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....

My Photo
Name:
Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Saturday, October 29, 2011

GLOBAL NETWORK 20TH ANNIVERSARY REQUEST FOR HELP

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds you doing well. I have just returned from Washington DC where I was part of a trial of those arrested at the White House on March 19 opposing the endless and growing string of U.S. wars. On that day 113 people (including many veterans) were arrested but only 18 of us went to trial. We were found guilty by the judge but he chose to impose only a minor fine, which was a victory of sorts.

I am writing to ask for your help. As you may know the Global Network will be 20 years old in 2012. We’ve been asked by the leaders of the Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea to hold our annual space organizing conference there next year. Our Board of Directors/Advisers has agreed and we will travel to the village on February 24-26 for what will be an extraordinary event.

The mayor of Gangjeong village is now in jail for standing on top of a crane. Several others, including a handful of Catholic priests, have recently been arrested for blocking cement trucks from entering the Navy base construction zone where they would pour concrete over the rocky coastline to build the piers. The ships to be ported at this proposed base will primarily be U.S. Navy Aegis destroyers, outfitted with so-called “missile defense” systems, that are being used by the U.S. to surround China’s coast in a provocative move to give the U.S. first-strike capability.

It is crucial that the Global Network go to Gangjeong to show support for the small village (population about 1,900) that has been non-violently resisting this base for the past few years. The problem, as you can imagine, is that it is not cheap to fly to South Korea and it is my job to raise funds so we can help get some of our key leadership from India, Sweden, England, U.S., Australia, Japan, and other places to this event.

I am thus writing to ask you to consider making a special donation to the Global Network for our travel fund for our 20th anniversary conference – probably one of the most important space organizing events we’ll ever hold.

Little did the villagers of Gangjeong on Jeju Island ever realize that their fight to save their fishing and farming way of life, they’ve been in this village over 400 years, would have such global strategic implications. As you know the Global Network has been doing everything we can for the past two years to build international support for the village. We want to honor their invitation by bringing a strong and diverse delegation to this important conference. It will be a great opportunity for us to show that peace groups all over the world support the noble efforts of the Gangjeong village.

Please send your tax-deductible donation for our special travel fund either by using our regular mailing address (see just below) or by using the secure Donate Now button on our web site home page.

Let me know if you have any questions about this request or if you might be interested in traveling to Jeju Island with us for the conference.

I thank you in advance for your support and promise we will send you a full report about the conference. Best wishes.

In peace,

Bruce K. Gagnon
Coordinator
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.
~Henry David Thoreau

Friday, October 28, 2011

TURNING DECAY TO NEW LIFE

At the White House fence on March 19Align Center
The judge went easy on us when he sentenced our group of 18 anti-war protesters to a $150 fine with no community service this morning inside the Washington DC courtroom. It was clear during the many statements made to the judge during the sentencing that he was indeed impacted by the testimony of the group during the trial.

He kept the trial strictly along traditional lines by denying our right to call witnesses who could testify to U.S. war crimes that violated international law. But during the trial he did allow people to slip these important topics into their remarks during opening and closing statements.

I had my chance to make a statement at the time I was sentenced by the judge. I said the following:

I grew up in a military family and was a Young Republican for Nixon in 1968, as Vice-President of the Okaloosa County Florida Young Republican Club. When I was a kid I wanted to be an FBI agent because I wanted to fight against organized crime.

In 1971 I tried to join the Air Force because I hoped to be a career man like my dad. But I flunked my induction physical and had to get a waiver to get into the military when most people were trying to get waivers to stay out. It was during this time, while in the Air Force, that I became a peace activist.

Reading the Pentagon Papers, which were published during this period, finished off any remaining illusions I had about American exceptionalism or democracy. I learned how our government lied in order to justify the war in Vietnam and this process has been repeated over and over again to justify endless wars.

I went to the White House on March 19 to fight against and expose the organized criminal syndicate that controls our country – what we call the military industrial complex.

(My use of the word “fight” during this statement was intentional, as the word became a major issue during the trial. The prosecution maintained that the use of the word while chanting, “They say get back, we say fight back” just before our arrest at the White House indicated that we were essentially a rowdy mob.)

I believe that our interference with pedestrian traffic outside the White House was a small matter when we see how these wars kill legions of innocent people and have bankrupted our nation and destroyed social progress. Just in the short time I witnessed you dealing with other criminal cases here in your courtroom it is clear that your job will become harder as more people will be forced into criminal behavior because of the economic collapse.

The real harm has also been to the thousands of GI’s who today suffer from physical and emotional problems due to their participation in these wars. There has been an epidemic of suicides among these troops – some are even killing themselves before they are sent to Iraq or Afghanistan just because they feared what would happen to them as they witnessed their brothers and sisters come back messed up from war.

I live in an intentional community in Bath, Maine where I work full-time for peace and justice and try to prevent the arms race from moving into space.

I don’t believe I did anything wrong on March 19. The wrong people are being punished by the judicial system.

There was an older black woman sitting in the courtroom amongst our supporters during today’s sentencing process. She was waiting for her son to be sentenced – he had been brought into the courtroom in orange jail garb with chains connected to his feet and hands before our case was called. During our sentencing statements I saw her paying close attention and at times crying so after we were finished, right before the judge began to pass judgment on her son, I went up to her and wished her good luck. She looked deeply into my eyes and said, “I am so proud of you people.”

It is not only the people in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Libya-Yemen-Somalia who are being destroyed at the hands of U.S. militarism. The poor in our own country are left without jobs and then have to turn to selling drugs or their own bodies on the streets in order to make a buck so they can survive. They are then locked into the jails of the Prison Industrial Complex. The judge is just one more cog in this evil machine.

For several days this week we interrupted the judge’s mundane job of sending legions of poor people from the nation’s capital to these cells of desperation. For a short time we challenged him, his clerk, the U.S. Marshall, the court stenographer, the two Park Police who testified against us, and the two government prosecutors to think outside their normal boxes. But the most important heart we reached during this trial was the black mother who feels alone in our heartless society as she sees her beloved child suffer inside this demented and broken system.

After my good-byes to our group I immediately headed for Union Station and was lucky to just catch the noon train back to Boston. I expect to get home by midnight. I’d like to spend the weekend walking in the woods and working in the yard cleaning up the now depleted garden and raking the falling leaves. From these leaves we will make compost in our annual ritual of turning decay and death to new life – in the form of a robust and enriched soil to grow our food in the next year.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

LONG WAY FROM HOME



I've been gone from home for two weeks....I am homesick....this song is for me.

THE CORPORATE WAR HOGS

GUILTY AS CHARGED

Our group of 18 were found guilty by a DC Superior Court judge today after a long three-day trial. We have to wait until Friday to get our sentence from the judge so my trip home has now twice been delayed. The government is seeking the maximum penalty which is $1,000 fine and 40 hours of community service. We shall see what the judge says. Our side put on a good case but I've come to believe that you can't get any real justice from this corporate dominated legal system that rules us.

The news from Oakland, California today is that the mayor has flip-flopped and decided that Occupy Oakland can return to their camp site. She said they could only go onto a concrete area, not the grass, and had the cops put up a fence between the two spots. A group of Marines, in solidarity with the young former Marine Scott Olsen who is in the hospital facing surgery after being shot in the head by Oakland police, came to the encampment and took down the fence and the occupiers retook the whole space

There is a movement in Oakland to gather signatures to force a recall election of the mayor. She's a "liberal" and I read today that her attorney adviser was threatening to quit his job saying that she had not listened to his opposition to unleashing the gendarmes on the peaceful protest movement.

The photo above is the one I referred to yesterday that was in the Washington Post. (Click on it for a better view.) With all the violence unleashed by those Oakland cops on innocent occupiers the use of this photo clearly indicates to me the existence of a public relations campaign being undertaken to paint the cops as the white hats and the Occupy movement as the black hats. I strongly believe that this PR campaign is being directed by the highest levels of the U.S. government.

This Kent State-like attack in Oakland is going to strengthen the Occupy movement. Add the new study published today saying that the income disparity gap in America is wider than anytime since right before the Great Depression and one can only come to one conclusion - the Occupy movement is absolutely right about its claim that the oligarchy owns and runs the country. We are the 99%.

The rich are guilty as charged of unrestrained greed, corruption, arrogance, thievery, warmongering, and manipulation of our democracy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LATEST NEWS ON OAKLAND

GRABBING IRAQ'S OIL BY HOOK OR BY CROOK

VETS FOR PEACE LEADER TAKES ON "SUPER COMMITTEE"



Leah Bolger of Oregon is the Vice President of Veterans for Peace, is occupying Freedom Plaza in Washington DC, and risked jail on Wednesday, with another case pending against her, to speak up in the Super Congress (Deficit Committee) hearing, in which she was arrested. She has been released.

Bolger comments: "I had to speak up. The witness, Douglas Elmendorf, was hiding the fact that military spending has increased dramatically in real terms and as a percentage of discretionary spending. He was focused on percentage of GDP, as if war spending should increase whenever it can, not whenever it has to. The simple deficit solution of taxing the rich and curtailing the militarism is favored by the majority of the public. The 99% had no other voice in that room to compete with those of the corporate lobbyists."

Please make note of the elected officials on the committee laughing at Leah (a former U.S. military officer) as she makes her statement. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) on the left side of the screen is the third leading Democrat in the House of Representatives. This is the kind of arrogance of power we are now experiencing from both parties.

COPS ATTACK IN OAKLAND








In the Washington Post today was a photo of an Oakland cop petting a kitten. The caption stated that police had removed occupiers from their Oakland encampment and they "had left" the cat behind.

The intent of the photo and caption was to show the cops as kind and thoughtful after they had just beaten protesters. This is the way propaganda is done.

16 police agencies used tear gas, concussion bombs, direct sound weapons, and rubber bullets to attack the campers.

It is obvious that a decision has been made nationally to begin a process of taking down the occupy sites that have spread to most states. The goal of the oligarchy will be to turn public opinion against the occupy movement by having the police use violence which will inevitably draw some forms of response thus giving further justification for even more harsh treatment by the cops.

Fortunately some communities in the U.S. will resist the temptation to join this militaristic orgy unleashed by the city of Oakland. Local organizing campaigns in support of Occupy should be stepped up now in response to this assault mentality before it can take hold of the whole nation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

INSIDE DC COURTROOM



Our trial inside DC Superior Court began at 9:30 am this morning. Nineteen of us are on trial for our March 19 anti-war protest outside the White House.

The judge ruled against our motions to dismiss and to have three witnesses appear on our behalf to testify about U.S. government violations of international law.

The ruling against the international law witnesses was made despite a beautiful statement by one of our defendants Richard Duffree who said, "We are entitled to present our grievances to the government somewhere." The point being where else can the people go to register their complaints about presidential war making when they have been repeatedly ignored at every level of government?

The judge did acknowledge that we had few "effective" alternatives available to us but stated that we had alternative "legal" avenues available to us.

There is a huge divide, an enormous wall, standing between the reality of our time and the ability to get an honest and fair hearing before the U.S. legal system which appears to exist primarily to protect our present corporate dominated oligarchy.

This trial is likely to take 2-3 days before it is concluded. I will try to keep posting as we go along.

Monday, October 24, 2011

THE STREETS OF WASHINGTON


I was up early this morning to join the weekly Catholic Worker community vigil at one of the entrances to the Pentagon. About a dozen of us stood in the cold morning at 7:00 am for an hour as more than 8,000 military and civilian personnel filed by us into this one heavily guarded entry way.

I held a sign that read No Weapons in Space and others held signs with biblical quotes or words from Martin Luther King Jr. opposing killing and war.

On the way back into downtown DC we passed a museum that was advertising their current show: The State of Deception, The Power of Nazi Propaganda. Quite ironic I thought having just come from the Pentagon that is the world's leading promoter of violence while selling itself as the bastion of freedom and democracy.

After a quick hot cup of tea and something to eat I joined the Freedom Plaza marchers as they passed the White House and stopped at the entrance to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building. This headquarters for corporate lobbying has huge flags hanging from their facade that read Jobs and the Free Enterprise system. The Chamber HQ faces the White House, with Lafayette Park sitting between them, as a clear reminder that the business of America is business.

We tied a huge banner (Chamber of Horrors) across the entry way and chanted and held signs for the next hour. Several of the 60 attending the protest spoke on a megaphone about the corporate greed that was leading to record home foreclosures, lack of affordable health care, environmental destruction, and endless war.

When we finished it was quickly decided that we should march back to Freedom Plaza in the middle of the street. So off we went with the DC police going ahead of us blocking traffic. We had an unimpeded path back to the plaza which is home to about 70 tents including a food tent, information tent, media tent, and a medical tent.

As we made the short march back to the plaza many on the street waved and smiled. The people are happy to be witnessing some manifestation of the growing movement across the country to take back our democracy. You can see the pride in many faces as they feel they have in some way been a part of this rising tide.

There might still be small numbers actually in the streets but the movement is clearly growing in the hearts of the people.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

JEJU ISSUE GAINING SUPPORT AT INT'L PEACE CONFAB

Catholic priest is yanked off the top of a cement truck by police in Gangjeong village


I had dinner last night, following the close of the Asia-Pacific conference, with Global Network board member Wooksik Cheong (Peace Network) who lives in Seoul, South Korea and Youn-Ae Park who lives in Gangjeong village on Jeju Island. They spoke at the conference and will be doing additional speaking appearances along the east coast and in California.

Wooksik is the person who delivered the invitation to the Global Network to hold our 20th annual space organizing conference in 2012 on Jeju Island from Gangjeong village leaders. He will now facilitate a committee of people to help plan and implement the conference.

During dinner we went over all the details and sorted out who would do what. The hosts will essentially cover all lodging, food, and internal transportation costs while it will be my job to raise the funds to get our Global Network leaders to Jeju. The program we came up with will be very exciting.

The presence of Wooksik and Youn-Ae at the weekend conference gave the Jeju Island Navy base fight a strong visibility. It is clear that the Jeju Island issue has now become one of the top international concerns among the peace community in the U.S. and beyond.

What is most exciting is that a growing linking of Hawaii-Guam-Okinawa-Jeju is happening where not only the anti-base struggles in these places becomes known but key activists from each location are increasingly being connected and are coordinating their efforts. There were several calls during the conference to hold coordinated actions at each of these locations, and others, across the Pacific in the coming year.

There was a very large delegation of Chinese at the conference. I met one lawyer from the National University of Singapore who specializes in space law and I look forward to having more communication with him. We have found few who work on space law and share our view that the heavens are the province of all human kind. There is a growing movement within the aerospace industry to pull the U.S. away from the Outer Space and Moon Treaties which don't allow private control of celestial bodies.

Just a bit more about Gangjeong village. In recent days Catholic priests have increased their efforts to block cement trucks from entering the Navy base construction area. Several have been arrested. This is a welcome development as the Catholic community in South Korea (10% of Koreans are Catholic) increasingly expands their support for the Jeju Island struggle.

SUNDAY SONG