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, September 06, 2008

THEY DID NOT FLY

The Blue Angels did not fly today. The sky was too foggy and cloudy. They will try again tomorrow. Thousands of disappointed spectators had made the trip to the Brunswick Naval Air Station for nothing.

Our protest, of just over 60 people, walked the two miles from downtown Brunswick out to the front gate of the Navy base. We stood vigil there for some time as the cars rolled into the base. Then we held a rally with speakers and music. It was a wonderful event and everyone felt good about bearing witness to the captive audience that we had.

We got a few fingers and thumps down and shouts but also got many positive honks from passing cars and waves.

Best of all my sister Joan participated in her first ever protest. It was fun to have her along.

Once again Maine Veterans for Peace comes through.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

HOME AND READY FOR HELLS ANGELS


I got home last night after the long flight back to Boston via Atlanta. From Boston I took the bus to Portland - just making the bus with 3 minutes to spare. Luckily my plane was 12 minutes early from Atlanta. If I'd missed the 7:30 pm bus I'd not have gotten home until 1:00 am.

While at the Atlanta airport I got a good lunch of southern cooking - collard greens, yams, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and chicken. I miss that southern cooking.

I listened to Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican convention on the radio on the way home from Portland. She again told us she was a hockey mom - what is the difference between a hockey mom and a pit-bull she asked? A hockey mom wears lipstick she said. Isn't it nice to know that Palin will help restore respect for America in the eyes of the world?

This morning I tape one of my public access TV shows and my guest will be Herb Hoffman, the Independent Senate candidate who is going to run a write-in campaign after the Dems successfully kept him off the ballot.

My sister arrives on Friday from Iowa for a visit and I told her she will have to join our Maine Veterans for Peace protest on Saturday in Brunswick of the Navy Hells Angels (of excuse me, Blue Angels) airshow that will be held this weekend at the Brunswick Naval Air Station. It looks like the weather forecast is for rain but we will do the protest no matter the weather.

The Hells Angels airshow is without any doubt a recruiting gimmick to help bring kids into the military. They burn 8,000 gallons of fuel a day when they "perform" with their F-18 Hornets which cost taxpayers $57 million each. We are told to conserve fuel these days but then these greenhouse gas polluting planes scream over our heads. What is a good environmentalist supposed to think?

Speaking of recruiting, I just heard that Sears was coming out with a new line of kids clothing - military uniforms to help usher in our militarized culture of fascism. Pretty soon parents will be lining up at the store to buy these uniforms to get their kids an early start on their future careers. After all this is what the Pentagon says our future will be - security export - endless war. Practically the only jobs for working class kids will be flipping burgers or join the military. Who says we don't have a draft today?

What a country!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

AMERICA MEET YOUR NEW LEADER

America, please meet John McCain's pick for Vice-President of the U.S.

Sarah Palin is destined to become the new, modern version, of the Statue of Liberty!

Alaska's Governor Palin is a gun wielding, free market, freedom-loving all-American gal. Women around the world will be thrilled to know that they too can become a leader of their nation as they watch Gov. Palin ascend the mighty steps to the White House.

The world rejoices that under the McCain-Palin team America's might and good name will once again be restored.

America is back! Back to lead the world to liberty and justice for all.

God bless America and god bless Gov. Sarah Palin - our next Vice-President of the United States of America.

Monday, September 01, 2008

HOT DAY IN ST. PAUL

It was a wonderful protest in the heat today as well over 10,000 (I'd guess up to 20,000) people marched from the state capitol to the downtown convention center where the Republican National Convention (RNC) is being held. The march, led by a delegation of people of color and then Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), was warmly cheered by thousands of people who stood along the parade route. I saw no problems during the march that lasted a couple of hours. Organizers had predicted 50,000 and of course the media is now saying they failed. Another example why it's never a good idea to make crowd predictions before an event.

Virtually all one can find on the news though is the few isolated incidents of anarchists who broke some windows, turned over some trash cans, blocked some highways, and in a few cases attacked police and RNC delegates. The media is reporting that about 100 of these folks were arrested but they are getting virtually all of the media. Amy Goodman has been arrested as well.

There were huge numbers of young people in the march and they were creative and played a vital role in making the march a great event. But once again we see the window smashing antics played up by the media in order to discredit the overall message. As I searched the Internet for a photo of the very long line of march none were to be found. Virtually every photo, like the one above, were of police confrontations with the anarchists. God knows how many of them are government agents.

Before the march began I ran into old friend Marv Davidov who is 77 years old and has been an activist for 50 years. Marv, one of the most well known radicals in Minnesota, and I first met in the early 1980's when we both served on the national coordinating committee of Mobilization for Survival. Marv has been on kidney dialysis for the last couple of years but still joined the march today. He is a man full of wonderful stories from many years of organizing. He told a reporter today, "Progressive people like to kill their leaders and I've been killed at least six times during my career."

I marched with the large Veterans for Peace contingent, which was right behind the IVAW. It was stirring to see both groups chanting together, "They're our brothers, they're our sisters. We support all war resisters."

As we were another time chanting "This is what democracy looks like" a reporter on the sidewalk listening to us felt she must correct us as we passed her by - "This is not a democracy, it's a constitutional republic," she said with a sneer.

I had a nice connection with friend Ray McGovern who used to work for the CIA. He's come to Maine twice for events I organized and I was glad to see him out on the streets. He's been getting treatment for cancer and was very happy to be in the march.

The best chant of the day came after the march was over. I was leaning up against a big shade tree back at the capitol watching people make their way back from the parade. One small group of grey hairs came by chanting: "What do we want? Beer! When do we want it? Now!"

My sentiments exactly.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

SPACE FOR DEMOCRACY DECLINES

When I arrived yesterday in St. Paul, Minnesota I checked my email to read stories about local police raids on homes of protest organizers. The cops came armed with warrants to search for all kinds of illegal stuff, none of which they found. They cuffed folks and put some in jail for the next week, taking them completely out of the loop for the upcoming protests here at the Republican National Convention. This is supposed to be a "liberal" state but the opening round indicates that when it comes to "Homeland Security" anything goes. Watch this video footage for one of the raids.

This morning the local newspaper carried a story about the raids and explanations by the local authorities that they don't want a possible "Battle in Seattle" to hurt the local business communities chance to "showcase" Minneapolis-St. Paul (twin cities) to the world. So business interests come first and civil liberties second - the local courts can sort out the legal details in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Right now there is money to be made.

I joined the Veterans for Peace march today from the state capitol that attempted to go near the convention center where the RNC will be meeting. We were not allowed to get very close and at one intersection, about one-quarter of the 400-500 people in the march turned left and headed toward the barricades. I followed this group and watched as about a dozen or so folks went under a fence into the waiting arms of riot squad police. Everyone seemed to handle themselves very nicely. Tons of media, not having much else to do today, swarmed the action at the fences and seemed particularly interested in one white-haired woman who they learned was 78 years old.

Back at the capitol, before the march began, five military helicopters circled overhead a few times as if warning us to be good children or else. Sitting inside the open doorway of each chopper were 5-6 troops in green fatigues seemingly ready to ponce on us if need be. Just another warning to us and the community that the big boys were going to be firmly in charge.

As I was watching the folks crawl under the fence near the convention center I was standing right next to a young conservative couple who were talking with one of the Veterans for Peace guys. The peace vet was explaining why we were there and the conservative, who said he was a vet too, replied that he wanted to see the spaces allowed for protest "get smaller and smaller."

Sadly the right-wing guys wish is coming true. The space for legal protest is diminishing and in fact people are now being arrested in these house raids under the charge of "conspiracy to commit riot" according to the local media. The U.S. foreign policy of "preemptive or preventive strike" is now being applied domestically in the form of "preemptive or preventive arrest" for even planning to hold a peaceful protest.

In my view that is fascism and there is no doubt about it.

Tomorrow an even bigger protest is planned. I'll be there and will let you know how it goes.

Out by the airport there is a big billboard that has been rented by John Stewart's "The Daily Show". I saw it last night, my hosts drove us out to look at it after we had dinner at a local Thai joint. The billboard reads, "Welcome, Rich White Oligarchs".

That says it all.