Home and Security

by Gavin J. Grant

Sat 1 Nov 2003 - Filed under: Chuntering On, Free Stuff to Read

Homeland Security
Gavin J. Grant

With thousands of like-minded others, I went to the big peace rally in New York City on February 15th, 2003. It was a cold day, and my wife and I walked up Third Avenue from 32nd to 68th Street before we could cut over to First Avenue and join the rally. Which was really a slow march, but since the city government wouldn’t give us a permit to march, let’s call it a rally.

What do we want?
So many things.
When do want them?
It doesn’t seem possible, but now, please.

…March 5th, 2003, Local News: Writer and editor Gavin J. Grant, 33, (picture) of Northampton, Mass., is believed to be one of hundreds of detainees held after police and other government agencies moved in to calm a noisy and potentially-violent peace rally in New York City’s Washington Square Park….

I joined the United for Peace and Justice email list for information on future rallies. I forwarded their email about a march and vigil on the fifth of March to my wife. She had to pick up some freelance work in New York and readily agreed to go.

Tell me what a democracy looks like.
From here, a dictatorship.
This is what a democracy looks like.
This march, or this war? It’s hard to tell.

…March 7th, 2003, Email: Gavin, Dad here. Got a call fromINS (IRS?) saying you had been held (under Patriotic act?) after rally and asking re: marriage and so on. Confirm ok by you to send these? Love, dad and mum. xx….

The march and candlelight vigil on fifth of March was as depressing as the February 15th rally. Thousands of people gathered outside Senator Hillary Clinton‘s office and marched to Senator Chuck Schumer‘s office to protest their voting to send the USA into war with Iraq. We marched down Third to 42nd Street and then snaked over to Fifth, blocking crosstown traffic. We marched to Washington Square Park and were closely watched by the Fifth Avenue business owners,- some of whom seemed to dither between a desire to join us and a fear of the crowd. But we were no mob. People drummed and danced, sang the usual songs, held or wore signs that were as funny and direct as ever (“The only Bush I trust is my own” was more popular this time), yet, will this stop a war? Hundred of police seemed to think we might start aBattle of Seattle ourselves. Which leads to thoughts of whether we might place some of these police in the White House.

…March 8th, 2003, National News: Detained immigrant Gavin Grant’s website (Internet Archive link) has been taken down by the federal government under suspicions of terrorist links. Grant, a freelance writer who has written for alternative publications such as The Urban Pantheist, Weird Times, and Xerography Debt, recently published altered transcripts of two of President Bush’s remarks on Iraq on his website. Citing freedom of speech and linking to satirical websites such as The Onion, Grant simply switched the President’s name with Saddam Hussein’s in two transcripts. The first transcript made it appear that Hussein was about to attack the USA with 3,000 cruise missiles — with no differentiation of civilian and military targets. The second transcript, however, was perhaps even more threatening and, given the present Orange Alert, is likely the reason Grant was arrested. Grant altered President Bush’s remarks on the possibilities of an internal coup in Iraq and changed them to suggest that generals and others in the U.S. Armed Forces might find themselves well rewarded if they initiated an internal revolt. The White House announced there would be a press conference concerning the latest detainees at 2 p.m. today and referred all questions to John Ashcroft‘soffice….

We, The People, Don’t Want This War!
Shame Bush hasn’t noticed.

March 15: The thing is, I haven’t been arrested. I’m not even in hiding. This morning I sanded the ice in my driveway and talked to Jeff, our contractor, about building some bookshelves in a room upstairs. When I opened my email there were 250+ emails — mostly from people I don’t know. 90% were supportive, but some were just vitriolic. I haven’t even posted my articles yet — they were just ideas I was playing with. I was going to contact a lawyer friend and a guy I know who ran a satirical siteto get some advice before I posted. The lines keep moving and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to cross any of the dangerous ones.

…March 12, 2003, NYPD Spokesman: We can confirm arrests of a number of individuals participating in an anti-government rally in Washington Square Park on the evening of March 5th. These individuals are no longer in our jurisdiction. They are being held under the auspices of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 in an undisclosed location….

I don’t like singing and chanting with the other marchers. I think walking quietly is just as important. That way we don’t all look as if we’re being carried away in an ecstatic trance. A few people jangled their keys as they walked. I wondered if it was just an impulse to be rhythmic or if they had read Ursula K. Le Guin’s story about a revolution, “Unlocking the Air.”

Drop Bush, not bombs.
Or at least his lapdog, Blair.

At the end of the February 15th rally when the closely-herded thousands of us were leaving, I went to walk around the outside edge of a phone box. A policeman stopped me and told me I had to stay on the sidewalk. Cold, frustrated by this abject stupidity and niggardliness, I objected.
“That,” and I pointed to the two feet of sidewalk between the phone box and the street, “is the sidewalk.” The policeman declared it was not, and another policeman moved closer to us in case I was trouble. I repeated that the space between the phone and the road was, in fact, sidewalk. The policeman, putting his hand on his billyclub, repeated his determined opinion that it was not. I held my hands up in the air to show I wasn’t about to start anything, could not stop myself from calling him a fascist, and left. I wondered how near to arrest I’d been.

…September 5, 2003, National News: Detainees from the March 5th peace march in New York have now been held for one hundred and eighty days without access to family, legal aid, or media. The Department of Homeland Security refuses to release the number of detainees or any identifying information. Twenty-three of the detained have since been stripped of their citizenship and deported to their countries of origin. Mothers of the Disappeared, a new New York City-based organization claims that the detainees are being tortured and tried in secret courts. White House spokesmanJim Morrell refused to comment on what he called “pure fabulation.”….

The US government declared the war in Iraq over in May 2003. The ongoing reports of killings in Iraq remind me of growing up in the U.K. War was never formally declared in Northern Ireland, but the headlines were often about bombings, murders, and shootings. The peace process in Ireland is one thing that fills me with hope. Perhaps the past can be let go — not forgotten — and a new future can be chosen based on peace and negotiation rather than on the acts of a randomly chosen period one, two, or three hundred years ago.

…March 5, 2004, National News: The one-year anniversary of last year’s national peace rally and the accompanying series of arrests was marked today by rallies, countrywide student sit-ins, and the third masked Black Bloc flashmob appearance (exclusive video) in New York City this week. Although a number of the detainees are known to be serving prison terms, the Department of Homeland Security resolutely refuses to release the original number of marchers detained, or any identifying information. Mothers of the Disappeared claim the detainees have been moved to the US military base inGuantanamo Bay and that, citing Amnesty Internationalinterviews with ex-prisoners from the Afghanistan war of 2001, the conditions in Guantanamo are an abuse of the detainees human rights. White House spokesman Jim Morrellrefused to comment on what he called “pure fabulation.”….

I never carry my green card with me. I know the number, but I don’t want to lose it if my wallet were stolen. So if I were arrested my identity cards would be my New York driver’s license with my old address on it, credit cards, and membership cards for the library, Pleasant Street Video, AAA, and Amnesty International. I look in the mirror and I’m not sure who’s there. There’s a man with lines around his eyes, and a somewhat blank expression. What does he want? When does he want it? Not thisPresident. Not this future.

LCRW 13Originally published in LCRW 13.
Reprinted in the Zine Yearbook 8

More reading

Foreigners” by Mark Rich
Other Agents” by Richard Butner
Prisons
The End of a Dynasty” by Angelica Gorodischer