I am thrilled to be writing this update from the warm, cozy confines of my apartment back in Brooklyn, NY. All of our dongjis from Montana made it back home safe and sound, and I hope we are all resting and taking care of ourselves after a week of hard work!
After another long night Thursday, we got up Friday morning ready for our last day of action in Big Sky. Those of us on the 5-7 AM shift happened to see a city bus emblazoned with "Detention Center" on the side pass by our tents before rolling down to the front of the hotel. Clearly, the negotiators were expecting big things from us. One can only hope we did not disappoint.
At 9:30 AM, we held our final morning action -- another press conference, but this time with a special twist: we set up a table with food and drink as offerings and held a kosa, a ritual held to ask the spirits of our ancestors for blessings. Chairman Oh Jung Ryul delivered a statement and led us in bowing before the spirits. He also shared inspiring words with us linking the Korean people's struggle for self-determination and liberation with the struggles of people around the world fighting against U.S. imperialism. He pointed to the tallest mountain that had towered above us all week and reminded us that the land on which we stood was rightfully the land of the Native Americans, and that the arrival of Europeans on this continent had begun centuries of American-led genocide and war -- a tradition that continues today all over the world, including in Korea. I don't mean for this to sound heavy-handed at all: it was a beautiful, moving, heartfelt reminder of why we fight. Plus, check out that heavenly glow! Nice.
Next, we created a banner in preparation for the afternoon's activities that read "NO FTA" in huge letters. With makeshift trays of paint, each of us left a handprint, message, and signature on the banner to commemorate the week and renew our commitment for the following months in this fight against the FTA.
Shout-out to our resident crazy, drunken filmmaker, Kim Jong Gwan! If you can't tell, his statement says, "FTA will be defeated by my camera!"
We used this banner in our afternoon closing rally, which began just before 2 PM with samboilbae, three steps and one bow, a traditional Buddhist prayer march with a long, proud protest history. Given that our right to even set foot outside of Down Down FTA Town and onto the private property of the resort was disputed, our decision to go ahead with the samboilbae on the road leading away from the resort (thus blocking traffic) without arrests (despite numerous threats from our friends in law enforcement) was first, a credit to our amazing police negotiating team, Haeyoung and Joohyun from CAAAV, and second, symbolic of strength we had amassed over the week. The negotiators and their security teams wanted to run us off their property with our tails between our legs. But when we left, it was on OUR terms: dignified, disruptive, and unified, a reminder that we will continue this fight until it is won. As we marched and bowed, our final shouts of "Down Down FTA" literally rang off the walls of the hotel we faced.
Did I mention that in addition to being dignified and strong, it was a bit of a snowy, slushy, taxing affair? I don't know about y'all, but my knees and thighs are still a little tore up two days later.
Following the samboilbae, we snake-danced, drummed, chanted, and sang our way down the hill to the main entrance of Big Sky resort where we held our final rally of the week. Allies from local groups once again joined us and spoke out as we blocked the road, held our ground, reflected upon the week's events, looked forward to the next round of protest, and listened to eloquent statements reminding us yet again why it is so imperative that we defeat the KorUS FTA. We also got to do the Farmer Song dance one last time. You know: clap clap foot foot, clap clap shoulder shoulder, clap clap hip hip, clap clap twirl! Good times!
Big ups to Danny's taenguri leading the way!
And after the rally? We packed up, headed back to our home base, and started our all-night dwipuri party. The details? Let's just say: ten large bottles of soju, song, dance, and other performances, and some sleepy-ass plane rides home. The rest is classified. After all, what happens in Montana STAYS in Montana!!!! To find out more, you'll just have to come to the seventh round of negotiations, location and time TBA.
Soogo + lots of love,