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Manifestation à la rue

Monday, April 27th, 2009

In the north of the northern hemisphere, April is the month of wild mood swings.  One day it’s 80 under a beaming sun, the next it’s 50 with a bracing rain-filled wind sweeping down from Canada–the tail end of the Alberta Clipper that freezes Chicago for three months, or, in the case of this past winter, six.

Today, April 27, is indecisive.  High winds, fast-moving clouds, jackets one moment, shirtsleeves the next.  And so, with banners threatening to take flight, and all our flyers under rocks, a group of us met outside the Field Museum in Chicago to alert Boeing’s shareholders that their company participates in torture.

Boeing owns a company called Jeppesen, and Jeppesen has been providing services to the CIA to allow them to carry prisoners to overseas countries where they will be tortured.  Here’s a copy of one of their invoices:

Taken from ACLU website: Jeppesen invoice for transporting Mohammed El-Zery from Sweden to Egypt on a Gulfstream V Aircraft

Taken from ACLU website: Jeppesen invoice for transporting Mohammed El-Zery from Sweden to Egypt on a Gulfstream V Aircraft

I think it’s an interesting corporate policy that they don’t accept checks.  Cash is a good way to do shady business, as the Mob can attest.  For more details about Jeppesen, and the ongoing ACLU suit to try to end torture, and to force the CIA to publicize their behavior, you can go here.

Boeing’s headquarters are in Chicago, and, with a group of other activists, including Catholic sisters who are committed activists for social justice, and Bob Clark from the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights,  I go each year to inform their shareholders about their company’s acts. The Field Museum, where the meetings are held, has an odd public-private relationship with Chicago–it’s not a publicly owned museum, but some of the land on which it sits is public property. Last year, we were harassed and intimidated by  security guards who pretended to be with the Chicago Park District.  With the support of Chicago police, they herded our band of protestors into a so-called First Amendment box, about half a mile from where shareholders were entering the museum.  I wrote about the experience last year for the Outfit collective blog.

After that stressful experience, we called on the American Civil Liberties Union for help.  They explained in writing to the Chicago police what our First Amendment rights were for congregating, for distributing literature, and for being on public property.  

This year, we had a peaceful outing.  The ringleader of the  security staff wore his corporate outfit this year instead of pretending he was a city employee.  We don’t know whether he and his brothers worked for Boeing, or perhaps for Red Hawk, one of the 200 private quasi-military firms that do a big business in Africa and the Middle East as private military and security companies: we saw beaucoup Red Hawk vans in the museum’s private parking lot, next to the entrance where the shareholders were meeting.  

We left feeling happy that, thanks to the ACLU and our own determination, we had been able to stand up for the First Amendment.  We feel sad that President Obama isn’t willing to go further on ending U.S. participation and complicity in torture.  He has so far agreed with Mr. Bush that all documents pertaining to CIA rendition flights constitute state secrets that cannot be revealed.  He’s mute on the School of the Americas.

If you have the stomach for it, and want to know more about what has been done in our name, you could watch Taxi to the Dark Side. I can’t figure out how to upload videos into my blog, but here is an excerpt presented by Bill Moyers.

Manifestation à la rue: thanks to prodding from readers after my whine about hobbies, I started taking French lessons.  I learned last week that 30 % des françaises ont participé à une manifestation à la rue pendant leur vies.  I don’t know what percentage of Americans have participated in a demonstration during their lives, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad never to have gone out–but I came home with mixed feelings: I’d done a good deed, standing up for civil liberties.  ABut the feeling of having been out on the street means one feels one’s done enough, and then, back to the comfort of the daily routine.

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