Written by J. Bennett Guess
October 10, 2007
After ignoring three warnings from police, the Rev. John H. Thomas and the Rev. Linda Jaramillo were arrested at 12:58 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, Oct. 10, for refusing to leave a no-protest zone near the White House gate.
The two national UCC officers were attempting to deliver a Pastoral Letter on the Iraq War, along with 60,000 endorsing signatures.
Both faced the White House and held up thick stacks of the petitions, before being asked by police to step back from the White House fence. After refusing to do so, Thomas and Jaramillo were handcuffed and led to a police van.
Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, and Jaramillo, executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, had earlier sought a meeting with the White House's public liaison office, in order to hand-deliver the petitions, but their requests were not granted.
Before the arrest, Thomas and Jaramillo spoke to a group of about 50 clergy and laypersons who had gathered from the D.C. area to support them.
Thomas reminded the crowd of martyred theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said, "The church has been a silent partner in evil deeds." To which Thomas added, "We are breaking that silence today."
"This is a difficult time for people of faith who are opposed to the war," said Thomas, who named "a lack of will to change course" as an immobilizing frustration for both the American and Iraqi people. The UCC's summer anti-war petition drive, he said, was about "claiming hope and action again."
"This, for us, is a very meaningful witness of the whole church," said Thomas, who indicated that their peaceful demonstation at the White House gate was about "more than two officers of the church, but representing many, many across our denomination."
Jaramillo said, "As a church, we can no longer be silent."
After the two church leaders were arrested, supporters of the action joined in singing "Let there be peace on earth." The Rev. Bentley deBardelaben, communications minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, led the group in prayer.
Thomas and Jaramillo were charged with refusing to obey a police order and were taken to a District of Columbia police station for processing. They were released about two hours later, after each paid a $100 fine.
Earlier, during morning meetings, Thomas and Jaramillo successfully delivered boxes of petitions to representatives of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner.