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, August 27, 2005

The Lewiston office window of Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins sported an anti-war sign for six hours on Friday. Inside the office we read the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and an equal number of innocent Iraqi civilians. A high proportion of the Iraqi names were children and elderly. We are demanding that the senator hold a public town hall meeting on Iraq in the state. Her staff has advised us that she does not feel comfortable with large crowds.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Today for six hours, in the Lewiston ground-floor office window of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), sat the blue anti-war yard sign that reads "War is not the answer." Inside the office about 50 people participated at some point during the long six-hour day of reading the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and an equal number of innocent Iraqi civilians who have been killed since the U.S. "preemptive" shock and awe attack in 2003.

Today was the fifth time in recent months that peace activists from around Maine occupied a congressional office to bring the reality of war to the politicians who continue to ignore growing public opinion. Previous readings have been done in Portland, Bangor and now today in the working-class town of Lewiston.

The office of Sen. Collins sits on the busy downtown Lisbon Street which was full of cars and pedestrian traffic all day long. Just across the street from the senator's office sits a small park where we set up a staging area with many signs, banners, a table and literature. Peter Stewart (South Montville) sat at the table all day long talking with passers-by and was even successful in getting a few of them to cross the street and join the office occupation for awhile. One mother and her child entered the office and rang the bell for a spell that chimed for six long hours after each name was read.

The local Lewiston Sun Journal sent a reporter and photographer. The photographer stayed for what seemed like several hours taking an enormous amount of pictures. One particular photo background shot he worked on for some time was the one of the Bush and Cheney pictures on the office wall. One local TV station also came and took extensive footage and did an interview.

Dud Hendrick and Pat Wheeler once again came down from Deer Isle and brought the huge banner that was blank except for the words "Iraq War Dead." As each name was read an X ( red or black) was marked. By the end of the day the banner was completely covered in X-marks.

At one point I stepped outside for a break. When I came back in I noticed that the framed pictures of Bush and Cheney had been taken off the wall and were sitting face down on a table. I later learned that Maureen Block (Swanville) had taken them down - surely noticed at some point by the staffpersons who took turns at the reception desk - but never to be returned to the wall.

Richard Clement (Gardiner), one of many Veterans for Peace members present today, once again brought his large notebook full of U.S. soldier names. There was one difference today though. Richard has now had to go to a second notebook to hold the growing list of names of dead GI's. Richard's own son just recently returned from a year in Iraq. At one point, when Casey Sheehan's name was read, the whole room froze as his name is one we all know.

Months ago Karen Wainberg (Portland), Mary Beth Sullivan (Brunswick), and I met with some folks from the Lewiston area to plan today's action. We were impressed with the way they spread the word throughout their community, did media work (one local radio newsman did an advance story and it ran on five local stations), and they showed up and were there until the end. Judy & Kevin Simpson, Bonnie Shulman, and Bonnie Lounsbury (all from the Lewiston/Auburn area) were great organizers for this reading of the names and we are grateful to them.

After the action several asked when do we do it again. They felt we must continue to put pressure on our senators to hold a town hall meeting on Iraq. (Our pressure on Rep. Tom Allen eventually forced him to hold one on July 17 in Portland that 500 people attended.)

We will be doing this again soon. We are now talking about visiting the office of Sen. Olympia Snowe in Biddeford next, perhaps sometime in mid-October. First we need to line up some local organizers, have a meeting with them, and then promote the action.

Each time we hold these reading of the names we get more new people to turn out. This is what we are trying to do. We are trying to get people who feel strongly about the war to take a step out into action. The reading of the names is a heart-rending and effective way to bring the war home. Please join us in the future.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Oops! Guess I got my facts wrong again. Just wishful thinking on my part. It is interesting to note these days that Bush likes to hang out in places with very little human population - Utah, Idaho. Where next? Maybe the moon or Mars? Bang zoom to the moon G.W.!!! Hey not a bad idea. Atomic Bob, Dunbar and Vic will lead the way on a nuclear rocket! (Sorry guys, just funnin. You know how G.W. likes to tease.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Here is a photo of a real, live, U.S. Army tank in Iraq. Several of my ardent critics have clearly shown that my earlier photo of a tank was not in Iraq but Israel. (Though I'd strongly claim it was made in the USA - one of the few things that are these days.) So it is actually true that the U.S. has tanks in Iraq and is daily using them to destroy people, fire depleted uranium shells that will leave radioactive toxic contamination for thousands of years to come, and kill many innocent Iraqi people. Let the critics have at it now!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bush is having to get back out on the road to sell his war to a public growing increasingly opposed to the failing policy of occupation in Iraq. I watched much of his speech to the VFW in Salt Lake City via C-SPAN today and the tepid applause from the audience throughout the speech indicated it was not going over well. The mayor of Salt Lake City had called for protests of the Bush visit and another mother of a dead GI in Iraq, from the Gold Star Families for Peace, traveled there to speak against the Bush war plan. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was all over the news yesterday calling Bush's war "another Vietnam." Humpty dumpty had a great fall, and all the kings horses and all the kings men could not put humpty back together again!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Army has announced that they are planning for the U.S. to continue its occupation of Iraq for at least the next four years. Is there any doubt that the U.S. government (controlled today by the oil and weapons industries) has no intention of ever leaving? Last night I got an e-mail from a Maine friend who has a son in Iraq. He just got there and killed his first Iraqi a couple of days ago. He told his parents he barely missed being killed himself. Why do we have to stay in Iraq any longer? How many more innocent lives must be lost? How much more of our hard-earned tax dollars must be wasted there before the American people speak out with a resounding and emphatic NO?