Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Saturday, October 12, 2013

UPDATE FROM AROOSTOOK COUNTY

Arriving at UU church in Caribou on the first day of the walk

I am writing this on our mini-bus as we head south from Presque Isle to Bangor.  We have nine of our group in this vehicle while another ten folks are in a couple other vehicles behind us.  Our crew in the bus has five Americans and four Japanese activists and for the first hour we were singing songs in both languages.  It’s been a lot of fun.

Last night we stayed in the home of two local activists who make up half of the peace group that weekly vigils on a local bridge – they’ve been doing it for the last 10 years even in the dead of winter.  We walked 13 miles yesterday from Caribou into Presque Isle – through the rolling potato fields of the “county” which is how folks popularly describe Aroostook County that happens to be the largest county in Maine.  The population of the county is only 72,000 people, which is likely one reason that some political leaders in Maine want to put a “weaponized drone test center” up this way.

When we arrived on Oct 10 in Limestone to begin the walk we were met by the local TV station that interviewed three of us.  We later heard that the coverage that night on the TV was “better than average” which was good to hear.  The local paper had a nice article on Oct 9 announcing the walk to the community.

As we began walking that first day we were pleasantly surprised at how warm and friendly the people driving by were to us.  One woman stopped her car in the middle of the road and took our picture and I handed her one of our flyers about the walk.  This is considered the most conservative part of Maine but the openness of the people has been more than refreshing.  (Yesterday one of our walkers crossed the highway to hand a flyer to someone working at a farm equipment dealership.  By the time she finished talking to the people there the walk had moved along quite a distance.  The next thing we knew a car pulled up and the walker got out – they’d given her a ride to catch back up with us.)

Our first night we were warmly hosted by the Unitarian Congregation in Caribou, which we were informed, has six active members.  We slept on the church floor after a wonderful supper that the church members prepared – four different soups and bread with an assortment of homemade pies.  Following the meal we asked Maine Veterans for Peace member Dud Hendrick (a US Naval Academy graduate and Vietnam war veteran) to speak about why he was walking.

Following Dud’s moving reflection we invited one of our Japanese friends to speak about their current struggle to project Article 9 in the constitution that outlaws their participation in war.  The US is now twisting the arm of the Japanese government to dump Article 9 in order to assist the Pentagon in the military encirclement and control of China.

Just before our program began that first night a young woman from the local community was preparing to leave.  I urged her to stick around and listen to Dud’s talk.  The next morning, as we were preparing to begin walking from the church, the same young woman drove up and jumped out of her car and approached me.  She handed me a pin and told me that her mother had given the pin to her but she wanted me to have it as a thank you for encouraging her to stick around. Later one of the church women told me that the young woman had been tremendously impacted by Dud’s talk the night before.

This morning at breakfast, before leaving Presque Isle, Karen Wainberg, who also lives at the Addams-Melman House in Bath, told me that the walk creates such a sense of “love and caring” that you can’t help but take that spirit with you when you go back into the wild and wooly world.

That is an important observation because that is indeed the experience we are having walking, eating, singing, laughing, and crying together.  We’ve been learning about each other and seeing that in our peace work – whether in the US or Japan – we are all working toward the same end.  It’s fun to watch the nine Japanese with us discover this new world here in Maine.  At the same time they bring us such spiritual centering and a wonderful playfulness to our otherwise often arrogant and uptight American way of being.

Today we’ll walk about 13 miles from Old Town into Bangor.  In the evening a potluck supper will be held at a local church and then we’ll be divided up and sent to various local homes.  I am promised a house with wireless connection so I can download the hundreds of emails waiting for me and upload this onto my blog.

My foot hurts and I have a blister on one toe but my heart is full.  We are reaching a lot of people on this walk.  Today (Saturday) I expect we’ll have even more folks join us as we enter Bangor. (Two TV stations covered us as we walked into the city.) 
 
It’s all a blessing. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

DRONE WALK UPDATES


I had a call this morning from the Grafton, New York Peace Pagoda where Buddhist nun Jun-san Yasuda is based.  They called to say that a dozen Japanese would be coming to our Maine Drone Peace Walk.

We'll have about 20 folks at our house tonight in Bath for dinner and sleeping and then we head off early in the morning for the long drive north to Limestone.  We'll stop in Bangor to pick up a couple more people and then some others will meet us at the start point.  So far the weather reports look real good.  The colors are changing on the trees and as we begin the walk in Maine's potato county it should be beautiful.  We'll see the Mars Hill wind farm, the Amish horse drawn buggies and hopefully a friendly reception.

Our hosts in Caribou and Presque Isle are excited and have been alerting the local media.  The semi-secret plan to try to turn Aroostook County into a "weaponized drone test bed" is now on the table.

Yesterday Frank Donnelly called to say that last Sunday he made a bunch of copies of our peace walk flyers and stood outside the sold-out WERU Community Radio 25th anniversary concert in Ellsworth and talked to people about the walk.  WERU has been promoting the walk quite a bit and they are sending a reporter to walk with us on Oct 12 when we pass thru Bangor.

Come walk with us for a day or more.

You can find the daily details of walk route and schedule here

SPACE WEEK UPDATES


The space week poster was spotted at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea

At the front gate of US NSA satellite spy base Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, England

  • The first photo above comes from Stockholm, Sweden where Women for Peace organized a vigil in front of the Swedish Parliament Building with banners that read "Drones kill".  Global Network board member Agneta Norberg is featured in the photo.  In the evening they organized a panel discussion on space issues with Swedish parliamentarians. 
  • From Global Network board member Sung-Hee Choi in South Korea:   
Keep Space for Peace Week is not forgotten in Jeju Island. The Korean words in the banner read: "No Naval Base on Jeju" and "People's welfare and peace."  The signs held by Paco Booyah and me read "No Syria Attack, End the Occupation in Afghanistan" and "No ROK-US-Japan" war exercise. Oct 7 was the 12th remembrance year of the US invasion to Afghanistan. The US-ROK-Japan are holding war exercise in the southern water of Korea. The original date was from Oct 8 to 10 (the date was to be postponed because of weather) while the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington was mooring in the Busan port from Oct 4 to 7. Photo by Cho Sung-Bong, director of the Jeju documentary, "Gureombi, the Wind is Blowing" in the Busan film festival.
  • From Menwith Hill in England Global Network board member Tamara Lorincz (from Halifax, Nova Scotia) writes:
This week is the International Keep Space for Peace week. There are actions taking place around the world to stop the weaponization of space and drone warfare. I had the great privilege of protesting tonight with incredibly dedicated British peace activists outside the US-RAF Menwith Hill base that is used for American missile defence and US NSA-UK GCHQ spying around the world. It is headed by an American commander. See the American flag flying on the base? This large military base is situated in the beautiful Yorkshire dales and is a terrible blight on this rural landscape. The people have been protesting to close it down for three decades. Grandmother Lindis Percy (GN board member) co-founded the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases and has been protesting every week for 12-years straight. We were standing with our flags and banners in solidarity with our friends in the Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space.
  • We also got an unexpected email from Missoula Women for Peace in Montana.  They had a letter published in their local paper under the headline "Peace Week: End militarization of space" that was quite well done.  You can see the letter here

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

VETERANS ARRESTED IN NYC LAST NIGHT



Vietnam veteran (and member of Veterans for Peace) Mike Hastie from Oregon makes the statement to police last night in New York City.

Nineteen military veterans and their allies were arrested at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in the city for refusing to leave the park at the 10 pm closing time. October 7 date marked 12 years of invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and the arrestees were reading the names of the dead from the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam, as well as from the drone wars in Pakistan and other countries. The aims of the action, organized by Veterans For Peace members, were fourfold:

  • Calling for an end to the 12-year war in Afghanistan.
  • Calling for an end to all U.S. wars of aggression.
  • Remembering all those who have fallen and been wounded by war.
  • Standing up for our right, duty and sworn oath, to defend the Constitution and to assemble and organize
See the full story here 

GLOBAL OIL PIPELINE POLITICS



This is very important to watch and understand....this is the epi-center of and reason for most global conflict these days.

See this big picture clearly and you can figure out most other pieces to the puzzle.


Democracy Now takes a good look at politics, money and the pursuit of oil, from the series of pipelines originating in the oil-rich Caspian Sea to the deposits in the Arctic Sea where Russia has charged 30 people with piracy for a Greenpeace protest against drilling, to the vast reserves of the Middle East that have fueled conflict for decades.

Three guests join for a roundtable discussion: Anna Galkina, a member of the London-based arts, human rights and environmental justice organization Platform; Platform founder James Marriott, author of "The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London"; and Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University professor and author of the books "Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil" and "Colonizing Egypt."

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY IS WHAT WORKS

Former US Army Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright on Jeju Island with Gangjeong village Mayor Kang

  • Ann Wright sent a message this morning saying that two more No Navy Base protesters on Jeju are going to jail - one for 6 months and another for 8 months and two more trials will happen tomorrow.  The South Korean government is hammering the people hard trying to break their spirits.  International solidarity is key now.  Mayor Kang is on his way to London (and a couple of other English cities including up in Yorkshire for a visit to NSA Menwith Hill on October 14) as well as Dublin, Ireland for a speaking trip.  Ann also reported that "Father Bix was here for a week with a Buddhist monk.  6 from Cambodia, 2 from Singapore and 2 Americans here now."
  • The other American in Gangjeong village now is Mica from California.  She writes: "Yesterday I interviewed Dr. Song, a political prisoner going through a ridiculous trial with paid 'witnesses' against him. The prison only allows you to visit the prisoners for 12 minutes at a time, so it was a very short interview. I asked Dr. Song how Americans and other people around the world can best support this struggle. His immediate response was that he wanted people to come to Jeju Island, so they could see us and touch us and feel our support in person. He also said that there is no justice in the courts here. The activists need international people to come here and witness what is happening and then tell all of the media all over the world so they can pressure the government here. International people coming to Jeju is an important way that the activists maintain hope. And of course it is also vitally important that we spread the news of what is happening here to the international community."
  • Global Network board convener Dave Webb (Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in England) is in India for Keep Space for Peace Week conference organized by another of our board members.  J. Narayana Rao, a retired railroad worker, has put together quite an event.  Dave sent word this morning, "Still there! Leave tomorrow. Visited and spoke at a college yesterday going to a High School today. Rao has managed to pull off a huge conference with around 600 or so in the audience each day for 3 days. A major international conference centring on Gandhi's relevance to disarmament and development with a session on nuclear disarmament and preventing an arms race in outer space. I will send a report but no real email access and I am sending this on my phone."

Monday, October 07, 2013

DEINDUSTRIALIZATION LED TO JAILS



Listen to Hollywood actor and political activist Danny Glover passionately explain why the same problem exists in every corner of this country, whether it's in the streets of Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, or New York.

He's tired of the fact that this country is waging war on its people and not on the core of the problem itself, and he's hoping that this documentary he's supporting will spark some of us to rethink and discuss the underlying problems at play.

Prisons are slave ships on dry land.

TAKING LAND IN CANADA FOR MILITARY



Effective immediately, for the first time in his life, Frank Meyers has no legal right to step foot on “his” property. On Oct 2 the Canadian Department of National Defence erected “No Trespassing” signs around the fence line, as contractors begin preliminary work on what will become the new headquarters of Joint Task Force 2.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

BIW SPACE WEEK VIGIL

Flowers grown at the Smilin' Trees Disarmament Farm (Hope, Maine) for everyone after the BIW vigil; photos by a BIW worker


Thirteen of us held an hour-long vigil yesterday at Bath Iron Works in Maine as the workers knocked off at noon on the Saturday shift.  We lined up in front of BIW headquarters on Washington Street with our signs and banners.  Just before the whistle blew we moved down the street and stood across from a gate where workers came through.  Two of the folks from the Smilin' Trees Disarmament Farm stood by the gate and offered flyers. 

The Keep Space for Peace Week flyer started out with the words:  "Look up tonight....As you look up, realize that space belongs to all of creation, not to the powerful, aggressive forces that seek to lace it with nuclear poison and military hardware."

The flyer concluded with a call for "healing of the wounds we have inflicted upon Mother Earth."

Some workers took the flyers but most of all I sensed a certain resignation to our message.  I mean that in the good and not so good sense.

To the good there was no real anger in the workers toward us.  I've seen that decipate over the years.  Maybe its because our message has generally become more focused on conversion.  We vigil all during Advent and Lent seasons and other special times like space week.  Other times of the year I show up with flyers on important occasions.  Generally I think our message is seeping into the core of BIW workers.

On the down side the workers feel desperate.  They'd rather make rail systems or wind turbines but they are locked in.  Working at BIW is one of the best paying jobs in the state although there is a price to pay as the workers have to deal with the greedy and authoritarian General Dynamics Corp. which owns BIW.  The remaining significant challenge is for us to get BIW workers, and their union, to expand their vision and realize that it is imperative that they begin to also lobby for conversion.

The military industrial complex is unsustainable either economically or environmentally.  If the city of Bath hopes to keep jobs in this community the leadership of the community must also begin to understand and advocate for this transformation of the "product" of the city.

Those last two points are the hard pulling I am now diving into but they are necessary and because they are local there is significantly better chances of some impact.

Last night I met MB in Portland as we attended fundraiser for children in Gaza put on by MECA.  When I came in the door I saw a guy that works at BIW who I've only recently met.  I told him that I shared his suggestion at the city council meeting last Wednesday.  In that public workshop, about the corporate tax break BIW is requesting for the next 25 years, I  said, "Our city should request that General Dynamics open their books for public scrutiny if they want to claim they need more corporate welfare." I told the worker that I heard that BIW's lead council was standing by the door and was not happy with the idea.  My new friend laughed like hell and said he'd pass on the story at work.

Stop what's that sound....everybody look what's going round......

SUNDAY SONG