Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My 2000 Walk for Nuclear Disarmament

After participating at The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in May 1999, I joined the "2000 Walk for Nuclear Disarmament." Around 1000 of us walked 300 kms in 10 days from the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, to NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, to bring NATO the message of the World Court. In July 8, 1996, the World Court said, "The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international humanitarian law..." In a situation where a country is breaking international law then the Nuremberg Principles take effect. It basically states that if a country is not following UN laws it is every citizen's responsibility to stop its government from breaking these laws. NATO still has thousands of nuclear missiles within its control that it should be dismantling.

We had walkers of all ages from the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Spain, Cameroon, Korea, Japan, Iran, India, Pakistan, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and the United Stated of America. As Walkers, there were Catholics, Protestants, Quakers, Hindus, Hara Krishna's, Buddhists, Muslims, Agnostic, Atheists and Non-denominationals. It was a family walk for me as I inspired my younger sister Iba and younger bother Aiban to walk with me. It was great to get their support!

The walk was organized by For Mother Earth, an organization that is run by direct democracy. All of the decisions are made by a form of consensus where everyone has an equal amount of power. When a proposal is brought before the organizational meeting called 'the circle' people either agree, disagree or block. If most people agree and no one blocks that then the proposal is passed. If most people disagree than the proposal doesn't go through, or if most people agree and one-person blocks then it still doesn't pass. This is how most decisions on the walk were made. This form of decision-making puts the responsibility on everyone, for everyone has the ability to make a change or try to improve any situation. Direct democracy is not always the easiest thing. Sometimes difficulties arise from translation problems, people not articulating their thoughts and participants of the Walk not participating in the circle because they are not used to responsibility. On a normal walking day wake up call would be at 6:30 in the morning and we would get up, put away our things and take down our tent. By 8am we would be packed and have our stuff on the luggage bus in time for breakfast. Normally we had muesli (raw oats with grain and dried fruit) with milk, soymilk or yogurt and good, European bread with jam, chocolate spread or peanut butter. Around 9:00 we had morning circle where we learned our route for the day, how far we were supposed to walk and what would happen in the evening. Then we would start walking.

The mayor of Brussels said he wanted the Walk to stop at the Brussels City limit. He also made it very hard to find a place to stay. On our last night outside of Brussels a helicopter flew high over head, then dropped and passed us about 20 feet (7 meters) off the ground. We were preparing ourselves for a police blockade in Brussels, but then the mayor said we could walk to the "Atomium," a relic left over from the 1958 World Fair. The mayor also said that we could not walk to NATO headquarters because Brussels, the city that prides itself as the capital of Europe with NATO Headquarters and European Parliament, has a ban on all political demonstrations. This ban was instated after the start of the bombing of Kosovo.

The morning we left for Brussels a very nice catholic school said we could sleep at their campus. When we got inside the city limits many police escorted us to the Atomium, a large building looking like (guess what?) an atom. The police had eight mini-vans, one of which had riot gear. That night the mayor gave his approval for us to walk to NATO Headquarters on the next morning. The next day we set out for NATO headquarters, and once again we had the police escort. The police helicopter also flew over us all day. When we got to NATO, I was very surprised by the reception. There is a four lane, divided road running in front of NATO. The two lanes on NATO's side were blocked off by portable razor-wire fence. The fence posts were in an "x" pattern; so on the top there was a "v." There was at least 500 uniformed officers (later I heard they were Belgian State Police) with many Big Black Trucks. Many of the officers had riot gear, with shields, helmets and plastic swords or rubber batons.

We walked down our two lanes until they were also blocked off by razor wire fence that was going from NATO to the building on our side of the road. Then we told them we wanted any information they might have relating to illegal nuclear weapons. They said they would let five people in to negotiate. As one of five negotiators we didn't get the information we wanted. So we went to plan "B," which was a "citizens inspection." This is a way of taking the law into our own hands and following the Nuremberg Principals. Taken after the example of inspections for illegal weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, citizens would try to enter NATO headquarters and look for evidence about the existence of, or placement of, nuclear weapons within NATO states. I decided to leave after that to attend to my sick brother at the camp. The rest of the demonstrators were arrested (including some who were not planning on it and had not made it through the first line of riot police) and were freed with in 12 hours. When they were freed from the police custody, the police always said "See you tomorrow!" Indeed, many went back for a second round. All in all we had 272 arrests. This made global television, including CNN (edited out of the American version). Hopefully these events raised awareness that the continued threat of nuclear weapons is illegal!

While on the walk I wrote this song and sang it to my fellow peace walkers in front of NATO HQ in Brussels. So here goes flying on my mighty wings!

I started out caring for my world since I was a boy
She gave me her love and I gave her my heart and my soul
Some folks say that I'll never make it
But I guess that they must have been wrong
Cause she's still got control of my life and I'm still going strong

Don't wanna have a human extinction, don't wanna have a nuclear war
You know I'm gonna work for world peace, you might say I'm a crazy man
But I've made a commitment, I'm standing by my mission
And I'm not giving up, cause I'm flying on my mighty wings

Can't say that it's always be easy, well that's ok
Well activism cost, but I've always been willing to pay
Sometimes it been a bit of a burden, but she's helped me to carry my load
And I'm still working night and day for mother earth

Don't wanna have climatic disasters, don't wanna have the oceans to rise
You know I'm gonna work to save earth, you might say I'm a crazy man
But I've made a commitment, I'm standing by my mission
And I'm not giving up, cause I'm flying on my mighty wings

I've flown a lot of miles already, but still there's some more to come
But when I reach the end, the world will be a better one

Don't wanna have children as soldiers, don't wanna have babies to die
You know I'm gonna work to stop this, you might say I'm a crazy man
But I've made a commitment, I'm standing by my mission
And I'm not giving up, cause I'm flying on my mighty wings

And I'm not giving up, cause I'm flying on my mighty wings
Flying on my mighty wings, flying on my mighty wings.................

1 comment:

Struffel said...

I been a particepant (on bike for fundrising and messages, handing out our flyers to the LONG Car lines behind and right of us..) of 2000 Walk for Nuclear Disarmament

I kindly ask you to send me a "Friendsship request" and a Message at Facebook that you have been at that GREAT (and sad - Bruessel) WALK from FOR MOTHER EARTH (tears in eye)

My Name on Facebook is Holger Halfmann