Opposition is a Prayer

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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