Opposition is a Prayer

15 Comments »

Meditators Blockade Oakland Marriott - host of Urban Shield 2014  photo by Joshua Eaton
Buddhist Peace Fellowship with Pagan and Christian allies Blockade Oakland Marriott
– the host of Urban Shield 2014
photo by Joshua Eaton

Alan Blueford, Mike Brown, Kimani Gray, Ezell Ford, Anita Gay, Kelly Thomas, Oscar Grant, Gary King, Sean Bell, Kayla Moore, Andy Lopez…

Nine of us sat in prayer and meditation on cold concrete blocking the doors to the Oakland Marriott while across the driveway, where guests stepped out of cabs or limousines, others meditated, sitting or standing, holding signs decrying police militarization and violence. People also meditated facing the street. Others handed out fliers with information.

Monks chanted and drummed. Your names rose within me as I sat: a litany, a mantra. Something in me settled more deeply. A sense of great love washed through.

I felt the doors push against my back as people tried to exit the hotel. Every time this happened, I followed the drums. I sank deeper. I chanted your names in my heart and mind.

Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Alan Blueford, Oscar Grant, Anita Gay, Gary King, Kimani Gray, Sean Bell, Andy Lopez, Kayla Moore, Eric Garner, Kelly Thomas…

Two people thanked us for being there. One man was upset, and tried to get past us, saying, “They have a right to protest, but they don’t have a right to inconvenience people!”

He was inconvenienced. Like Mike Brown, Kimani Gray, and Anita Gay were inconvenienced.

Like their families were inconvenienced.

Like Oscar Grant was inconvenienced, lying face down and cuffed on a train platform, shot to death at close range.

Like the people of Ferguson were inconvenienced by tear gas, concussion grenades, LRADs, armored vehicles and other weapons of war.

Like Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen was inconvenienced on the streets of Oakland when shot in the head by a lead bean bag which fractured his skull causing brain trauma, and then was gassed along with the medics who rushed  to help him.

Alan Blueford, Mike Brown, Kimani Gray, Ezell Ford, Anita Gay, Kelly Thomas, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Gary King, Sean Bell, Kayla Moore, Andy Lopez…

The doors pushed against us.  I settled deeper, still.

This hotel, along with several places in our county, yearly hosts a convention that trains police and fire fighters in urban warfare on citizens, and enables them to gaze upon and purchase tools of war. We protested last year. We are protesting this year. This is not an inconvenience. This is civil disobedience. This is a minor effort to tip the scales of justice. This is a minor effort to ask you, please, to see what is happening.

We sat in meditation on the concrete for two hours, keeping those doors shut. In between necessary conferring with the woman acting as police liaison, I continued to chant your names, knowing they were only a few of the hundreds of names that should be shouted to the night. My mantra was silent, keeping time with my breathing and my heart.

Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Alan Blueford, Oscar Grant, Anita Gay, Gary King, Kimani Gray, Sean Bell, Andy Lopez, Kayla Moore, Eric Garner, Kelly Thomas…

We are up against a monster that does not trust the people. We are up against a monster who hates those who live in poverty. We are up against a monster who feeds upon our fear. We are up against a monster who delights in control, oppression, and in pain.

We are not up against individuals. We are up against a being formed by a collective, what magic workers call an egregore. This egregore is hungry for injustice. It is hungry for screams, and rapes, and beatings, and gassing, and shots fired into flesh.

It insinuates itself in airports and alleyways. It grows larger at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference and at Urban Shield. It infects good people with a madness that cannot be appeased without more violence.

Alan Blueford, Mike Brown, Kimani Gray, Ezell Ford, Anita Gay, Kelly Thomas, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Gary King, Sean Bell, Kayla Moore, Andy Lopez…

Your names are the antidote.

Sitting in meditation on concrete for two hours blockading doors is an antidote.

Education is an antidote. Community is an antidote. Love is an antidote.

Love is greater than fear. Always.

We form an egregore, too, all of us who love. All of us who stand for justice. All of us who march the streets of Ferguson, or sit down upon concrete in Oakland and declare, “Enough. We love each other. We feel angry. So, enough.”

Alan Blueford, Mike Brown, Kimani Gray, Ezell Ford, Anita Gay, Kelly Thomas, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Gary King, Sean Bell, Kayla Moore, Andy Lopez…

Friday, an officer in Oklahoma who raped 8 Black women in six months was finally charged. Saturday, people from all over gathered with Mike Brown’s parents to march again in Ferguson, Missouri. while others gathered in a church in Los Angeles California to mourn Ezell Ford.

The systems of oppression are in place. So are the avenues of our resistance and our action.

My opposition is my prayer. My prayer is my opposition.

I love you all so much. I give thanks to every activist. I give thanks to every person spreading kindness. I send blessings to every parent, friend, and lover who mourns.

Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Alan Blueford, Oscar Grant, Anita Gay, Gary King, Kimani Gray, Sean Bell, Andy Lopez, Kayla Moore, Eric Garner, Kelly Thomas…

I meditated on cold concrete for two hours. Your body lay on the street for four hours. You lay face down on the platform, dying, friends and strangers screaming for your life. You were crying, with no one to hear you.

There is no comparison. None.

We shut down the hotel doors for you, for two hours. It isn’t enough, but last night, it was what we could do.

Friday and Saturday, when Urban Shield rolls into town, when tactics and training and weapons to be used against us are all being practiced and on display? We will do more.

And we’ll do it in your names.

Alan Blueford, Mike Brown, Kimani Gray, Ezell Ford, Anita Gay, Kelly Thomas, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Gary King, Sean Bell, Kayla Moore, Andy Lopez…

Your names are my prayer.

———

To see why Urban Shield is so dangerous, please watch this 

highlight promo reel from 2012.

 

What can you do? Urban Shield happens throughout the country. See if there is one near you.  If you live in Northern California, consider joining us at Urban Shield on Friday afternoon – I’ll be there starting at 4pm and plan to meditate for at least part of the time.

Sign the petition asking Marriott to stop hosting Urban Shield.

Read some of the links in the piece above. Join the New Jim Crow study group online.

Start (or continue) lobbying for and organizing around:

1/ a repeal to the Police Officers Bill of Rights in California 
2/ an end to the surveillance state (one activist at last year’s protest was fired because local police found his truck, ran his license plates, took his picture, and contacted his employer).
3/ turning around the militarization of police in the US
4/ ending the War on Drugs

Reach out your hands to your neighbors. Talk to people you might not usually. Build solidarity. Build community. Spread some love. Work for justice. Pray.

I will update this post as more photos come in. Thank you for reading. 

Rev. Nichola Torbett was sitting next to me and wrote this entry for Tikkun. Check out the title. 

Thorn marching with Interfaith Tent and others. Urban Shield 2013 photo by Ray Chavez
Thorn marching with Interfaith Tent and others. Urban Shield 2013 photo by Ray Chavez

15 Responses to “Opposition is a Prayer”

  1. Nichola Torgett

    I really like this concept of the egregore. It’s similar to what, in Christianity, we call the powers and principalities. Our struggle is not against human beings, but human beings get drafted into serving these larger demonic beings and lose their (our) humanity in the process. Thanks for this beautiful articulation.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Nichola,

      Yes, exactly. I said to a friend this morning: “One reason I don’t subscribe to Fuck the Police is that it isn’t big enough. There is a much larger system we are up against. It isn’t individual police. It isn’t even the police department. The police are just one part of this.” Powers and Principalities just about covers it!

      Any group can and does form an egregore. The more intention we put into it, the better able we are to form an egregore built from Love in Action.

      It was an honor to sit next to you yesterday.

      Reply
  2. Denise Potter

    As an older white woman in this country, you might forgive me if I chose to distance myself from this issue. Here’s is why I won’t. If as a human being I look away, participate in the “niggerization” (my respects to the brilliant Cornel West for coining the term and explaining what it means) of Trayvon Williams or Micheal Brown and the host of others who are the “other” then I am making easier for the culture at large to demean and marginalize wide swaths of our fellow citizens. I live in an area that is 89% white, the other 11% are mostly Native American, a rant for another day. We have a tendency to smugly believe we are removed from the fray. But, if we remove ourselves from the conversation, if we fail to stand up against the militarization of police forces, if we shrug off racial profiling, if we don’t demand due process of law for all, if we fail to insist that the execution of unarmed young men of color is wrong no exceptions, no discussion, no yeah buts about it. It is wrong! If we fail to speak out, we are complicit. Our shared sense of integrity and humanity demands actions. If we fail to insist that this horrific injustice ends here and now, then we are on a slippery slope to a totalitarian society where the rule of law that is our birthright according to our constitution is null and void. That’s when the “other” will become us.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Beautifully said, Denise. Thank you so much. You are speaking important words. The more of us that can come to these realizations and share them, the better off we all will be.

      Toward love and justice…

      Reply
  3. Helen/Hawk

    And thank you for remembering Andy Lopez in the litany of names. He who was a 13 yo killed walking near his home in semi-rural Sonoma County/ an air-soft gun. Officer not charged & now back on the streets.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Yes. Terrible. Many – if not most – of the officers are back on duty.

      I recited the names I’ve committed to memory, because I didn’t have anything written down. Andy’s is most certainly one of those.

      Reply
  4. Sable Aradia

    Good work, Thorn. This egregore of fear has gradually been devouring freedom and common sense for many, many years now. Time to create the antidote!

    Reply
  5. War on Pleasure | Luminaria Nox

    […] writing about the culture surrounding systemic police brutality, Pagan author and activist T. Thorn Coyle wrote the following: “We are up against a monster who feeds upon our fear. We are up against a […]

    Reply
  6. Syrbal/Labrys

    Thank you, Thorn. I like this quote the best: “We form an egregore, too, all of us who love. ”

    This is what I taught my children — there will be many times in life when you can’t do much as an individual, aside from protesting, writing, voting of course. But one can always LOVE, and that love is all there is to raise a “wave” as I put it, to them, against the waves of fear, ignorance, and hate that threaten to swamp the human boat.

    Reply

Leave a Reply