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: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'll be taking an 'unpaid leave of absence' from my job at the Global Network from December 15-March 15, 2020 in order to help my friend Lisa Savage on her campaign for the US Senate in Maine. She's running as a Maine Green Independent Party member and needs to gather 2,000 petition signatures of registered Greens during that period. I'll be back to GN after March 15.

Monday, October 19, 2009

CIRCLING FOR PEACE

Police detained four family members to keep widowed woman from speaking at peace rally
Haeng Woo Lee dances with the youngest person on our trip to the DMZ. Mr. Lee founded the National Association of Korean-Americans and lives in New Jersey. He was largely responsible for ensuring the success of the Global Network's annual space organizing conference in South Korea last spring


We returned to Seoul yesterday after a 24-hour trip north to the DMZ where we saw one of the old North Korean tunnels that they dug underneath the rock into South Korea during the period after the Korean War. During the Korean War the US bombed virtually every house and building in North Korea and by the end of the war the North Koreans were living underground during the day and only came out at night. So they had created a vast web of tunnels inside their own country and beyond.

The weather worn brown mountains on both sides of the DMZ are breath taking and it is just sad to see the South Korean government making a virtual tourist industry out of the separation line between the two sides.

Upon returning, after lunch, we attended a spiritual ceremony at the Yongsan neighborhood in the cold and wind. Several religious leaders spoke about the power of greed and corruption that is the driving force behind the attempts to take an entire city neighborhood from the people who have lived there for years. As usual the police were out in huge numbers.

Following that event we moved to the city hall lawn and listened to a unique Korean-rasta reggae band perform music along these same political themes. As we arrived we saw about 75 police, with large black shields, set up along the side of the busy downtown street and a couple dozen more cops standing in a circle. It was then that we realized that four members of one of the Yongsan families, related to one of the five men killed by police last January, were completely surrounded by the police.

It took awhile but we found out that the four were on the way to our peace rally in front of city hall and one of the widows was going to speak. The police did not want her to address the crowd, so they accused the four inside the circle of having stolen a police radio. Of course this was utter nonsense but for the next two hours they kept tight control of the circle and refused to let the four people join the rally.

During the last hour many of us from the World March (mostly the foreigners) formed a circle around the police circle to show solidarity with the four being detained by the cops. I was told by several Koreans that they had never seen this tactic ever before utilized by the police. It was one more bit of evidence, they said, of the growing right-wing crackdown by the hated 2MB government.

Only as the peace rally was concluding did the police suddenly open their circle and let the four family members go. The police ran like scared rabbits for their buses and the widow, with her arm in a sling, tried to board the bus seeking an apology from the police for their actions. They forced her to the ground, in the street, next to the police bus and a huge crowd of people formed yelling at the police. The emotion was running very high. I stood in the middle of the scene as did the other foreigners, the police leaving us alone for obvious reasons.

The five dead men from Yongsan have not been buried yet as the family is still waiting for the government to acknowledge responsibility for their killing by the police and the families are demanding an official apology and compensation.

I had dinner last evening with members of Korean Veterans for Peace, including the retired general who founded their organization. I had met them when I was last here in August and they had promised to take me to dinner when I returned on this trip.

Two national progressive newspapers covered one of my talks the other night and both stories, with color photo, came out on Monday. You can see them here and here. You can practice your Korean.

Today I have a day off before preparing to head to Kunsan and Jeju Island for my final days in Korea.

JUST IN:
You can watch a documentary (with English subtitles) on the Yongsan situation here

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