I’ve worked with and around CodePink for about two and a half years now. I’ve never been arrested for participation in any political actions but I have been present when others were arrested, and done back-end court support (relaying phone messages at the house and once, since I’d driven down, I was asked to wait for the call to pick some of those arrested up when they were released). I’ve been there for the 1am call, the 3am call, the bleary-eyed women shuffling through the front parlor with their coffee or tea at 7am: “Was Lori released yet?” “Laurie Arbeiter?” “No, Lori Purdue.” My own courtroom exposure has been limited to some car-related foo and a potential juror selection.
A very strange merging of those two worlds occurred this morning as I found myself travelling to “Criminal 2” in the Hempstead Courthouse to show support for Iraq Veterans Against The War member Adam Kokesh. It felt very odd, doing this show of political solidarity for a national-level peace activist where I live.
I have a lot of respect for Adam Kokesh. He’s very, very smart. (He’s also quite the hysterically funny wiseass.) Unlike myself, he’s an effective public speaker. When I’m pissed off, my speech centers are the first thing to shut down. Not him – he’s so well spoken he could easily pull off being a statesman should he ever decide to go down that road. Most importantly about Adam Kokesh, his head and heart are both in the right place, he’s courageous, and he scares the sweet jumping bejesus out of a set of people in this country who the Gods only know could stand to be a little scared right now of an angry American people. In my book, Adam Kokesh is a hero, and I was going to be there to show support for him.
The courtroom was tiny. Adam was sitting in the front row with his lawyer. I patted him on the shoulder to let him know he had a supporter and he looked up. As we smiled grimly at each other, the baliffs in the room reacted nervously. My hair is really really long and wild these days, even after I brush it. I look pretty scary and scruffy to people who don’t know me (and perhaps to some who do). I am not sure how much my 2002 oath to not cut my hair while Bush remains “President” of the United States is common knowledge – those who don’t know about it probably think I’m just a weirdo. The Java jacket looks like a motorcycle jacket, and I had the ever-present Victory ball cap on and black sweats.
Most of the people who showed up to support him were middle aged or elderly women, two might have been with him and two others were activists from other LI peace activist organizations. Unlike myself, they were dressed respectably, “acting their age”. Adam himself was wearing a jacket with the USMC seal on the back, a Vets for Peace patch on the shoulder and a couple of other little blingblings on it. I dunno, maybe this whole “look like a biker” thing has something to do with being ex-military, but whatever.
Another thing that usually makes me a lightning rod for attention in a courtroom is that there’s something about being in one of those places that sets off my “pay attention to every damn thing in the room” alarm, and when I start doing that the baliffs, whose job it is to do the exact same thing, tend to notice me noticing. Then we sit there and notice each other noticing the noticing. It’s real fun.
So, smirking a bit more because I knew what I was going to do next was going to kick the whole “hypervigilance” thing in the room up to the next level, I sat down… and then I took off my coat. Slowly, ritually, like Superman, I pulled the edges of my coat until the snaps released and what I had on underneath came into view like the full moon from behind a cloud.