On New Year’s Day, sixty peace activists organized by Codepink Women for Peace gathered on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge to walk across one of America’s great landmarks in vigil for the 3,000 US servicemen and women killed in Iraq and for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died since the US invasion and occupation.
California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers blocked the pedestrian walkway on the San Francisco side of the bridge saying that we did not have a permit for a demonstration. We responded that we were not demonstrating but only wanted to walk peacefully across the bridge to commemorate the 3,000 deaths. Initially the CHP allowed tourists to pass through our group and begin their walk on the bridge. We complained that this was our bridge and we could not be denied access. The CHP then stopped all walkers.
After an hour, a group of ten walkers in pink came into sight. They had come from the Marin County side of the bridge walking peacefully and respectfully to honor those who have died. Finally after two hours CHP announced that the bridge was closed to pedestrians and we had to leave, which we did not do. Ten of us were then arrested for trespass.
In October 2005, several of us were arrested in front of the White House when the US death toll hit 2,000. Now on January 1, 2006, we were arrested to commemorate 3,000 US deaths.
It was ironic that I, as a retired US Army Colonel, was arrested on the Golden Gate Bridge in sight of the Presidio of San Francisco, a former US Army base. The Presidio was my first assignment in the Army almost forty years ago. I served at the Presidio during the Vietnam War when anti-war protesters rocked the city of San Francisco and the nation when hundreds of thousands marched from the Bay to the Ocean. Thousands of GIs went AWOL from the Vietnam War and lived in the Haight Asbury area of San Francisco. When they were picked up by military police in the city, they were taken to the notorious Presidio Stockade. In 1968, twenty seven of these imprisoned soldiers protested the shotgun killing of a mentally disturbed prisoner by a guard. They sat in the prison courtyard, sang “We Shall Overcome,” and were charged and tried for “mutiny” which carried a possible death sentence. The image of GIs facing the electric chair for singing "We Shall Overcome" caused a national uproar and after the first several mutineers to be tried got 14, 15, and 16 years each, disillusionment about the military and the war grew in the civilian community and especially within the ranks of the military. Many historians consider the Presidio 27 incident as one of the first major GI resistance actions of the Vietnam War.
Forty years later our military faces another unpopular, unwinnable war thrust upon the military by an administration that did not think out the consequences of invading and occupying a country that had done nothing to the United States. GI resistance to the war is increasing. AWOLS are increasing. War resisters are speaking out and are willing to go to prison rather than participate in an illegal war of aggression. Over 1500 active duty soldiers have signed an “appeal for redress” to the Congress asking for the “prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq.” They will go to Washington and deliver the appeal to individual Congressmen and women on January 15.
We must bring extraordinary pressure on the new Congress to stop the funding to this war and bring our troops home. Join us in Washington, DC January 3 and 4 and January 27-29 to tell Congress: STOP THIS WAR and BRING OUR TROOPS HOME!
Colonel (Retired) Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army veteran. She also was a US diplomat for 16 years and served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.