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

Thursday, April 01, 2010

WALK OVER FOR ME BUT MEMORIES REMAIN

This is a photo from last Friday when we walked from Lewiston to Brunswick and had lunch at Graziano's Italian restaurant in Lisbon.

I am home and my legs are sore. I almost fell asleep driving back from Kennebunk. It was sad to say good-bye to my fellow walkers who are continuing on to New York City for the big May 2 international anti-nuclear peace rally. I'll see them there and have been invited to re-join them on April 6 in Andover, Mass. to speak about space issues at their evening program and will be happy to see them all again.

We had a great send-off lunch today in Kennebunk as we completed the Maine portion of the Walk for a Nuclear-Free Future. Our friend Hana Maris, who lives there, hosted us along with a few other peace folks. A local Thai restaurant donated the lunch for us and we had a birthday cake with a peace sign on it to celebrate Maggie Finch's 89th birthday later this month.

As we were walking southward this morning on U.S. Highway 1 I was thinking of the walks I organized in Florida years ago that went from Cape Canaveral up to the Kings Bay nuclear submarine base just over the Florida-Georgia line. We walked that route in both direction on two different occasions and each time we followed U.S. Hwy 1 - so I was thinking of that long stretch of road and what it has meant to me over the years.

Another thing I was thinking about today as we walked that last 9.8 miles to Kennebunk was the different kind of facial and hand signals people buzzing by in cars gave to me as I was holding my sign that read "Human Needs Not Endless War". Thousands of people got to read my sign as I walked thru Maine. Some would give me a thumbs up, others thumbs down. Some the middle "missile launcher" finger, others a dismissive wave of their hand. Some, with their hands on the car steering wheel would just lift their hand a bit in a mini-wave and others would give a full wave of the hand. Most, as you can imagine, would just stare blindly ahead not wanting to give any clue that they had even noticed our bright crew of peace folks walking down the highway.

Obama came to Portland, Maine today and it appears that several thousand folks turned out to cheer him after the corporate health insurance bill became law. Two of the youngest people on our walk stood in line the other day in the rain to get tickets. So a couple of the walkers were going to go hear his speech today after we finished. They wanted to give him information about the purpose of the walk. While standing in line they met our Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and talked to her about our Bring Our War $$ Home campaign. Pingree told them she had heard of it.

I heard just a couple minutes of Obama's speech on the car radio on my way home. He was saying that it is a "middle of the road" bill, not socialism, and spelled out some of the things in the bill. I don't know why he chose to come to Maine - we are not a swing state. It will be interesting to see what else he talked about in his speech.

This morning we walked from Saco over the river to the working class (former mill town) called Biddeford. There it had been arranged by our host Tom Kircher that we would meet with the mayor of Biddeford Joanne Twomey who is a renegade Democrat. She served in the Maine House of Representatives for eight years and refused to be a party follower. Today she greeted us and said she had no interest in seeing Obama. Twomey told us she was furious about the corporate health care bill (she has no health care even though she is mayor) and fears getting cancer, which killed her husband. She said she really appreciated Tom recently bringing the war $$ home message to their local school board meeting and was blown-away by what their city taxpayers had paid toward the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ($67.1 million) since 2001. She said not to expect much from our two Maine members of Congress (Pingree and Mike Michaud) when it comes to leadership on this issue. Sadly I know she is right.

I told the mayor that we need people like her, local elected officials, to speak out more and make the connections between war spending and cut backs in jobs and local services.

For me the walk was a great opportunity to bring our message about the war $$ home campaign to lots of new people in communities we rarely work with across the state. So in the end the sore legs and mindless tiredness I feel was all worth it. The new friendships and working with old friends, who served as our local hosts during the journey, was a real gift.

I often tell people that we need to get outside our normal organizing boxes and find ways to reach out to new folks. This walk proved to be just such a vehicle.

1 Comments:

Blogger Mary Ellen Marucci said...

Hi Bruce,

Did you have a blister bus?

I wish I could have been there, but am back in school, now that I'm retired, learning finally how to use GIS.



I remember the NE Walk for nuclear disarmament back in the mid 80's. It was hard work and fun. The children, who rode the blister bus more than not, got to sample the local swimming holes. The Hog Farm was with us, really good food and company, and Gerry came to visit when we were camped near Boston. My daughter got to hear the Grateful Dead for the first time. We camped out mostly in curches or campgrounds, and in NH at a monastary. I believe the same Buddhist group accompanied us that was on the recent peace walk. I carried a gieger counter for most of the walk to protect us from being dumped on.

We went from Portsmouth NH (the shipyard), through towns tied to the military/industrial complex, past Seabrook, down the Ct river by canoe past Vermont Yankee. I missed a few days to return to work and rejoined near Waterford. I don't remember if we went past the Millstones, but we encamped at a park near Waterford and our last three days at the Voluntown peace center. I think we were over 100 and possibly more, but less than 30planned to be part of any civil disobedience on the last day. We had three targets. One was the Millstones, the second the Navy sub base, and the third was EB. We broke up into small groups and planned our actions in secret. Maybe because the athorities could not find out what our actions would be, most of us were preemptively arrested the day before any actions were planned. It happened at the submarine museum as a few crossed the line and sat on the hull outside the museum stringing a banner.

The mass arrests against the rest were based lateer on their writing with chalk on sidewalks. It would have been funny had not several under 21 who had not planned on being arrested ended up with criminal records. They did not release them until the following day well after court opened. Those that did not get caught in the sweepup, including my daughter and myself decided our action would be to serve free coffee to the workers as they went to work at 6 AM and to clean up the street from litter before the court opened. We then picked up the trash strewn up and down the street stretching the full length of the shipyard and beyond. Tiny plastic baggies, some needles, and lots of lottery tickets, snack kind of trash, bottles and cans, and small bottles of spirits. I managed to meet some residents along the way and gave them radiation badges and learned that the people who had received compensation in the asbestos settlement with EB, had to pay almost all of it back to EB for health care received under the company's health plans. A few radiation badges were mailed back to me, but the results came back as overexposed and therefore unreadable.

The fire Dept and the Mayor came out as we were finishing up our cleanup to acknowledge us, while the rest were still being held in jail waiting to be arraigned.

I still remember John Doe who refused to cooperate and fasted in protest in the Montville jail. We had dicussed it before hand and I was his support. The walk organizers had not planned on providing legal counsel as each action group was to decide how they wanted to handle it.
We did manage to have some fun in spite of the situation. During the walk the Mayor of San Francisco ( not his real title or name) had us singing songs as we walked, and on a signal from him during his trial for writing with chalk we burst out in song to support him. the Judge was totally floored.

The years are taking their toll, but if a summer walk were to be planned I would definately be there.

Thank you for your continued work agains weapons in Space.

Peace,
Mary Ellen Marucci

4/2/10, 4:18 AM  

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