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.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

STANDING OUTSIDE OF BATH IRON WORKS

The current view of the coastline on Jeju Island where Navy base is being built. These rocks are to be covered in cement for piers to dock warships like the Aegis destroyer.

The Navy's proposed vision of the base on Jeju Island where Aegis destroyers will be ported


There was a huge throng of people lined up outside of Bath Iron Works (BIW) by 8:30 am this morning when our protest of the latest "christening" of another Aegis destroyer began. By the time we had our closing circle at 10:00 am most of the people had entered the shipyard. It was by far the largest crowd I'd ever seen during my eight years of protesting these events since moving to Maine.

It was obvious to us that the Osama bin Laden killing had swelled the nationalistic pride and driven large numbers of people to what normally has become another ho-hum launch ceremony at BIW. Added to the "excitement" this time around was the fact that the Navy was naming this ship after a Navy SEAL who had been killed in Afghanistan - the USS Michael Murphy.

Normally when we hold these events the ever polite Maine citizenry don't pay much attention to us but today it was different. Again, likely due to that spurt of nationalism running through their veins, many more people than usual gave us the finger, thumbs down, and quite some number felt the need to tell us we really had no right to hold our protest. We got some of the occasional lectures about "these ships protect your right to stand there." In fact, I've always felt that left up to folks with that opinion we'd be sent packing in a moments notice. Several of those holding that view went up to the police, who were watching over the scene from the other side of the street, and urged them to run us off our spot on the sidewalk across from BIW. Indeed, it is those who insist on holding protests under such unfriendly conditions who keep alive our right to do so.

We set up our sound system and for about an hour during the busiest time had activists in our group make statements to the public waiting to enter BIW. Two former Navy men, one of them a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, spoke from our side of the street about why they opposed the launch of another warship . Several social workers reminded the public about growing cutbacks in human needs programs, education, and the like while the price tag of these ships has swelled to $1 billion each.

I read the statement we received last night via email from Kang Dong-Kyun, Mayor of the Gangjeong village on Jeju Island and Go Gwon-Il, Chairman of the Gangjeong villagers’ Committee against the Jeju naval base. They wrote:

The Aegis Destroyer is a system with a bigger concept of aggression than that of defense.

We in the Gangjeong village express strong solidarity to your organizations’ activities, saying that we are seriously concerned about the development and deployment of the weapon system that provokes war and we oppose the current South Korean big corporation's growth toward military-industrial complex.

We urgently appeal to the United States, who has the 1st military and economic power in the world, to immediately stop provoking wars in the various regions of the world and invading the powerless countries.

The media was all over the BIW event and drove past us several times during our 90-minute peace vigil but none of them stopped to film or interview us. It was like we were carriers of a dreaded disease that must be avoided at all costs. News people understand the political climate at work during recent days. They must only cover the cheering crowds and any deviation from the patriotic script is not to be allowed. Likely no one had to tell the media crews this, self censorship long ago has taken hold of the American "free media".

I would venture a guess, with full confidence, that many of the speakers inside the "christening" event today spoke about the role of the Aegis destroyer as one of "defending" the nation and promoting freedom around the world - protecting our way of life. But the truth is far from that tale. These warships are part of the offensive U.S. military empire whose job is to protect the interests of the corporations as they control and dominate the process of resource extraction around the world. The only "freedom" the Pentagon is protecting is the corporation's freedom to rob, rape, and pillage lands for their oil and other declining natural resources.

In order to carry out this aggressive mission more ports of call are needed to dock ships like the new USS Michael Murphy. Thus pristine environmental wonders like Jeju Island must be turned into outposts of the empire. Usually places like Jeju Island are unknown to the American people who celebrate our "exceptionalism" but today, just for a short time, we brought the voices of the people of Jeju Island, Okinawa, Diego Garcia, Greenland, Guam, and the Marshall Islands to the people who came to cheer one more manifestation of America's out-of-control national ego.


It was good to stand outside of BIW today.


See below as the people of Gangjeong village try to get our attention as they fight to save their way of life - their fishing, their farming, their sea diving - all now under attack by the need to port warships in their community.

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