in replied, “I will not leave willingly.” The other four agreed with her. Just after the building closing time, the Property Management staff and Homeland Security officer returned to give them one last chance to walk out, and then processed them.
Here’s another description from Mabel:
[A woman officer from Homeland Security], tried every way possible to talk us into walking out voluntarily and she told us what we were doing made no sense and it was not going to affect anything. Sue answered her in a strong, steady voice with compassion. She was incredibly articulate. Finally, they locked the doors at about 5:50 and brought a wheel chair for Sue and booked her first in a little office. We were each given a ticket and fine for $80.00. The press never came, but it was a good day and Sue fought the good fight!!
It was a great sit-in. We had hours to be in each others’ company and to inspire each other. Schumer’s staff [Jennifer Wilson and Esther Hering] actually brought us cups of water, the police sergeant was humorous and interesting, the building security were very relaxed, and almost all of us were there to support Sue who was very passionate about taking her commitment to the peace deal to another level.