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Peterson Air Force Base has a riot squad

Protesters in custody
COLORADO SPRINGS- There is a postscript to the Sisters Witness Against War arrests at Peterson AFB last Friday. Where we left off, three women stepped across the line to protest our nation’s ongoing militancy, and the base commander’s refusal to hear the consciences of pacifists. Barbara, Mary Ann and Esther were led away to be processed, handed to the police, then released. Esther told me the sight that awaited her as she was taken out of our view.

Taking this step, this year, by the way, was in honor of Elizabeth. As the three women were being escorted around the security/reception building, out of view from the protest, they encountered a line of soldiers, dressed in riot gear, being put through various drills. Asking about the apparent extremity of such measures, the women were told that this happens every time there are protests on the other side of the gate. The preparations are standard procedure.

If you can imagine what it’s like from our side, fifty or more quiet nuns usually, once or twice a year, holding home-sewn banners or small signs, facing a security booth being manned by a dozen soldiers, some with binoculars, some in plain clothes. It’s quiet and uneventful. You’d never guess there are people in riot gear being put through their paces behind the scenes.

I laugh because it’s always a nearly-spoken hope that one day we will walk toward the gate, and all of us supplicate ourselves in a compassionate plea to end the war-making. While probably every participant certainly has the courage to be arrested, decorum and a sense of pragmatism hold us back. We await a better opportunity, an impassioned leader to follow, probably. And so through the years, the sisters have only ever mounted a limited nonviolent assault on that yellow line.

This year as the arrests were wrapping up, a soldier noticed that someone’s feet had unknowingly strayed over the line. He pointed sternly and the wouldn’t-be offender hopped giddily back like a new gambler who hadn’t intended a bet.

Even this time, we murmured to ourselves, if only all of us would simply cross that line, they wouldn’t know what to do with us.

Well, as Esther’s report clarifies, they would know what to do with us. And they ready themselves every year to do it. Which has me thinking that they have a higher respect for our potential than we do ourselves. They know what’s at stake, even as we yet do not.

I struggle questioning whether we can reach across to the military mindset with our pacifist ideology. Especially as their militarism extends to dealing peace-petitioners physical blows. Will there be human consciences to reach, or just gung-ho soldier appetites to satisfy? That question holds me back.

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