|Yesterday, Dave Slesinger, myself and a fellow named Erin Myers leafletted 911Courage's "CALL FOR FEDERAL CIVIL SERVANTS TO SAVE THE CONSTITUTION" flyer at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. It's a call for federal level whistleblowers with Daniel Ellsberg's September 2004 plea for the exposure of any of a list of 12 important documents that have not been made available to the public in full, completely withheld or censored beyond meaningfulness.|
We met at the corner of 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue at 3pm, had a last minute strategy moment while we checked and supplied each other with tools of the trade, asked a passerby to take a picture of us, then each chose an entrance.
We had 3 of the 4 entrances covered of this block sized building. I set up on the sidewalk at the west entrance, also the location of a vehicle gate.
For 3 hours I stood at the roadside edge of the sidewalk as I faced 8 security guards at the building edge and driveway. They were not thrilled. The younger among them showed more than a little disdain as they would whisper, nod there heads towards me and snicker. Those 3 hours gave me plenty of time to be thoughtful of the situation and size each one up. Early on in my vigil they realized that I was as serious and prepared, in my own way, as they were (though I do not carry a gas mask at my belt).
We planned on addressing only those coming out of the building in our hope that someone would take the leaflet home, indeed even take the leaflet, read it and reflect. Surprisingly, more than half the suits who heard my mantra, "The workers at the Department of Justice are the bulwark of freedom," took the literature, and as Erin remarks in his story, often stopped short in their steps as they had intended to just walk by. Some though would hurry past in the seeming hope that no one saw them within earshot of me. Most of the younger employees and intern types shied away or completely ignored the situation, yet, I received many smiles and "thank yous" (and "no thank yous").
There were many tourists, _some_ of who smiled, and as I did not concentrate on engaging
them, I do not know their stories. Three women did stop, however, to ask what my issue was. Three generations, grandmother, mother and daughter, the youngest being a grade school teacher. They warmly regarded what I was doing, are aware of the issues and supportive of any efforts to help right our ship of state. They took my proffered flyer and little parade souvenir style American Flags that I had stuffed my jacket pockets with as we talked. The three agreed that there is a great need of discussion and left with their promise to do what they could in their own communities.
At one point a dog team came out and walked by. A very happy and healthy shepard type taking her handler on a stroll to meet her security guard friends. I can only imagine that I was then cleared of having any bomb in my overnight bag as dog and human soon went back inside without taking care of any other 'business'. I was also visited by increasing levels of security types, the first being one of the younger "leaders" of the guards. Next was the eldest on duty. Then a fellow in shirtsleeves came out to speak with me followed by a gentleman wearing a jacket. The last inquiry came from someone in a suit. They all took a leaflet, were considerate of the situation, listened to what I had to say then politely left to go back on duty or inside. Our action had to be known by security personnel throughout the building as we were plainly visible and studied.
I was able to eventually spot the DOJ security badges on passersby and began to offer the flyer to those going in or out. There never was a rush of workers leaving for home. They left singly and in small groups.
I watched the guards as Dave walked past me to survey the entrance and activity at the south side of the building and check on Erin to the east. Dave's movements as he walked towards and around the southwest corner were closely monitored by two of the guards near me. The "eldest" studied his movements as the "young leader", with a radio held to his mouth, kept someone updated. A third guard, during Dave's walk, stood behind me and a little bit away on the sidewalk.
It never ceases to amaze me how coarse and suspicious our front line authorities have become. Though the guards were only doing, very capably, what they were trained for and assigned to perform at what is the "Bastion of Justice" of the greatest power in the 'free' world, is this administration really proud of the distrust that they have fomented? I would have readily and happily succumbed to a search of my person, bag and ID had I been politely asked, as this would certainly seem to be a judicious use of authority at this location under the circumstances. This would have immediately allayed any concerns of theirs that I could be something other than what I represented myself to be, a peaceful leafletter.
It would also have been productive if I had been offered an opportunity for extended dialogue, either there on the sidewalk or perhaps within the beautifully kept courtyard that was beyond the vehicle gate that I was facing, as we would like to assert that we will consider all options for open rational discussion.
No one else stopped to talk with me other than the family and security personnel. I handed out about 75 flyers. Dave gave out arround 20 and Erin managed about 150. We can only hope that one of those flyers will inspire someone to show their courage and act as there must be one in that building with the patriotism, thoughtfulness and enlightened view of those three women.
Dan M Nalven
September 22, 2006