The arctic cold front scheduled to bring plunging temperatures to Austin tonight was pre-empted by a brief freeze that blew into the Barton Creek Square Mall earlier today.
While shoppers buzzed from store to kiosk, a group of 15 of us organized by CodePink Austin stood still in an atrium area for 6 minutes to demonstrate the cold reality that the 6th year of an occupation of Iraq that continues to cost lives and dollars is being sold as the solution in Afghanistan as well.
Some of us carried shopping bags that we'd covered with bold lettering reading "Don't Buy War," " We Can't Afford War," or "Buy Toys, Not War." We wore clothing with peace messages and buttons that encouraged shoppers to read our flier. Some held mock newspapers emblazoned with the headline, "War is Over."
Our mall theatre was modeled on previous freeze actions held in New York City's Grand Central Station and other busy public centers to dramatize the "stop war" message.
The flier we made available to shoppers explained the action, urging them to not buy war toys and to not "buy into the notion that war in Afghanistan is the 'good war.'" The flier listed reasons to end the military occupation of Afghanistan and recommendations for a changed US policy, as prepared by the group, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization of 9-11 victims' family members, some of whom have travelled to Afghanistan to meet with family members of occupation victims.
Our freeze action elicited curious stares from shoppers who stopped and watched, some taking out their phones to take photos, and some asking for a flier. Coming across people standing still amidst a flurry of activity arrests the imagination.
I stood in my "Make Art, Not War" t-shirt holding a messaged shopping bag, a pocket watch and a sketch pad with the years 2003 - 2008, "$, injury and death" written on successive pages that I folded down as each minute passed. The final page read "2009, Enough!"
We did the action twice in different spots in the mall. The second time, within two minutes, several security persons arrived and told us to stop it. (But we WERE stopped!) We had decided beforehand to not press it when asked to leave. The security people ushered us out of the building and into the parking lot. When I remarked to one of them that there aren't many public spaces left for expressing our opinions, he agreed.
Some in the group were headed afterward to a demonstration and toy drive at the T. Don Hutto private prison in Taylor, where they were joining others calling for the facility that imprisons immigrant families with children to be closed.
Are we OK with privatizing our gathering places ... our prisons ... our wars? Strangely, at the same time that legislators are using public funds to prop up private companies, they are using private companies to carry out government business. Things are backward and topsy-turvy. It's time to stop and change course.