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

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Forty of us from Veterans for Peace, CodePink, and PeaceWorks lined up in front of the former Navy base in Brunswick early yesterday morning as tens of thousands of people drove from around the region to pay $20 a head to watch a military (Blue Angels) airshow that serves to recruit young people to join the war machine.

Kids filled the backseats of the cars, SUV's, and pick-up trucks that crawled through the long line of traffic. Many of the young folks, like their parents, have already learned to do the "dead stare" as they tried hard not to make eye contact with us strange creatures holding signs outside an event they were all so eager to attend. What kind of people would protest our military planes and our "hero" pilots? A few reminded us that we need this massive military might to kill the "Muslims". (Back in the 80's they'd say the "Commies". People have been well trained to always find an enemy to justify this madness.)

Some passing by in their gas-guzzling trucks told us that we were lucky to be able to protest - thanks to those who kill for our freedom. But little do they know about the challenges we daily face to maintain our presence on places like public sidewalks.

When I arrived at 8:30 am a handful of our people were already lined up on the grass holding banners. I took my sign out onto a cement island and the cops were on me like flies on shit. One of them got in my face and threatened me with arrest if I didn't move pronto. I'd stood on this spot many times before at previous Blue Angels airshows. But mostly I objected to the way he spoke to me - basically like I was a piece of nothing. I told him that and then I moved onto the sidewalk. The cops followed me and told me I had to stand on the grass, the sidewalk was off-limits. I told them that I'd stood on this public sidewalk at previous events, in fact twice MB and I had spent the entire night vigiling on this very sidewalk, and had no intention of moving.

The police threatened me we arrest and I told them while I had not come looking for trouble, I didn't think their arrest would hold up in court. I urged them though to do what they had to do. They called over two more cops, one with the Aids-prevention surgical gloves on, and I knew they were making their play to frighten me into submission. I stood my ground. Then, likely trying to save face, they suggested if I kept moving along the sidewalk I could stay. Not completely satisfied with that compromise I agreed wanting to end the nightmare.

I was later told that one of our guys said to the hard-nosed cop who first went at me, "Good compromise" and he replied to them, "We'll see if he's still moving in an hour."

At the end of the hour I was still moving, at the end of two I was moving, after three hours I was slowly moving up and down the sidewalk and during the last hour when we held a rally I stood mostly still on the sidewalk, with my sign behind my back so cars could see it as I listened to the speakers.

The screaming war planes don't protect my right to protest. Each time I defend my right to stand on a public sidewalk I find that the militarists are no where to be found - in fact if they could have their way most of them would cheer the police hauling me off to jail.


Blogger by said...

Thank you to our brave men and women on the pavement. They marched so that you could.

Later as the astonishingly loud planes roared overhead, a young man in a coffeeshop and I caught each other's eye as we winced. "Are you scared yet?" popped out of my mouth. "Yeah, really," he said, seeming to agree that scaring the general populace was yet another purpose of all that wasted fuel.

8/28/11, 2:40 PM  

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