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, April 12, 2008

A GREAT CONFAB IN NEBRASKA


The conference opened Friday night with an incredible presentation by Native American activist Frank LaMere and four young men who drummed and sang songs to us.

Our second day of the Omaha conference went exceptionally well. About 200 people attended throughout the day and we got great reviews of the many wonderful speakers.

The conference opened today with a StratCom introduction five minute video created by Global Network chair Dave Webb from England. Dave is also the Vice-Chair of Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

On Sunday morning we will hold our annual business meeting and then go out together to a local restaurant where we have reserved a room for our key folks to have lunch together.

We must give great thanks to Nebraskans for Peace for the incredible hosting of the conference. Tim Rinne and Mark Welsh in particular worked very hard and did a remarkable job of arranging home hospitality and local transportation and all the other little things that one has to do for such an event. Many volunteers from Nebraska worked hard to make the conference a great success and we are most grateful to them all.

There were far too many wonderful speakers to try to name here. We plan to get copies of the videos that were taken and want to make a one-hour compilation of some of the most pertinent remarks. I hope we can have that done in the next few weeks.

We head to northwest Iowa on Monday morning to visit my sister who lives there. It will be nice to see her since our mother very recently passed away. With all the traveling of late I've not had much time to connect with family.

Friday, April 11, 2008

THRU THE BLIZZARD TO OMAHA

We arrived in Omaha at 9:00 pm last night after a hard 15-hour drive from Colorado Springs through a blinding blizzard. As we drove we saw at least 25 cars and trucks off the road in ditches and several turned completely upside down. In one instance a car passed us driving quite fast and then when it moved to get into our lane in front of us it skidded right off the road and into the snow. We are lucky to have made it alive and well. We had two cars loaded with people and our gear and we were able to stay together the whole way.

The weather forecast for Omaha is rain and some snow Friday and Saturday and I am certain that some number of our folks will have their flights cancelled as they attempt to get to Omaha today. My guess is that we will have to be making changes in the conference program as we go along.

Otherwise all is well in Omaha. More later.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

OUR MESSAGE IS BEING HEARD

We were back at the space symposium this morning at 9:00 am for an hour of bannering and leafleting. I tried my hand at passing out leaflets and had pretty good luck. It was a cool but sunny morning, with the snow-capped Pikes Peak so near in the background. All of this put me in a particularly good mood and I greeted all the conference attendees with my sunny outlook as they were moving from the hotel to the convention building. It seemed that they were startled a bit by my being so friendly and I had better luck than expected with people taking my leaflets. That is except for the Air Force officers dressed in their uniforms, only one of them (a woman) would take one. I did invite the officers to help hold a banner - none agreed to help but several did have a laugh over it.

At 3:00 pm we moved to another part of the city to vigil at the front gate of Peterson AFB which is the headquarters for the Air Force Space Command. We stayed there for an hour as the shift was changing and big gas guzzling cars by the hundreds moved on and off the base. (About 18,000 military personnel and civilian contractors work at Peterson AFB.) We held our big new banner (above) that was given to me when I recently attended the Pacific Life Community retreat in Santa Barbara, California. The banner was painted during the retreat and used just once at the protest we held at Vandenberg AFB that weekend.

In between the morning and afternoon vigils today I went with Bill Sulzman and Jan Tamas to Colorado College where Jan spoke to a large class of students taking a course on the European Union. They had been studying politics in Central Europe and were eager to hear Jan's analysis of the Czech Republic "missile defense" radar deployment controversy. He did a fine job with some small assistance from Bill and myself.

So in spite of near total media blackout of our protests here in Colorado Springs we are still reaching many people with our message. When the corporate media won't cover our protests we've got to get out on the streets where we can still be seen by the public.

In Wednesday morning we go back to the Broadmoor Hotel for yet another day of vigiling outside the space warfare confab.

Monday, April 07, 2008

STANDING VIGIL AMONG THE SPACE WARRIORS

We had two vigils in Colorado Springs today. The first held at noon on a busy downtown street. The second at 5:00 pm at the entrance of the Broadmoor Hotel where the Space Foundation launched its annual space symposium. Both vigils were organized by Citizens for Peace in Space, a co-founding affiliate of the Global Network.

The local newspaper reported this morning that 7,500 people would be attending the space foundation conference this year. The cost of putting on this event will be more than $25 million - mostly taxpayer money that is handed over to the aerospace industry to build space technology to "protect" us from our "enemies." The question remains, who will protect us from the waste, fraud, and corruption that is endemic within the military industrial complex?

This evening a community forum was held at the public library where we heard from three speakers who have come to this city to join the protests. Jan Tamas, a leader of the movement to oppose the U.S. Star Wars radar in the Czech Republic, reported that 70% of their citizens oppose the radar base. J. Narayana Rao from Nagpur, India talked about his organizing efforts to bring the space weaponization issue to the Indian peace movement and the public at large in his country. Mary Beth Sullivan, the Global Network's Outreach Coordinator, explored what an alternative sustainable technology future of windmills, solar, public railways, and more would look like instead of building weapons for control and domination of space.

We go back out to the entrance of the Broadmoor first thing in the morning. Once again we will hold signs and banners and hand out leaflets to those entering the space warfare confab.

Today Brendan O'Connor, who took a Greyhound bus from upstate New York to join us, dressed up in my old Darth Vadar costume and stood by the entrance. One man became angry at us being there and walked up to Brendan and shoved him with all his might and the mask flew off Vadar's face exposing a surprised 27-year old who handled it all very well. It was the perfect example of one of the "space warriors" thinking that these "peaceniks" had no right to be there holding our signs and banners.

The idea of replacing violence with non-violence is too much for some folks who make a good living preparing for the destruction of the world.

It is so important for us to be here in Colorado Springs to remind the space weapons industry that growing numbers of people around the world are catching onto their dangerous and expensive game and are standing against the madness.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

IRISH SPEAKER TURNED AWAY FROM U.S.

We arrived in Colorado Springs about an hour ago after a long but fun ride west from Maine. We did about 12 hours a day (with a few meals stops of course) and nights in hotels along the highway.

Last night we got a call while driving through Kansas (the Saudia Arabia of wind) from Danien Moran who was coming to the U.S. to join us in Colorado and then move on to Nebraska with us. Damien is from Ireland and was involved in the Pitstop Plowshares in 2003 at Shannon airport in Dublin to protest the U.S. military using the civilian airport as a refueling base on its way to bomb Iraq. The plowshares action symbolically hammered on a U.S. war plane and the activists were eventually acquitted before an Irish court.

In recent times Damien has been living in Poland and helping to organize protests against the proposed Bush deployment of "missile defense" interceptors in that country.

Damien told us last night that after he landed in Chicago, "As well as a a plowshares acquittal to my name I now have the privilege of being sent packing on a one-way flight from Chicago airport to Warsaw just 5 hours after I had landed. I was immediately detained and questioned by Homeland Security officers about our Pitstop Plowshares action at Shannon in February, 2003 (http://www.warontrial.com/), why I was arrested, why our group 'sabotaged' U.S. military property. I informed them about our action and acquittal with pleasure. They were none too pleased. When the gung-ho Officer Bock shouted out that deportation was the least of my problems I decided there was no point of pushing his buttons too far. I made my anti-war statement, explaining that I was en route to visit my brother in Virginia, then planned going to Colorado Springs and Nebraska to speak at anti-militarism conferences/panels and demonstrations. I've been traveling and waiting in airports non-stop for the past 30 hours so now it's time to hit the hay. I will write a more extensive report tomorrow. Unfortunately I've lost $350 dollars in flight expenses while the Global Network (http://www.space4peace.org/) Against Weapons in Space that invited me have been setback over $1,000. If anyone has spare change to donate and help with costs (will be dedicated to anti-militarist/missile defense/direct action purposes) please let me know. No Pasaran (New motto of U.S. Homeland Security dissenters)."

So far our other international speakers are entering the country without any problems. We begin protesting on Monday.