Sunday, May 20, 2012

Why I Heckled Tony Blair, War Criminal, at Colby College Graduation

If you woke on a beautiful spring Sunday in May on a pond in Maine, what would you do? A canoe ride on water as smooth as glass, and breakfast on the deck, perhaps -- followed by disrupting international war criminal Tony Blair at Colby College graduation in Waterville!
Photo: Steve Demtriou
Who knew our protest would lead news coverage of the ceremony? (Washington Post, WGME, Houston Chronicle, and Daily Mail, to name a few.)
Source: War Crimes International, Tony Bliar
With the BLAIR IS A WAR CRIMINAL sign I scrawled hastily in pink lipstick, we approached the back row of the outdoor ceremony where the former British PM, who lied about WMDs in Iraq and has the blood on his hands of thousands of innocent civilians, was to speak.

Before we even made it off the street we were approached by a man from Vermont who said, "Thank you for being here. I was disgusted that Colby would invite such a slimy speaker for graduation this year." (More of the disgusted were heard from in Op-Ed News and the local newspapers.)

As we stood holding our signs and quietly listening to graduates give a prayer and then a speech, we were approached by Colby College security guards who told us to keep quiet or else we'd be asked to leave.
Photo: Steve Demtriou
When the introduction for Blair began I waited for a pause and then called out "Tony Blair is a war criminal! He should be arrested. He lied us into war in Iraq. He's a war criminal!"

Just then I was grabbed by my arm and turned to find myself staring into the badge of Waterville's Chief of Police Joe Massey, who told me I had to leave. I told him he really shouldn't have his hands on me, and wriggled free. A couple of Colby security guards and a few more uniformed police scurried up and the guards said they had warned us that we had to be quiet to stay. We were now told if we didn't leave we'd be arrested, so my husband and I decided to go back to our car.

Ridgely Fuller stayed behind to call out "War Criminal!" once again as Blair approached the podium. She, too, was asked to leave. She carried a Draw-a-thon image by artist Brian Reeves:

Because both of us had CODEPINK on our sign and banner, the Associated Press report picked up this nugget, ostensibly a quote from Waterville police (which I very much doubt):
Protesters carried signs saying "Code Pink," a grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S.-funded wars and to challenge global militarism, police said.
Lawrence Reichard stayed behind to call out "warmonger" and more, and when he refused to leave, was arrested. We know Lawrence from Occupy Bangor, and I've seldom seen a happier mug shot than the one of him released by the Waterville Police Department and carried by news outlets in the US and the UK:
Source: "Tony Blair heckled during graduation address at Maine college" The Guardian
As we walked back to our car our escort had dwindled to two Colby security guards. I asked one of them if he supported what had been done in Iraq, killing thousands or maybe even a million women, children, and other civilians.

He said he didn't have any opinion about that. "I'm just doing my job," he told me.

I said that was the defense used by German soldiers during the trials of Nazis after the war, that they were just doing their job. I asked him if he ever studied history and he said no, so I suggested he might want to look up the Nuremberg trials sometime.

As he gave us our final warning that we'd be arrested if we tried to come back,  it was just as Ridgely caught up to us. I told him, "We are civil disobedients. We've been arrested before, like at the White House."

His eyes lit up. "Really? You mean the one just the other day?"

Another thing that made me think he was kind of sympathetic to our side was when I had asked my husband, "Why do you think Colby chose such a creepy speaker for their commencement?" the young security guard commented, "Yeah, Bates [another Maine college] got Robert DeNiro."
Photo: Steve Demtriou
As we left the campus I saw an acquaintance who works at Colby, in a pretty dress, standing obediently off to one side.

I feel that the passivity and complicity of US citizens in the dirty dealings of NATO and its member nations, blindly paying federal taxes every year to fund the slaughter of innocents, afraid to protest, afraid to rock the boat for fear of job loss or being seen as impolite, is actually the biggest threat to global security.

And that's why, as my compatriots were protesting the disgusting spectacle of the NATO summit in Chicago this weekend, I disrupted Colby College's graduation ceremony.


Bobbie Raymond said...

Lisa, So focused, so clear, so well done. Thank you! Bobbie

mother sister wife of war veterans said...

Lisa, Lawrence and all the other truth tellers who showed up at Colby : You are the heroes. There must be someone at these events to speak the truth. I had planned to be there for that purpose, but could not attend, so thank you, thank you!

Colby administrators, students and staff are a shameful bunch. If they had no outrage at Blair, if they have no empathy with those who suffered, what good is their degree? They failed their big humanity test.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that in being disrespectful to someone you disagree with, you had to be so disrespectful to the parents, families, and friends of 470 kids who have worked very long and hard toward one very special day. It's too bad that, after you were welcomed onto private property and told you could display your signs as long as you were not disruptive, you chose to impose your opinion (right or wrong) on hundreds of people who were there for no political purpose whatsoever.

You should not be proud of what you did; you should be ashamed. Not because of your political or moral views; not because you were right or wrong, but because you were selfish. Plain and simple. You took a few seconds to quickly "scrawl a sign in lipstick" and drove a little ways. These kids worked hard their whole lives to get to this once-in-a-lifetime day and you felt that your political outrage gave you the moral authority to try to ruin their day.

I, for one, am embarrassed for you.

chrisrushlau said...

The Israel lobby seems to be a lot stronger at Colby than at Bates. You have lots of opportunity to study that thesis since it is in your community.
The Israel lobby is racist and genocidal, yes, but it is only a subsystem of US racism: white power. That is what has to change, and going to college is a fine way to see this fact.
I did an electronic document search at the law school in Portland on "Jewish state". You'd think such a vital concept in US foreign policy would be heavily researched in the legal community. One paper came up, by a law student, who said just what I just said. He was Jewish. He thought the concept could hold up, but how could it? Either you have civil rights or you don't. Either we're a community or we're warring factions.
Either we're somebodies or we're nobodies.

Anonymous said...

I was one of the kids who graduated yesterday and couldn't agree more with you. My parents and friend traveled across the world to be there. This woman is selfish and arrogant and crude. Her family and friends, not ours, should be ashamed of her.

Annegw said...

Thank you so much, Lisa. This was a wonderful action. I am glad you got the publicity and I love your post. Good going. Go PINK!