Gaunt’s Charges Dropped for 50th Die-In at Iowa Senators’ Offices

by Christine Gaunt

I just received a letter from the Feds that they have dropped the final two charges against me that I was supposed to face at trials on August 11, 2011.

I have been persistently and creatively lobbying my Iowa senators with the simple message: NO MORE $$$ FOR WAR for more than a year.

During Die-In No. 50 on April 27, 2011, I received two citations from federal security officers. At 10:30 am I was charged with "taking unauthorized photos" in the stairwells of the Federal building. I was taking photos of the artwork on the walls as part of my defense for an upcoming trial. I had been arrested for loitering in the stairwells.

Since returning from Afghanistan in March where I was part of a civilian peace delegation, those stairwells had become the only safe space I could find in the Federal building. Lying dead on Grassley and Harkin's floors with my NO MORE $$$ FOR WAR sign now seemed too much like an effort in futility.

After the first arrest in the morning on April 27, I took reprieve for a couple of hours in the 7th floor restroom. The one that is located between the offices of Harkin and Grassley. I wrote a poem about the sanctuary I found there, wrote and delivered a letter to the commander of federal security asking permission to finish taking my photos the following week, and wrote and delivered a letter to Senator Harkin.

I made it to Grassley's office to die for a couple of hours in the afternoon. At 3:30 I moved to Harkin's office, where I had permission to stay until the last person left the office that night. But a security officer came to get me at 5 pm. Now I took sanctuary in the first floor restroom, telling the officer that I would leave when my 5:50 pm phone alarm sounded. The Federal building closes to the public at 6 pm. I proceeded to sit in a corner of the restroom and chant for peace. When I came out at 5:50 and tried to leave peacefully, a federal officer insisted on charging me with something.  He made the call to have me transported to jail for the night, but later cancelled it. He gave me another citation for "failure to comply with an official order."

April 27 was the day it became crystal clear that the federal security officers were preventing me from the peaceful conduct of my business of peacemaking with my senators.

I delivered a letter to the Director of Federal Protective Services the following week, calling for a truce. They never responded to me directly, but they did STOP harassing me in my efforts to lobby my
senators. No body guards following me around, no threats to be taken to jail, no citations, and no more requests to leave the Federal building before the 6 pm closing time.

As you know, the alleged killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan by U.S.  forces happened on May 1. I continued to lobby my senators in May, and I added a weekly trip to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, to vigil in support of Bradley Manning. Through 54 Die-Ins I had used my body to try to get my Iowa senators to be our heroes and DO THE RIGHT THING by voting to end the funding of these wars. Now there is someone behind bars here in the Midwest who has acted heroically, and who deserves my bodily support.

On June 9, I won two out of three federal trials for arrests for previous Die-Ins. Since then I have rested, gardened a lot, taken up jogging again after a three-year reprieve, and welcomed a new grandchild into our family. I took a break from the weekly Die-Ins and the Bradley Manning vigils. But I am gearing up to apply all the things I have learned about nonviolence and relationship-building to the October 6 Revolution. Our Tahrir Square. The U.S. people's occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington DC that begins on October 6.

Please see to consider joining this sustained effort to use people power to get our country back on track toward a livable future. We plan to occupy Freedom Plaza until our demands to
end corporatism and militarism are met. It's time. 

I leave you with this poem:


First they take me to jail.
Then to trial several times.
I appear to lose every time.
I persist with creative lobbying.
54 weekly Die-Ins later, my Iowa Senators Harkin & Grassley still vote
to continue funding the wars.
But real human relationships form during these persistent efforts.
I have made friends with all of Grassley and Harkin's Iowa staff and
many of the DC staffers.
I am friends with the MVM Security officers in the Federal building.
I am friends with all Federal Protective Services officers and their Director.
I am friends with several Des Moines police officers, and instead of
taking me to jail,
... they chose to talk with me instead!
I have stood in front of prosecutors and judges speaking about LOVE.
My only possible conclusion is that the Universe wants PEACE.
She WANTS peace.
My definition of nonviolence = LOVE in Action.

Editor’s Note:
On February 22, 2010, Chris Gaunt began conducting a weekly sit-in at the local offices of her US Senators, Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin, in Des Moines, Iowa, urging them to refuse any further funding for war. A number of other local peace activists joined Chris in conjunction with The Peaceable Assembly Campaign. As part of the sit-ins which took place during office hours, Chris made a point of connecting with the office staff, person-to-person, while she endeavored to educate them on the dire urgency of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite these efforts, it was clear that the Senators themselves were not willing to seriously consider voting against war funding or even listen to the rationale that Chris and others were offering. Chris recognized that, to be taken seriously, more had to be done.

On March 11, 2010, Chris changed the weekly peaceful sit-in to a peaceful die-in. She lay down on the floor as if she were dead, with a note explaining that she would remain there until she could get a straight answer from the senator about cutting off funds for the wars. She did this almost weekly for about a year; at times joined by others, at times alone.  She has been arrested nearly every time.

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