Last night 9 peacemakers vigiled outside the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor, ten miles south of D.C., to decry the scandalous Air Force Association (AFA) annual “Air & Space Conference and Technology Expo,” what we call an “Arms Bazaar.” Some 150 arms contractors are taking part in this year’s Arms Bazaar. Our vigil coincided with a $300+ per plate banquet honoring outstanding airmen. Members of Pax Christi, two Carmelite sisters and friends from several other peace groups attended the vigil which was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. The action was held in solidarity with Campaign Nonviolence (CN), a long-term movement to build a culture of peace and nonviolence free from war, poverty, racism, the climate crisis, and the epidemic of violence and injustice. This week CN is sponsoring some 700 actions in the U.S. and worldwide.
As we arrived at the Gaylord, a contingent of Gaylord security and Prince George Police were on hand to greet us. Max Obuszewski and Janice Sevre-Duszynska were the first to arrive and had an animated exchange with the head of security. Shortly afterwards, I was able to give security and police our leaflet (see below) and invited them to join with us. Several police vehicles stationed at the Gaylord main entrance remained at the site for the duration of our vigil.
Our witness began with singing “Down By the Riverside” and the reading of our leaflet. Bob More then read the Gospel account of the Beatitudes (Lk. 6:2-28). This was followed by Janice, Max and Sr. Carmen Soto reading a selection of Dr. King’s Riverside Church April 4, 1967 speech about why he opposed the Vietnam War. Bob Cooke then offered a prayer to exorcise the evil of militarism and convert our lives to God’s command to love. We then sang “Do Not Be Overcome by Evil.” This was followed by Janice, Max, Bob Cooke, Steve Bush and I sharing reflections about the human cost of warmaking, the plight of refugees, the courageous witness of whistle-blower and truth teller, Edward Snowden, the urgent need to cancel weapons systems like the $400 billion F-35 Joint-Strike fighter program, killer-drones and all nuclear weapons, and the moral imperative of exposing and resisting the addiction to militarism. A Litany of Repentance and Hope was then offered by Brian Barrett and Sr. Carmen. We then lit candles and sang “This Little Light of Mine,” as we remembered all victims of violence and war, the holy cloud of witnesses past and present, imprisoned truth-tellers, resisters and whistle-blowers, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all who are acting to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and all who are working today to bring about God’s reign of justice, love and peace. We concluded our witness by singing the Vine & Fig Tree and having a closing circle.
Let us redouble our efforts to do all we can to nonviolently resist the forces of violence, racism and death and witness to the God of Life and Love as we strive to create the Beloved Community.