Sunday, August 18, 2019

A message I received early this morning from Starcross Community in Sonoma County, California

Dear Friends of Starcross,

We think there is something our friends should know.

It was a hot evening, Wednesday, August 14, 2019, when a peaceful group of almost 500 people with NEVER AGAIN ACTION gathered to demonstrate outside of the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Since March 2019 local activists have been calling for the closure of this private, quasi-public prison that has been acting as an ICE detention center for hundreds of immigrants. On Wednesday, just before 10 pm a truck, unprovoked, swerved forcefully toward a line of protesters who were seated peacefully blocking the entrance to the facility parking lot, singing songs and talking. The driver was identified as a captain of the corrections employees of the Wyatt Detention Center. He drove into the group—sending people screaming and scattering for their safety.  The truck jolted forward again, hitting some folks, while other protesters gathered to surround the vehicle.

Some moments later, the driver of the truck was joined by other correctional employees who came from inside the facility, to confront and forcefully move out of the way those who were a part of the nonviolent civil disobedience. In a mere matter of minutes, people were suddenly and unexpectedly pepper sprayed by the guards as protesters scrambled to flee the immediate area. Many were affected as people fell to the ground in pain. Several individuals needed to be taken to the hospital—one for an injured leg and all for extreme effects from the debilitating pepper spray.  All were later released.

This news has been carried internationally by the BBC along with national news outlets, such as NPR. Brother Toby says he is sickened by how close the event in Rhode Island came to the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, where a participant drove a car over and back over nonviolent counter-demonstrator, Heather Heyer, murdering her.

Among these peaceful protesters were two of Starcross’ long-time friends and advisers, Cathy and Lee Clasper-Torch. Lee is an ordained minister and a retired professor of Religion and Philosophy, who works closely with civil disobedience and nonviolent action groups in Rhode Island. Cathy is a professional musician, and daughter of Paul Clasper, a friend who was instrumental in the establishment of Starcross half a century ago. He was someone who was greatly influenced by his many years living in Asia, building bridges between Western and Eastern spirituality, a path Cathy and Lee have followed. Their daughter Chloe, has recently begun working here with us at Starcross.

In the days following this news, Lee and Cathy wrote to us, sharing their experiences. Lee, who was hit by the pepper spray in an attempt to protect others explained,  “We were there in large part on behalf of the children.” Cathy added, “We'll all be there again.  I feel so strongly that our presence, now as Elders and keepers of so many memories/so much cultural knowledge and experience, have an important role to play simply in presence and witness.”

Just before the demonstration on Wednesday, August 14th, Aaron Regunberg a young organizer of the movement, and former Representative for the State of Rhode Island, wrote about the upcoming protest at the Wyatt Detention Facility,
“Once, a young girl wrote in her diary, “Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes… Families are torn apart: men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find their parents have disappeared.”

It sounds like this could have been written in 2019. But it wasn't - it was written by Anne Frank in 1943. That's why we are coming together on Wednesday to repeat that Never Again means Never Again for everyone.”

In next Friday’s reflection Brother Toby is asking, “Has America reached the point where it doesn’t really care about its kids anymore?” It’s clear that while there are many in power who do not, there are a multitude among us, that care very, very much. This is a time when we must speak up, speak out, and in solidarity with protesters as those did last Wednesday evening in Rhode Island, and with many people around our nation, who assert,  “Never Again means Never Again for everyone.”
We are in a crisis and it doesn’t seem as if its getting better. We may all feel ourselves, where our friends Cathy and Lee were on the 14th. It’s important to remember that we are not alone.

As St. Francis would have closed, “Pax et bonum” -- Peace and all good things to you.”

Then this appeared in my email box:


ellen abbott said...

this country has lost its moral compass. if it ever had one. it was founded on slavery and genocide and violence and we has failed to rise above. it looked good for a while but the dark underbelly of cruelty has risen to the surface once again with Trump.

Anonymous said...

We are in a very difficult time in our country and on our planet. Not sure how we're going get out of this one with our heart-open spirits intact. Thank you for sharing this.

Colette said...

He resigned. But he should be arrested for his actions. "The corrections officer who allegedly drove his hulking pickup truck into a crowd of protesters outside the detention facility where he worked has resigned from the privately run prison, officials there said."

37paddington said...

History doesn't repeat itself, someone said, but it has sequels.

My life so far said...

I always look at people who stand up to authority when authority is wrong. I am in awe of them and wonder if I would be strong enough.