Washington, D.C., March 9 — Two peace activists were arrested on March 8 for disrupting the House Appropriations Committee hearing on additional funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Mike Ferner and Ed Kinane of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, interrupted the hearing called to consider the $67 billion “supplemental” appropriation which was ultimately approved by the committee. Ferner and Kinane were released early morning on March 9 after being charged with disrupting a Congressional committee hearing.
During the hearing, one of several amendments to the funding bill was offered by Rep. James Walsh‘s (R-NY), to shift funds earmarked for Veterans Administration hospitals. As soon as votes were cast on Walsh’s amendment, Ferner rose and told the committee members that as a former Navy Hospital Corpsman during the Viet Nam war, “the best way to stop creating more wounded and disabled veterans is to stop this war.”
As committee chair, Jerry Lewis (R-CA), pounded his gavel, Ferner continued, “In the name of the majority of Americans who now oppose this war, we say, ‘Stop the killing.'” “Listen to the names of a few victims of our government’s war,” he added and began reading a list starting with two young Marines and two Iraqis. Seized by Capitol Police, Ferner was hustled from the chamber as he called out, “These are the names of dead veterans . . . this government is violating international law and committing war crimes.”
Kinane, who held a banner that said, “Stop the Killing,” as Ferner spoke, was also ejected from the hearing. The two were placed under arrest, charged, and given dates to appear in D.C. Superior Court.
Since February 15, VCNV members have participated in a liquids-only fast and vigil at the U.S. Capitol. Four have gone without food as an act of solidarity with Iraqi citizens and as a call to the U.S. government and citizens to end the war against Iraq. This action is the second action of civil resistance carried out during the Winter of Our Discontent campaign. The first occurred on February 27 in which 7 people were arrested at the White House.
Key demands of the campaign include: 1) an immediate end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq; 2) full funding of the reconstruction of Iraq by the U.S.; 3) cancellation of the odious debt incurred by Saddam Hussein’s regime, without any International Monetary Fund conditions; and 4) cancellation of the war reparations charges imposed against Iraq by the U.N. for Hussein’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91.
Mike Ferner traveled to Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness just prior to the U.S. invasion and again a year later. His book Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran for Peace Reports from Iraq (Praeger) is due out in August.
Jeff Leys is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He traveled to Iraq in February 2003 with Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign of civil disobedience which existed to end U.S. economic sanctions against Iraq. He returned to Iraq in November 2003 with Christian Peacemaker Teams. Prior to joining VCNV, Leys worked as a labor representative for SEIU District 1199 in Wisconsin and for AFT in Kansas. Leys participated in a Plowshares action in 1985, serving two years in prison for nonviolently disarming a Navy transmitter system (since closed) in northern Wisconsin which served an integral role in U.S. first strike nuclear strategy. His work has also included: advocacy for Native American treaty rights; issues of homelessness; nuclear weapons; and U.S. involvement in Central America in the 1980s.