Notes from Jail … blood spilling at Pentagon Report by FC, Sept 1977 v.p.
Prisoner 188-545, Frank Cordaro, writing home with some general information.
Since Thursday afternoon (August 11) I have been in Dead Lock (single cell) in Washington, D.C. Jail–New Section. It is possible that I will be in Dead Lock (never out of the cell except for showers) until our arraignment and possible trial on August 19.
To tell you the truth, I am quite comfortable. The cell is air-conditioned! It has a light which I can control myself, a nice firm bunk, a stool, a sink, and a small desk. At this point, I really welcome the solitude.
However, one never knows whether or not paper will be given for writing, and they have threatened us with no books except what we have with us. I have only one, Peace Making, and I’m reading it slowly –after that, it could be a long haul. Meals are the college dorm type and they are brought to our cells.
We have been put in Dead Lock 4 (as opposed to being members of the general prison population) because we refused to take blood tests and X-rays. Nine of our group are here at the D.C. jail. Five other men are at the Arlington jail, together with two women who were also arrested.
This jail is a new facility, very modern! About 99% of the prison population is Black. The old D.C. jail was a very dangerous place– rape and other kinds of physical violence being very common. I do not know enough about this place yet to comment on the difference. It could be a blessing that we refused the blood tests and X-rays, “the hell you know is better than the unknown one ahead”.
There is so much to tell you! I’ll begin with the action itself–it stands out most in my mind right now. There were between fifty to one hundred people outside the Pentagon. Throughout the morning, we passed out leaflets to Pentagon workers reminding them of the anniversary of the dropping of the Bomb on Nagasaki.
At about 11:00, the hour that the Bomb was dropped thirty-two years ago, we gathered in front of the main entrance for a symbolic Rite of Exorcism , a Catholic rite used to articulate what the Pentagon really is–EVIL, man made, but evil nevertheless–and our desire to call on God to help us rid ourselves of its control of our lives. At this time, five people who had been standing at the central pillars holding signs with large letters which spelled out DEATH were replaced by 5 designated blood-spillers. And I was one of them.
After the Rite or Exorcism, twelve people went to block the main driveway–an act of civil disobedience symbolizing our desire to block the business of DEATH carried on in the Pentagon.
One person dumped a large bag of ashes (a symbol of the people–well over 100,000–reduced to ashes in ten minutes thirty-two years ago) across the front of the main entrance. He was arrested very quickly.
At the same time, we blood-spillers, dropped our signs, and spilled our blood on our respective pillars. I was being cuffed before my blood hit the pillar.
BLOOD, the most powerful symbol a universal one, spilled on these Pillars of Death now to speak the Truth–to demand an end to the MADNESS and the REALITY of the constant threat of NUCLEAR WAR and GLOBAL DEATH.
I spilled this blood NOW to help us all to see the priority in which Death has control of our culture. We waste ·our limited human and ecological resources in WAR-MAKING while so many BASIC HUMAN NEEDS are neglected at home and abroad (the price of one Trident Submarine would do away with poverty in the whole state of Iowa).
I spilled this blood NOW to remind myself and others that before the Bomb was ever made there was something in us that allowed it to exist and, therefore, we really need –each one of us–to deal with our own personal violence.
I spilled my blood NOW so that when nuclear madness explodes again (whether in a Bomb or an Energy Plant), I will be able to say to the next generation that I did something.
All who were arrested were taken away, hand-cuffed and singing, in a yellow school bus.
Meeting my 8th Grade teacher on the steps of the Pentagon:
As soon as I had replaced the person at the pillar, an hour before the action I started to stressed out. I was carrying a baby bottle of my own blood in the front pocket of my bib-overalls over. I felt sure everyone could spot the bottle a mile away. I walked up the steps with a stiff right leg so it would not be so revealed. For the whole hour, I felt like everyone was looking at my right leg. Paranoid for sure!
However, from my pillar I did get a great over-view. Most of the demonstrators were across the street in front of me. Among them was a monk from Japan who, with five others, had been fasting and keeping vigil for ten days in front of the Pentagon. He was· beating out a “Peace Prayer” on an oriental drum. It was very soothing and prayerful. Whenever he stopped, I had the feeling the walls of the Pentagon were about to come down Jericho-!
Lee Miller was standing at the pillar to my right. Between us was a policeman in full gear–helmet, gun, radio, etc. Lee asked him about wearing all that heavy gear in such warm weather, and for a while we chatted about the warm weather.
I was so nervous I did not realize it was hot! To my left was a group of plainclothes men. Every now and then one of them would stroll over for a “friendly” talk. Even the Head Man In Security dropped by–he did not even pretend tope friendly!
All this time, I remember desperately trying to loosen the top of my bottle with my free hand. Iwas holding a sign with the other. It was on too tightly and every time I tried to open it a bit, one of the cops would come to talk. God! I was going up the wall–sure I’d NEVER get the baby bottle out of my pocket. Then fate took over.
Coming out of the Pentagon was Mr. Amadeo, my eighth-grade teacher and coach at St. Anthony’s. I couldn’t believe it. I yelled out, “Amadeo!” He turned and looked –his mouth wide open. “Frank Cordaro; eighth grade, St. Anthony’s, Des Moines,” I said. “Cordaro” he said. He couldn’t believe it. He came over and we talked for about five minutes. The edge was taken off! Even the guards got a kick out of two people from Des Moines meeting like this. Irony! Life is filled with irony or is it something more?
Ironic that Mr Amadeo quit teaching in a Catholic school because he couldn’t live on the salary. So he joined the Air Force to make enough money, and hopes to return to coaching when he leaves the Pentagon.
Ironic that my father was a coach at a Catholic school.
Ironic that I love sports and had intended to be a coach . . .
Ironic that I was at the Pentagon about to sill blood on the pillars of the Pentagon, and there meet Coach Amadeo who now works in the Pentagon, wishing he was a coach.
Coach Amadeo asked me 3 times in those five minutes if I knew what I was doing.
And I could I answered positively, ”Yes, very much.”
Fate? Or God hand? All I know is after talking to Mr Amadeo, I felt like I had a conversation with my father asking from the grave, “Do you know what you are doing?” And I could say, ”Yes Dad I do! ”
Mr. Amadeo got into a car and drove away moments before the road was blocked and our blood spilling witness began.
The symbolic Rite of Exorcism was over. The road was blocked. The ashes were dumped. I dropped my sign, pulled the bottle out of my pocket and spilled the blood high on the pillar. An officer grabbed me, pushed me against the wall, hand-cuffed me, frisked me, and took me and my companion blood-spillers custody, holding us at the side of the main entrance between the wall and the pillars.
The Police State took over the space. America’s best in riot gear appeared–about fifty men –marching between us and the demonstrators. Police were all over the place, collecting ashes, baby bottles, and blood specimens for evidence.
My blood was on the pillar, on me, and on my arresting officer. I told him I was sorry it got on him. He said, “That’s o.k., it will wash out.”
We began to chant over and over, “The Pentagon is a Temple of Death.” It was so VIVID–so REAL–so UN-REAL! The blood-spillers and the ash-dumpers were taken to where the road-blockers were waiting … Pictures were taken of each one with the arresting officer. We were loaded into the school bus. The riot squad secured the steps of the Pentagon. Other policemen were already hosing down the pillars and the steps with water. We were driven away, still chanting, The Pentagon is a ”Temple of Death. Truly it was a well-organized demonstration. Thanks to good planning and training on BOTH SIDES nobody lost their head.
This is all I can write now. This prison scene is another world–life can change completely as quickly as a door slams, or not change at all for years on end. I must remember that Time does not keep me–I keep Time.