In 1949, Picasso captured the horrors of war in his painting, Guernica, depicting a town devastated by bombings during the Spanish Civil War. Haunted by similar devastation occurring in Palestine, our Love-In-Action Network group in Taos, New Mexico, painted a seven by fifteen foot adaptation of Guernica, incorporating images of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“Blood is on our hands. Shame is on our faces. We wear black in mourning. In our hearts is the courage to speak out against war crimes funded by our US tax dollars.” – Rivera Sun
On Sat, Aug 9th, in solidarity with worldwide protests in support of Gaza, around forty community members gathered downtown. We walked through our central plaza and the busy Farmers Market in a slow, silent procession, holding our bloodstained hands aloft, ringing one mournful bell. At each corner of the plaza, we stopped and slowly raised our red hands to full visibility, standing still for a moment as the discordant bell pounded out its uncomfortable, rhythmic clang. Then we continued in a line.
Children marched with us, and elders. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and other faiths were all represented in this action. We are human beings. We oppose the use of our US tax dollars to perpetrate war crimes. We condemn these acts by the Israelis and the long history of such actions by our own military.
Art is powerful. The “theatrical” elements of the procession, the black clothes, red hands, and powerful, huge painting evoked strong responses from the public.
During the demonstration, we encountered both support and animosity. Cries of “You’re wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” and “Long Live Israel” came from bystanders. One woman viciously attacked us verbally, refusing to listen to anyone or engage in a calm conversation.
I am very grateful for the courageous, nonviolent discipline of these demonstrators. They held their ground as noble human beings, refusing to argue back with our hecklers, maintaining dignity and forbearance. At the end of the procession, we spoke with some of them. We listened with compassion, but responded with truth. The demonstrators today showed courage, humanness, and nonviolent discipline. I was reminded of Elizabeth Eckford desegregating the schools. The demonstrators disciplined silence spoke louder than words, and allowed Gandhi’s Satyagraha “Truth-Force” to reveal the ugliness of the hatred seething in the chests of our fellow citizens. It also revealed their insecurities, prejudices, and ignorance while our discipline and silence showed our determination to speak up for those whose voices are marginalized, and who suffer as a result.
Love-In-Action Taos, CODEPINK Taos, and community members worked together to stage this demonstration. Love-In-Action members designed the “Gaza = Guernica” banner, painting it collaboratively in an afternoon last week. Hundreds of local community members were reached with this demonstration; tens of thousands more were reached with the “online demonstration” of the photos being shared on social media. We encourage others to replicate this demonstration in their own communities, including copy our artwork (yes, please do.). If you would like information contact Love-In-Action Network.
Author/Actress Rivera Sun is a co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network, a co-host on Occupy Radio, and the author of two novels, The Dandelion Insurrection and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars. www.riverasun.com