Reflections of a non-violent peace activist

Tracey Makamae
17th October, 2006. My daughter’s 23rd Birthday- it’s 1:40 am and I’m sitting in the departure lounge at Darwin Airport terminal, wide awake after a double-shot latte..
Four other activists and I face Alice Springs court this morning in a non-violent peace protest at the gates of Pine Gap facility last week.
During the week that I attended the peace convergence to Alice Springs, I questioned my place among these people. Who was I to think I was a part of all this? I don’t fit in with them – their extremist views on environmental issues; what sort of coffee to drink; free trade or no; coffee in paper/plastic cups; don’t like chairs; hairy women; men who have 3 inches of dirt encrusted on their bare feet which hardens them against the hot Alice Springs pavement/bitumen! But RAW in their beauty! Beliefs strong, convictions firm; pacifists, yet mighty warriors for peace, hard workers, prepared, intelligent, astute and well read on the issues they stand for and against…this is their life. Not just their hobby.
It’s a jolt of reality for me. I literally feel like a troglodyte whose been living under a rock for a century emerging to an awakening of this new culture. Gentle people, Godly; funny; sincere; warm and yet untrusting, wary and ready for battle. I question my motives: What the hell am I doing here? What made me think I could cut-it with these people? Am I serious? How serious?
These people don’t need to be stuffed around. I imagine how it would have been if I’d got involved in this earlier in my life.
My convictions really kicked in when I was in the court hearing for the Pine Gap 4; Donna Mulhearn, Adele Goldie, Jim Dowling and Bryan Law. The four defendants sitting in the dock just one row in front of me, on trial, the whole scene was outrageous. We should have all been applauding them instead of criminalizing them. They acted according to their conscience and integrity, based on facts and they acted honorably.
It was then that I knew that I was moving into a new phase in my life – a door was opening. I began to focus on all the missed opportunities I’ve had and the constrained resistance within me to be an activist. I’d been fighting it all my 43 years of life, unable to embrace it for fear of what is ‘accepted conservative Christian behavior.’
I might not be the typical shape/type of person to represent this cause, but I have always been a strong advocate for peace, whether it pertains to the physical, environmental and spiritual.
I knew my heart was beginning to lead my head.
My focus became resolute towards making my stand at the peace action scheduled in two days time. The message was getting to me, the rest was easy. I approached Bryan and told him of my decision after contemplating his advice all week and from then on I was free. It was as if in my mind, the grey clouds parted and blue sky shone through clearly, all the uncertainty was gone.
I felt a real peace within, as I was focused, praying for direction I envisioned how it would all go down. I was now sure of myself. I set to task reassuring 22 yr old Sam- the other activist who had made a decision to act also. I got busy making banners and generally assisting the others and guided by a sense of surety I went to the protest. I wanted to sing the scripture, a song from Isaiah:
“He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of almighty God. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in Him will I trust. A thousand shall fall at my right hand and ten thousand at my right hand, but it shall not come nigh me. For His angels shall cover me in all my ways because you shall know His name”.
I sang while the protestors lined the road in preparation for the children’s protest. I knew that my song brought a real sense of peacefulness and comfort to everyone, as I felt it myself also. I knew that we needed God’s peace and strength. Not having sung publicly for years was a big step for me, but I trusted the confidence in my heart and went out on a limb, forgetting possible rejection.
The beautiful children brought flowers to the guards, who coldy ignored their little offerings of kindness. My heart went out to them, but they resolutely laid them at their feet and smiled anyway. Such brave little ones for God!
Just being a part of the whole action; representing the Citizen’s Inspection Team; being photographed/filmed by ASIO’s cameramen at Pine Gap; just feeling a part of it all – to me was sacred. We gathered on the road for the blockade-50 minutes of beautiful peace, weaving a woolen ‘web-of-life’ through each of us bound us symbolically together in unity; listening to Michael Franti belt out very cool tunes on a boom-box, which pierced the desert silence and brought it to life. The huge cross, with the names of so many people who have died in this war, yet such a tiny portion of those struck down from all sides.
The cross that rose high and stood somberly against the backdrop of the menacing war machine that is Pine Gap.. presented us with hope and courage. We sang songs of peace and freedom, that went out against the establishment yet I felt sure that our songs touched the hearts of the guards and federal police, hopefully to give them something to think about. Then it was time. Everyone was asked to leave, and they did, but we resolute five stayed on. I took up a prayer position on the road alongside the others. Two beautiful ladies, Margaret and Ruth sang for us lifting our hearts up, what pillars of strength!!
Strangely, I felt quite alone, even though there were 5 of us gathered there, and as I knelt praying-not in fear, but rejoicing. The aloneness was strangely the same as when I gave birth as a young single mother. It was just as if something life-changing was occurring and it was to effect me forever.
All my life I have wanted to fit in – to make my life worth something. And I knew THIS was it. It’s about putting yourself on the line- my body; my person; and backing up what I say. I felt so satisfied and so fulfilled, and as the police took each one of the guys away, I knew I had to make a statement. My bulk would work in my favour this time and I would allow them to take me alright, but they’d have to work for it! As they started to take me away I went limp, so they began dragging me, then grunting and moaning, dropped me, calling for the ‘cage’. I lay motionless on the road looking up at the last blue hues of the sky as the sun set in the desert of Central Australia. Beautiful- I felt completely at peace with myself and with God, like God was happy with me. It was wonderful.
I knew those 5 police officers were angry with me- and I sort of felt sorry for them, I’m so heavy-but I stayed completely non-resistant and let them do all the work. Looking and feeling undignified as much as possible was completely what I wanted. I was shoved into the back of the van and my head jerked forward in a final act of retaliation by the 8 police. I regained my composure, rearranged my new Peace t-shirt and pulled up my pants. The last cop asked me if I was OK? I replied Yes, I’m fine. He asked; “Have you done what you set out to do?” I relied, “Yes.” He said “Good!” and walked away.
Jubilant, I checked out my new digs for the 20 minute drive (toss) back to Alice Springs. I started singing and the men from the other wagon joined in.. “we shall overcome..” It was magic.
Honestly, for all the money and jewels in the world, nothing made me feel more like a princess than that moment.
The rough trip back to the watch-house was a wild one, but I just kept singing. I noticed as I sang I felt calm and relaxed, so I decided to share this with others. This was my new weapon so I sang to stay focused and release my happiness. Upon arrival I was frisked, told to remove my shoes, jewelery, personal effects and escorted to cell number 4 with an indigenous woman. She seemed rather distressed and I spent the time trying to calm her down. She liked my singing so I went along with it.
I reflected on the big number 4 on the cell wall. It reminded me of the one on the Thunderbirds and I imagined the guards like puppets walking in, telling me the charges I was under! With the other lady gone, I continued my vigil of song and three and a half hours later I had fingerprints and DNA taken, charged with 1 count of loitering/refusing to leave and 1 count of obstructing traffic, and instructed not to go within 2 km radius of the Pine Gap facility. (This was a shame as I was looking forward to attending mass there the following morning.) My bail was set at $750 and re-arrest if I didn’t appear in court in ten days. I was delighted! I walked out of the watch-house after flirting with the officer who held my hand to take my prints, shaking hands with both duty police officers, who thanked me for serenading them. I was out the door and was met by a cheering crowd of faithful, beautiful people who waited all that time for our release. They clapped and cheered, and I was struck dumb, amazed that firstly they hadn’t all gone home to bed, but basically because they were cheering for me. No one has ever cheered for me before. I was humbled in the extreme, without doubt. I was confronted with the realization that no, my own family may not support me, no; the church system I had tried to fit into for twenty-five years and folks I considered to be Christians will not support me, and yet these precious people were the truest, staunchest models of Christian brothers and sisters I have ever met. Without question. This is real Christianity; this is real love and concern, these are my people now. I’ll be loyal to them from now onwards. I made the decision that moment to be there for many, many others in years to come, in solidarity and true Christianity.
Later that day in court I pled guilty to my charges, the police prosecution tried to bring up my former arrest when I was a fourteen year old minor of stealing. I represented myself in court and told the judge, “Your Honour, the charge was 29 years ago and I was a minor. There was no conviction recorded.” To which the judge replied that it was non admissible and it was thrown out immediately. He then gave me fines of $120 for each the charges, and no conviction was recorded. Three of the other defendants received the same except for one who is a US citizen and told the judge that he “..does not recognize the authority of the court.” Bless his heart, he will have his day in court and probably receive a similar outcome to the rest of us.
The title of the Pine Gap 5 has stuck. We are joined together now no matter what happens, and I will always respect these strong, beautiful men. My solidarity will always be with the PG 4 and the others who were also arrested, as they face trial in the Supreme court against the crown and 7 years for penetrating the Pine Gap facility and a possible further 2 years for taking the now infamous photographs. I am and will always be proud to have done this action with these wonderful gentle and courageous souls.

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