May 27, 2006
I was fifteen when I built a tree house behind my home in the branches of a magnificent sweet gum tree. I used masking tape to create a pattern of the tree's branches on the patio and then hauled the pre-cut lumber by rope to the limbs fifty feet up. The tree house had a railing, a shingled roof, and a hammock that swung precariously over the edge. That giant tree was my friend and protector.
In 1986 I conferred with tree sitters in Oregon. We all loved the Old Growth and we did what we could to save it. I was given a quick lesson on tree climbing with spurs, but the group decided it would be best to leave the tree top protests to the young-uns. I was arrested twice, as the tree sitters continued their vigil. We saved thousands of trees.
In 1999 I learned about Julia Butterfly Hill http://www.ecotopia.org/ehof/hill/index.html. She lived for two years in the canopy of a huge Redwood named "Luna" and succeeded in protecting this tree and the surrounding forest from being logged. I had the pleasure of meeting Julia last year.
She is currently sitting in a 3 story high walnut tree on a 14 acre urban farm in Los Angeles. http://www.circleoflifefoundation.org/ Three hundred and fifty families, most of them working-class immigrants from Central America, tend small plots of fruits and vegetables on this land and the owner has threatened to demolish it. Julia is hoping to raise 16.35 million dollars so the Trust for Public Land can purchase the property. Nine million dollars has been raised so far and there are 4 days left to raise the rest. Here's where you can go to contribute: http://southcentralfarmers.org/news.html
Julia personifies the M.K. Gandhi quote, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." By enrolling the help of Joan Baez, Darryl Hannah, and John Quigley she has stepped out of her role as the lone activist and has entered the more powerful realm of community. Gandhi set forth on his Salt March To The Sea with just a few supporters http://www.thenagain.info/WebChron/India/SaltMarch.html. When he arrived and picked up that single pinch of salt in defiance of British law, he was joined by thousands. It is my hope that the walnuts of that Southcentral tree will find their way to fallow ground around the country, and that other movements of moral indignation will also arise.
PS Join the Gandhi Puppet and the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition http://www.mpjc.org/ for the Memorial Day Parade on Monday. We'll be assembling on Throckmorton Avenue opposite Old Mill Park between the Mill Valley Library and Old Mill School at 9:30 am.
At the end, join us and the Mill Valley Seniors for Peace http://www.mvseniorsforpeace.org/ at the corner of Camino Alto and Miller Avenue at The Redwoods.
May 1, 2006
It was a tough choice. Should I support the local marchers in San Rafael or go to San Francisco and participate in the HUGE rally? In the end, it was the terrain that was the "decider". San Rafael has low wires and lots of low-lying limbs, which doesn't make it easy for a figure of 12' 8" (to the top of his sign) to maneuver, so I opted for San Francisco.
The Gandhi Puppet and I were greeted in San Francisco with many smiling faces and great enthusiasm. A contingency of two men and two women asked me to follow them as they parted the way through the crowd and took us to the front of the march. I felt a little awkward, but my policy is to always go with the flow. The "front" kept changing anyway as new people filled in. There was lots of dancing, singing, and drumming to celebrate this historical day.
Two of my favorite signs were: "Corporations don't have borders, why should we?" and "I crossed the border in heels." What I especially enjoyed were the number of families. A sight that always touches my heart is when a parent explains the meaning of "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." (the sign the Gandhi Puppet holds) to her/his child. One mother took her son by the hand and led him to the puppet's side. She said,"We want to be in the aura of your statue." A teacher told me that Cesar Chavez elementary school had 285 absences out of 400 students. There were an estimated 100,000 people marching today!
Afterward there was a large demonstration in front of the Federal Building. Suddenly I was surrounded by five San Francisco police officers. They said someone had thrown bottles at them and that someone else told them the puppet had something "they would want to know about" stashed under his gown. I was startled by them unexpectedly pulling up his garment and tried to make a joke by saying "Have you heard the one about the Trojan Horse?" They were tense and not in a mood to joke around. First of all, I don't think bottles were thrown because we were in a very small area and there was absolutely no reaction from the crowd. Second, why did they look through my small pouch which was hanging inside his frame? Generally I have a lot of respect for the police in San Francisco, but when they start frisking Gandhi I get my dander up.
I loaded his head into the back seat of my car and thought to myself ... another successful day of "keeping the Spirit of Gandhi alive". One woman passing by asked,"Is that all you do, just pull that puppet around?" "I wish," I told her with a tired smile.
The Gandhi Puppet and I were greeted in San Francisco with many smiling faces and great enthusiasm:
Jeff Paterson / Not in Our Name
I have arrived at The Democratic National Convention and here's my story
I have arrived at The Democratic National Convention and here's my story: First of all, you have to picture my car. I have Gandhi's head in my back seat and his body wrapped in plastic on the bike rack on top . . . I must admit, he looks suspicious. In any case, as I make a turn into the Convention Center area, three or four police cars pull in front and behind me, with those zany flashing lights blinking frantically. They ask for my driver's license and car registration and proceed to check me out. Meanwhile, I hand out the flyers describing my trip and show them The Independent Journal and Novato Advance stories, along with photographs taken by Art Rogers of the Seniors for Peace, and my photo of Andrew and the puppet. When I leave, I notice a lot of them are busy reading my flyer.
Next, I pull up in front of a parking garage and receive permission from a security guard to start unloading the Gandhi Puppet. Little did I know that this garage was next to a Federal Building, so within approximately eight minutes I am surrounded by ten men dressed completely in black, with "Federal Agent" printed on the back. They ask if they can look through everything I have laid out on the sidewalk. In a matter of minutes they have a German shepherd sniffing for bombs. One of the men asks if I would mind if the dog sniffs inside my car. I have seen enough "LA Law" episodes to know that they need probable cause, so I objected. I was becoming a little annoyed, because I was trying to get into the parking garage before the end of the Early Bird Special. He told me that he knew I had the right to refuse a search, but he also let me know that the more difficult I made it for them, the more difficult it could become for me. We came up with a friendly compromise and they thanked me for my cooperation.
Next: Agent Manning and the Secret Service. I had almost finished setting up the Gandhi Puppet when Agent Manning, accompanied by a Sergeant from the Boston Police, showed up. They were both very nice, but needed to do another search. They were concerned about the folding chair my son had given me - it looked like a miniature rocket launcher. I showed them the chair, and everything else, again. Once they finished their search, I put the ladder that I use to attach the head to the body back on top of my car and drive quickly into the garage. I made it for the Early Bird special.
When I come out, Federal Agents are again all around. They ask me why I left the puppet alone. I wasn't sure if they were joking, but they ask me if I wasn't concerned about him being stolen. I said he was probably the most closely monitored object in the city at the moment. They agreed, but had to go through everything again, just in case someone had put something under his garment during the 5 minutes I had been gone. I told them to take their time - I had made the Early Bird Special. They were relieved.
Now I’m on my way . . . After two blocks I am again surrounded by the Secret Service. I mention Agent Manning, and that she had already done a search, but they say they're sorry, but they are the tactical surveillance department and need to check things again. They are particularly wary of my rocket launcher. The Gandhi Puppet is partially constructed from a 4 inch black pipe . . . the type demonstrators regularly use to handcuff themselves together to block traffic. I explained that this was only the Puppet’s backbone and that it holds up his head. They let me go, but warned that I would not be able to go into the "Protest Pen" with the Gandhi Puppet’s staff or the stick used for his sign.
They were right. The Sergeant in charge confiscated both and the ten-foot puppet entered with drooping arms and no statement. I had to carry his sign. The "Protest Pen" is located under elevated train girders and is surrounded by fencing and barbed wire; armed military patrolled overhead, looking down. A sound system is provided, but it is set at an intolerably high volume. There are no porta-potties, suggesting short stays. At one point a street sweeper drives in on a machine that sucks up paper, etc., but there is a hole in his collection bag, so he only succeeds in creating a dust storm, after which many protesters leave. I am guessing he "cleaned up" every few hours. Someone asks him about the hole in his bag and he says he knows it’s there, smiling . . .
I leave after three hours . . . dusty, unable to hear, bladder full . . . The Puppet also hit his head on one of the girders. We retrieve his staff and stick and return to the street. Over the period of approximately 6 hours I was interviewed and photographed by CBS, NBC, ABC, Reuters, Associated Press, The Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, The New York Daily News, other smaller papers, independent filmmakers, and a young lady working on a thesis on nonviolence. In order to eat lunch, I set up the Gandhi Puppet for a photo op, with the name of the Fleet Center (the location of the convention center) and an armed guard visible over his right shoulder. The Press enjoyed this and left me alone for 30 minutes while I ate.
Around 5:00 ABC took photographs of the Gandhi Puppet and interviewed me - this was aired on the 11:00 news in Boston. It was a full day! I asked the reporters when the stories would be printed and they said they didn't know; it would be up to their editors.
Tomorrow I visit the war memorials in Washington D.C. and walk around with just the puppet’s head . . . but this email is long enough already . . . so I will save the experience, and the photos I take, for another day . . .
Your Roving Reporter & Promoter of Peace,
Oakland in Peace
The Gandhi Puppet and the Gandhi Peace Brigade will join other Peacemakers for an afternoon of festivities and a Peace Walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland on Sunday, April 9. There will also be a Peace Social to network with other organizations, a children's program, sacred drumming and Peace Awards. Young people will be signing the Children's Petition for World Peace and receiving official membership cards, making them honorary members of the Children's Peace Brigade. The petition will be presented to the United Nations after being circulated around the world. We will also be talking about celebrating Gandhi's birthday in schools on October 2 and the World Wide Candle Lighting Ceremony to be led by Arun Gandhi, Gandhi's grandson, on October 2, 2011.