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'm back to work for the Global Network. Will continue to help Lisa Savage for US Senate campaign on my free time. Trying to self-isolate as much as possible. Best wishes and good luck to you all.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

FINAL LEGS



We finished the peace walk today in Portland by participating in the annual Veterans Day parade. Veterans for Peace (VFP) was pluncked down near the end of the parade between the girl scouts and a bunch of church people dressed as clowns.

There was some drama surrounding the parade that is organized by the right-wing American Legion each year. They have a rule that you can only have one banner and it can only have your name on it. In 2006 the American Legion tried to kick us out of the parade but the Portland City Council determined that they could not do so since the city pays for the police to close the streets. The city would have been libel for a lawsuit because of discrimination against veterans (who just had a different political opinion than the legion organizers) so we were allowed to participate.

Last year we decided to carry a banner that said U.S. out of Afghanistan and the American Legion was furious with us for pulling "shenanigans". This year we never got the application form in the mail and when our president Dud Hendrick called to enquire about our status the parade organizer told him to "fuck off" and hung up the phone.

Just yesterday the Portland Phoenix (weekly entertainment and arts newspaper) called Dud to find out if it was true that we had been kicked out of the parade. The Phoenix then called the Legion president and under press scrutiny he denied that we had been bounced. Just "no shenanigans," he said. So we were back in the parade.

We decided to carry our banner from the peace walk and line up like we did each day as we walked across the state - with the Buddhists from Nipponzan Myohoji right behind the banner.

Just as years past we had one of the largest, if not the largest, delegations of veterans in the parade. The response from the thin crowd lining the cold and windy street was quite good and we had volunteers hand out the last of our literature that we passed out all along the walk route explaining our purpose for walking. It was a good organizing opportunity.

After the parade finished we skipped the boring speeches on the steps of city hall (even though friends Gary Higginbottom & Karen Wainberg pulled some shenanigans and held the Bring Our War $$ Home banner during the ceremony right in the faces of the legion). Instead we took a sharp right onto a side street where we gathered for our final circle to conclude the walk. The VFP circle had at least 60 people in it and it felt good for others who had not yet had a chance to walk to have a taste of the experience. By this time many of us were noticeably limping and I think several were a bit melancholy to see this close knit walking community come to an end.

We were all invited over to the Space Gallery (a local art venue) to see the kick-off of an art show by Kenny Cole called "Hellfire Missile". CodePink Maine and artists from all over the state had created an event called Draw-a-thon II which invited the public to sit with an artist and collaborate on images of how they would rather see our war $$ spent here at home. One little boy told artist Brain Reeves that we should build a Sponge Bob statue so Brian drew Sponge Bob holding peace signs with his extended arms while mounted on a stone pedestal.

We will miss our Buddhist friends who were essential to the success of this peace walk. They are planning a walk through Massachusetts in February and I've told them I will be there for the two-week event. In the meantime I have to rest by swollen and very sore feet.

As I said last night at the pot luck supper in Portland, extraordinary times like these call for extraordinary efforts like this peace walk. We can't expect email organizing to get us out from behind the eight-ball that now sits in front of us.

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