Lending our Leg in Washington, DC

On Wednesday, March 27th, half a dozen landmine advocates representing four different organizations gathered in Lafayette Park in Washington, DC to participate in a Lend Your Leg event.

The “Lend Your Leg” concept, asking individuals to roll up their pants leg in solidarity with landmine victims, was launched by the Colombian NGO Fundación Arcángeles in 2011 to call attention to the issue of landmines and their devastating effect on communities in Colombia and throughout the world.

“Lending Your Leg” on April 4th shows global solidarity for the survivors of landmine accidents—and all prosthesis wearers—while stripping away the shame and social stigmas that may accompany the injury.

Lend Your Leg is a call to action for all states to 1) Join the Mine Ban Treaty if they have not yet done so, and 2) Implement the Treaty by destroying landmine stockpiles, clearing mine contaminated land and assisting victims. More information about Lend Your Leg, including events near you, is available at www.lendyourleg.org.

Now, a few words about Washington: there is always something else going on and getting attention on a particular issue – in our case landmines – can be very difficult.  As we were getting set up, two of our number, Jose Arteaga and Zach Hudson told the rest of us about how they had been at the Supreme Court earlier in day, Zach actually inside the courtroom to hear oral arguments and Jose outside to rally on behalf of marriage equality.  So for a third of our party, this was not the first bit of activism they had participated in that day.

Nora, Mary and Jose getting the "legs" and banners set up.

Figure 1: Nora, Mary and Jose getting the “legs” and banners set up.

When we got to Lafayette Park, the large open square just north of the White House, we noticed that we were not the only demonstration happening outside the White House at lunchtime on a Wednesday in March.  There was the permanent encampment of nuclear-free world activists and a protest against genetically modified (GMO) foods (in the background of Figures 1 and 2 with the yellow banners) and as soon as the GMP protesters cleared, a group demonstrating against arbitrary detention at Guantanamo Bay rolled in (in Figure 3 with the orange banners).  I’m sure if we stayed longer, another group with their issue would have come along. (Side note: it’s not just national and international issues that draw out groups: yesterday evening at dusk half a dozen people protested the National Park Service’s plan to cull deer from Rock Creek Park in the middle of the city [Washington Post].  Yes, deer in Washington, DC could garner as much support as landmine victims around the world.  That’s how many issues abound in this town. Ah well.)

Figure 2: Protest against GMO Foods and Monsanto.

Figure 2: Protest against GMO Foods and Monsanto.

Figure 3: Protest against arbitrary detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Figure 3: Protest against arbitrary detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Figure 4: Lending our Legs: (Left to Right) Jose de Arteaga, Mary Wareham, Michael Moore, Riley Abbott and Nora Sheets. Not pictured is Zach Hudson who kindly took the photo.

Figure 4: Lending our Legs: (Left to Right) Jose de Arteaga, Mary Wareham, Michael Moore, Riley Abbott and Nora Sheets. Not pictured is Zach Hudson who kindly took the photo.

We chose Lafayette Park for the iconic images of the White House in the background and the opportunity to interact with others.  Nora kindly provided the “legs” and banners we held.  The legs were made by art class students and members of Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Munitions (PSALM) and the West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines (WVCBL, www.wvcbl.org).  The legs and banners will feature in the Landmine Awareness Day activities at St. Francis de Sales School on April 5th, sponsored by PSALM and WVCBL.

In addition to the group shot, we took some individual photos.  The brother and sister featured in Figure 6 were tourists visiting Washington with the family.  They asked us what we were advocating for and when we told them, “landmine survivors,” they asked if they could participate.  I never got their names, but I loved that they were interested and wanted to “lend” their legs.  That photo alone was reason enough to host the event in Lafayette Park.

Figure 5: Zach Hudson, Coordinator of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Figure 5: Zach Hudson, Coordinator of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Figure 6: These young people were tourists who saw what we were doing, asked what it was for and then asked to participate to show their support.

Figure 6: These young people were tourists who saw what we were doing, asked what it was for and then asked to participate to show their support.

Figure 7: Nora Sheets, Coordinator for the West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines

Figure 7: Nora Sheets, Coordinator for the West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines

Figure 8: Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director of the Arms Control Division of Human Rights Watch.

Figure 8: Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director, Arms Division of Human Rights Watch.

Figure 9: Michael Moore (L), Landmines in Africa and Riley Abbott, a colleague from Survivor Corps / Landmine Survivors Network.

Figure 9: Michael Moore (L), Landmines in Africa and Riley Abbott, a colleague from Survivor Corps / Landmine Survivors Network.

In the end, we had a very simple message, expressed in Figure 10.  On April 4th, remember the victims of landmines and believe that something can be done to end the use of this terrible weapon and ensure that every father’s daughter can walk freely and safely.

Figure 10: Our message to President Obama and the World.

Figure 10: Our message to President Obama and the World.

Michael P. Moore

March 28, 2013

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One Comment on “Lending our Leg in Washington, DC”

  1. On April 4, 2013, I’ll be aboard Amtrak. Guess who plans to roll up one leg of her jeans and wear MAG “safe socks” on the trip? (From Laurel Anne Hill, Moderator of the Minds Clearing Land Mines WordPress Blog)


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