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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trial of Zumwalt 12 Starts Feb. 1 in Bath

Trial of the Zumwalt 12 is scheduled to begin February 1st at 9:00 a.m. in Sagadahoc Superior Court in Bath (752 High Street) and is expected to last 2 days. 

Members of the group were arrested on June 18th of last year for blocking the road in front of Bath Iron Works during the ‘christening’ of the USS Michael Mansour, a $4 billion ‘stealth’ destroyer.   They are charged with “obstructing a public way”, a class E. misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of $2000 fine and 6 months in county jail. 

Arrested and charged were: Bruce Gagnon (Bath); Cynthia Howard (Biddeford); Dud Hendrick (Deer Isle); Connie Jenkins (Orono); Tarak Kauff (Woodstock, NY); Richard Lethem (Bath); John Morris (New Gloucester); George Ostensen (Hope); Joan Peck (Brunswick); John Peck (Brunswick); Jason Rawn (Lincolnville); and Russell Wray (Hancock). 

Bar Harbor attorney Lynne Williams has provided legal counsel to the group throughout the case and is attorney-of-record for Joan Peck.  The remaining defendants will represent themselves. 

Members of the Zumwalt 12 stress how important the support from people in the peace and justice community has been over the past few months and hope that many folks will be able to come out for the trial.

Lynne Williams reminds everyone that leafletting at the court house is not permitted, to avoid any appearance of attempting to influence jurors.  However, signs and banners are allowed on public property.

By Connie Jenkins

Fomenting Radical Discontent

On this week’s episode of On Contact, Chris Hedges is joined by journalists Abby Martin and Ben Norton to discuss the declassified U.S. intelligence report on Russia’s alleged “influence campaign” on the U.S. presidential election. They explore the allegations and why a large portion of the report is dedicated to RT America’s programming. RT correspondent Anya Parampil details the charges made in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence report.

Protest in Italy

Monday, January 16, 2017

MLK on Vietnam

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Last Day in Okinawa

There are 32 US military installations on Okinawa taking up 20% of the island.  The people have been protesting regularly since 1952 against US bases but you'd never know that in the United States because these protests are not reported in the corporate dominated media

Yesterday we drummed and chanted outside the Okinawan prefecture building in Naha to encourage the governor to continue opposition to the Pentagon base expansion program on the island

We drummed and chanted outside the Naha jail yesterday honoring the three activists now under arrest for their peaceful and non-violent opposition to US base expansion at Henoko and Takae

Newspaper coverage of our protests this past week.  One women approached me this morning and said she remembered seeing my photo in the paper a year ago December when I first came to Okinawa with a Veterans For Peace delegation

Our three man VFP delegation along with the 25 other folks from Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order that we traveled with during our visit

The third graphic from the top shows the plan for the two-runway Marine airfield that will be built on top of pristine Oura Bay.  People make a living from this sacred water body where endangered sea mammals now live. Two million cubic meters of landfill will be put on top of the coral reefs in order to build the airfield.  Is this insane or what?

I'm at the airport in Naha, Okinawa now waiting for my flight to Tokyo.  From there I fly to Minneapolis, Minnesota and then change planes to Boston.  From Boston I take a two-hour bus ride to Portland, Maine where Mary Beth will pick me up and drive me the final 45 minute leg to Bath.  So it's a long trip home.

Yesterday, soon after arriving in Naha we walked through the heart of downtown on the main commercial street that had been closed to auto traffic.  Loads of people were on the streets shopping and listening to music.  So we walked down the middle of the street with Jules Orkin and myself carrying the gold VFP banner and then the Buddhists behind us drumming and chanting up a storm.  It was quite a scene and the best part was when a black GI saw us and made eye connection and gave a nod.  Very special moment.

(Click on the photos for a better view)


Sunday Song

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Update from Okinawa

Photo taken last night after our dinner at a community center near US Marine base where twin-runways are going to be built over pristine Oura Bay which will destroy endangered dugong mammals (relatives of manatees) and coral reefs.

Yesterday morning three of us from Veterans For Peace walked onto Kadena AFB with our banner that says No US Bases on Okinawa.  We were quickly pushed back by security.

We joined the daily blockade this morning of the construction entrance to US Marine base Camp Schwab for two hours

This morning after joining protests at US Marine base Camp Schwab for two hours we walked along Oura Bay to get a look at the area where the twin-runways will be built on top of the bay by bringing in massive amounts of landfill.  The water is now crystal clear but won't be for long if this airfield is completed.
Activists at Takae show us the places in the forest where the US has cut down 25,000 trees to build helipads for their Osprey aircraft landing zones

It's been a busy couple of days here on Okinawa since arriving.  We've been protesting outside various bases - the US military controls 20% of the entire island for its various Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine bases.  Planes, helicopters and other military vehicles are constantly in motion on the island which creates a huge amount of noise pollution which the population strongly opposes.

Several major base expansion projects are now underway in Okinawa - particularly the twin-runways for Marine aircraft that is scheduled to be built on top of beautifully diverse Oura Bay.  A protest outside Camp Schwab Marine base has been going on daily for more than 900 days and the lead organizer for the movement has been put in jail by the Japanese government on ridiculous charges.  His real crime is that he has been an effective leader.

A second base expansion is the military training area in the Takae forest in the northern part of the island.  We made the 90 minute drive there today and met with villagers who live in the forest (only 140 of them) who have been fighting against the plan to cut large tracts of trees in the forest to construct helipads for the Marine Osprey helicopters (one of which recently crashed in Oura Bay while being refueled by a US Air Force KC-135).

We learned that 25,000 trees have already been cut and roads are being built through the jungle which is loaded with endangered species.  The people have been resisting against this forest destruction for years but the US insisted on the new helipads being built so the colonial puppet Japanese government has complied with the directives from Washington.

All of this base expansion is aimed at China and Russia.  The US is moving 60% of its military forces into the Asia-Pacific (Hillary Clinton named it the 'pivot') thus more airfields, ports-of-call, barracks and weapons depots are required for this major influx of US troops.

You can imagine the same kind of expansion of facilities is happening in Poland today as the Pentagon is moving large supplies of tanks and other military vehicles to that new regional hub.  The environmental consequences of these kinds of base expansions is always extreme.

Several times in the last couple days Okinawan peace leaders have mentioned the name of Caroline Kennedy - JFK's daughter who now serves as Obama's Ambassador to Japan.  She has insisted that the Marine base runways must be completed and the expansion of Marine helipads at Takae inside the forest jungle must go forward.  The word is that the Japanese government has pushed hard in recent months to move these projects along so that her 'legacy' as the US enforcer assigned to control Tokyo will be complete.

Tomorrow we will hold a vigil outside the jail where the Okinawan peace leader Hiroji Yamashiro is being unjustly held.  You can sign a petition calling for his immediate release here

(Click on the photos for a better view)


Friday, January 13, 2017

The GI Resistance Movement

Our 35-person  Nipponzan Myohoji delegation joined a large weekly local protest at the front gate of the US's Kadena AFB in Okinawa this morning in the rain.

While standing there with two other Veterans For Peace (VFP) members we held a banner calling for all US bases in Okinawa to be closed.

One of the US security team at the gate and I talked quite a bit during our presence.  He is a private contractor originally from Indiana.  After he retired from the US military he came back to do the same basic job as a contractor and is likely paid much more than when he was on active service.  So he is drinking from the public well twice - getting retirement pay and now working for the Air Force as a contractor.  The American taxpayers are being fleeced by these kind of private security operations.

While talking he was very interested in our group - where we were from, how we traveled, how many of us there were, how long we'd be in Okinawa, etc?  I talked to him about US empire, the Okinawan people's deep rejection of the US military occupation of their lands, and my own time in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

I told him it was the meetings of the GI Resistance Movement in my barracks room (my first roommate was one of the organizers) that helped to turn me into a peace activist.

I suggested he watch this fabulous documentary video.  Maybe he, or others from US intelligence assigned to Okinawa, will take the time to see this important historical piece.