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Seven Catholic Workers Arrested for Carnahan Sit-In

Categories: News
Becca Young
Jorj Arteaga, civilly disobedient Catholic Worker
Last Wednesday night Jorj Arteaga, one of the members of the Catholic Worker community in north St. Louis profiled in the February 1 feature, "Cool to Be Kind," was at Whole Foods to pick up a food donation for the homeless shelter, Kabat House, where Arteaga lives and works.

His plans for Thursday? To get arrested.

Indeed, he and six fellow Workers were taken into custody at about 5 p.m. yesterday as they sat in the waiting room of U.S. Representative Russ Carnahan's office in Brentwood, reading off the names of people who have died in the Iraq War.

The action was part of the recently organized Occupation Project, in which groups occupy the offices of congressmen and demand that they sign a pledge agreeing to vote against additional funding for the War, and specifically President George W. Bush's recent request for close to $100 billion.

The Catholic Workers arrived at Carnahan's office at 10 a.m Thursday. At noon there was a small rally outside (about twenty people, according to one of their number, Carolyn Griffeth. By 4 p.m. the Workers had eaten their packed lunches and discarded clothing was spread out in the conference room. Arteaga was lying on the carpeted floor in front of the receptionist's desk, his eyes closed.

Two days earlier another Occupation Project group had spent fourteen hours in Carnahan's office. They spoke to the Congressman by phone a few times, and the office remained open until 10:30 in the interest of maintaining the dialogue. Eventually the group was escorted out of the office by agents from a private security firm.

The Catholic Workers did not get to speak to Carnahan, but they did speak to his chief of staff, Todd Patterson, who tried to explain Carnahan's position via speakerphone. According to Glenn Campbell, Carnahan's director of communications, while Carnahan opposes the war and does not want to see any further escalations, he doesn't want to make any binding agreement as to how he'd vote on Bush's request for supplemental funds. Instead, Carnahan wants to hammer out a Democratic alternative to Bush's proposal.

"Ironically, it's Dick Cheney and others who are hawkish on the war who would want Carnahan to make this sort of a statement, because then they could characterize him as not supporting the troops," said Campbell.

While the Workers were on the speakerphone with Patterson, two plainclothes Brentwood police officers arrived. Campbell informed the group that the office would close on schedule, at 5 p.m. At 4:45 about ten more officers showed up and began to arrest the seven people who refused to leave.

All were charged with trespassing. Two, Arteaga and Mary Hargadon, went limp and had to be carried away and were also charged with resisting arrest.

By 9 p.m. everyone was out on bail: $500 per count.

- Molly Langmuir

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