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.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Pushing to Revive Our Drowned Democracy

Reading the names of innocents killed by US drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan outside the gates of Hancock Field drone base near Syracuse, New York in April, 2013.  More than 30 were arrested that day including several of us from Veterans For Peace

  • My volunteer lawyer finished up with negotiations today and sent me the court document to sign that ends my arrest case at the Hancock Field drone base in New York.  I reluctantly agreed to plead guilty to Disorderly Conduct (two counts) under the New York Penal Law.  I'm told these charges will be expunged from my record.  The government charge of Obstructing Governmental Administration was dismissed.  The so-called "Order of Protection" (OP) that I was handed when arrested (which says I can't go near the base commander Gregory Semmel or his base for two years) was extended for two more years but amended.  Previously the OP has been used to rearrest anyone who returns to the base for any protest... even if they don't 'cross the line' onto base property.  That is now changed to allow me to return to protest at the base as long as I don't do an action of civil resistance by crossing the line.  A tiny victory for constitutional rights.  There have been frequent arrests for non-violent resistance at the base in the last couple of years. 
  • A troubling but not unexpected story out of South Korea comes our way.  The Korean paper called the hankyoreh reports:
The return of five US military bases to South Korea is being held up over Washington‘s refusal to pay decontamination costs for the sites after a government inspection found all five to have “harmful” levels of soil and underground water contamination, a lawmaker is claiming.

Woo Won-shik, a lawmaker with the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, announced on Nov. 2 that Korea Environment Corporation harmfulness assessments gave “harmful” ratings to all five of the US military bases that are currently being discussed for a return to South Korean control.

Woo cited Ministry of Environment briefing data for the sites, which include the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO) in Busan; Camp Casey and Camp Hovey in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province; and Camp Eagle and Camp Long in Wonju, Gangwon Province.

The harmfulness assessment was conducted in accordance with joint environmental impact procedures agreed upon by South Korea and the US in 2009. Assessments performed since 2011 on the five bases that are under discussion for return have turned up measures in excess of worrisome levels for total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs), benzene, toluene, and other petroleum-based contaminants, as well as heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and fluorine.
  • Tomorrow is election day and I am coordinating an effort in our city of Bath (population about 8,500) to gather petition signatures at the polls.  The effort is called We The People Maine and is a statewide organization of citizens working together to improve our democracy and create a nation where “corporations are not people” and “money is not speech.”  We are gathering signatures across Maine in order to hold a statewide referendum calling on the government to hold a constitutional convention on one subject only - to add an amendment taking the power of $$$ out of our election process.  As it stands now the corporations have drowned our democracy with their cash and corruption.  I'm not sure we are going to reach the 60,000 signature mark we need to force the referendum but it gives us a good organizing tool to talk with folks about the issue.  Five other local citizens will help sit at the table during the 12-hour election period here in Bath.  I'll do a three hour shift to close out the day.


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