At our meeting, spirits were high, our determination is unwavering, but on the way home I cried. Not out of despair, because I know we're going to win this thing. It's just so painful to think of someone being harassed, mistreated, deported and incarcerated because they don't want to kill innocent people.
Robin's arrest was a total set-up; they wanted him in custody before he received his deportation order. The order itself ignored the recent rulings in both Joshua Key's and Corey Glass' cases, and has an air of vindictiveness around it. Robin was shuttled from jail to jail, first housed with a violent criminal who threatened his life, then assaulted by a group of inmates who took exception to his dreadlocks. (He cut them off before being transferred to the US.)
Lee Zaslofsky, a backbone of the War Resisters Support Campaign, visited Robin. Here's his report.
When we found out that Robin Long was to be sent to Fort Carson, Colorado, near Colorado Springs, I began to make arrangements to visit
him on behalf of the Campaign and his many supporters in Canada.
I flew to Denver on July 16. I had previously been in touch with the NBC affiliate in Colorado Springs, and they arranged to send a reporter from their Denver affiliate to interview me outside my hotel there. The interview, I understand, was shown that evening.
The next day, July 17, I rented a car and drove down to Colorado Springs. I had a n appointment at the El Paso County Jail to see Robin. I say "see", because the arrangement there is that you see the person on a screen, and he sees you, and you can converse, but there is no physical contact -- we are in different buildings!. You get exactly 30 minutes (timer is on the screen) to chat, etc.
I found Robin to be in excellent spirits. he has short hair and wears glasses (I had known him without glasses), and was wearing the orange inmate's suit. He said he gets along fine with the other prisoners, who call him "the professor' because he helps them out with crossword puzzles and the like.
Robin spoke realistically about his situation. but he was waiting to speak with his lawyer before deciding how to plead, etc. I won't go into detail about what he said, but he is aware of what he might have to face, and is prepared to face it with courage and without bitterness.
This is completely consistent with his character as I have known it for several years. I continue to admire his peaceful moral strength.
I passed on to him some loving words of encouragement from Renee, his former partner, and her mother, and that made him very happy. Apparently they plan to send him some pictures, probably of his son Ocean, who turned two on July 8, while Robin was in Jail in Nelson, BC.
I told Robin about the wide media coverage that his case had been receiving both in Canada and the US, especially in Boise, ID, his home town. He was pleased to learn that the Toronto Star had published a lead editorial, "Stop Deportation of War Deserters", the day after he was deported. He was also happy to know that there were demonstrations protesting his deportation in Vancouver, Toronto, and elsewhere.
He asked me to arrange to get him some books -- especially Joshua Key's "The Deserter's Tale", which he admitted he hasn't yet read. Prison rules say that books can only be sent via the publisher or a company like Amazon, so please don't try to send him any directly. I deposited some money in his prison account, which will allow him to buy some necessities and some fruit etc, which seems not to be supplied
Local Peace Folks
Colorado Springs is a military town, with Ft. Carson, the US Air Force Academy, and several Air Force bases nearby. But "The Springs" also has a good number of peace activists, whom I was able to contact through Bill and Jean Durland, Quakers whom I was told about by Orion Smith of the Canadian Friends Service Committee.
Bill and Jean's place was my first stop in The Springs, and it was great to meet them and learn about their lifetimes work for peace through the Quakers, through Bill's law practice and political involvement, and through their involvement with Christian Peacemaker Teams, which has an office next door to ours in the Steelworkers Building in Toronto. Bill helped Conscientious Objectors in the
military, and continues to help them in semi retirement. He will be consulting with Robin's lawyer, James Branum, and hopes to get recognized as an official advisor to Mr. Branum, which will allow him to visit Robin in person.
Bill and Jean invited me to attend a meeting at the Colorado Springs Justice and Peace Commission (J & P). There we planned a vigil for the next day, Friday, July 25 Peter Hadley, the director of the Commission, is a good organizer, so the next day we made signs "Free Robin Long"; "Support the Troops Who Resist", etc, for the vigil.
Before helping with the signs, I went to my second appointment with Robin at the jail. When I arrived I was upset when they told me he had been moved to Fort Carson. I thought they might be trying to rush through his court martial, so I quickly went over to the J & P office and began making calls -- to media, to the Fort, to his military lawyer.
Finally I got hold of his lawyer, who told me that Robin had been taken to Ft. Carson in order to meet with him and his military lawyer, and that he would be back in El Paso County Jail later on. It's a bit sad to be relieved that Robin would be back in jail, but at least I knew he was OK.
The vigil that evening took place outside the Pioneer Museum, across the street from J & P. Robin had asked that we not demonstrate outside the jail, and it isn't a good idea to do so near Ft. Carson, so we picked a prominent location near J & P. The event drew about 20 people, as well as two local TV channels, and was well covered on the evening news, I'm told. [Note: this is a very heavily military area, with several military bases and a large military contractor nearby. For 20 people to show up at a peace vigil for a "deserter" is significant.]
The turnout included Bill and Jean, of course, as well as Garrett Rippenhagen, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Mark Lewis, whose website, Springs Action Alliance, is a great resource for progressive folks in that area and beyond. (He made videos of me, James Branum and the vigil, which you can see on his website.)
The next day I left for Denver to get my plane back to Toronto.
I would like to thank all the good people I met in Colorado Springs, both for their advice and support, and for arranging to house me (thanks, Steve and Mary Lynn). feed me, and point me in the right direction.
I was very impressed with James Branum, both because of his legal knowledge and his deep commitment to peace. With him, and Bill Durland, Robin will benefit from the best legal representation and advice available. Thanks to Courage To Resist for helping to fund James's legal work, and to
I told Robin, and everyone who asked, that I had come to Colorado to show Robin that we stand with him and support him, and that we still regard him as a member of our war resister family in Canada. We will continue to remain in touch with Robin, and to support him as he is punished for the "crime" of refusing to take part in an illegal, immoral, and disastrous war.
It will be very difficult for Robin to return to Canada, given his new status as a Deported Person. But we will keep hoping that one day we will see him again living in peace among us in Canada.
War Resisters Support Campaign
My deepest thanks to Lee for making this trip!
Please remember, you can write to both Robin Long and James Burmeister, and I know they will both really appreciate your support. The addresses are below, and the rules for writing federal prisons are here.
Robin Long, CJC
2739 East Las Vegas
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Building 7741 PMB
1158 Gold Vault Road
Fort Knox, KY 40121-5184