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

Monday, August 17, 2015

Watching the Tides Roll Away At Jeju Navy Base Gate



I was awake earlier than I wanted to be this morning.  I made myself breakfast in the 4th floor kitchen here at the Catholic Center in Gangjeong village.  Since I arrived after dark last night I don't know my way around that well yet so I went walking and exploring for awhile.  The tangerines that Jeju is famous for are now young and will be harvested in the late fall.  The trees are all around the village as are the plants with hot red peppers and the green bean plants.

Knowing that we had to be at the Navy base gate by 11:00 am for the daily Catholic mass I wanted to make a sign for my time here expressing not only my feelings but also the deep feelings of the voices that I heard while in Seoul.  So I went by the peace center and the artist Wildflower set me up with all the materials to produce my sign.  She even helped me color in the letters so I could get it done in time for the protest.

All day cement trucks come and go from the base along with other construction vehicles and workers.  Our group sat on chairs and blocked the entrance and then about every 15-20 minutes the police announced on a loud speaker that we had to move because by now trucks had formed a long line to come and go from the base gate.  Then the police came and four men or woman cops grabbed the chairs with people in them and carried us to the side.  They let the trucks pass through and then we (priests, nuns, activists) moved our chairs back in front of the gate and the dance started all over again.

This ain't stopping the base but these kinds of daily obstruction tactics has set the timeline of base completion back considerably and cost the government large sums of extra money.  Legions of police over these years have been rotated in and out of Jeju to deal with the protests.  In the meantime all of these police have had to listen to the speeches, the prayers, the appeals for justice and peace, and I know that some have had their hearts changed during the process.  When 16 of us were arrested here in 2012 for crawling under the razor wire to get onto sacred Gureombi rock the squad leader that drove some of us to the Jeju City jail told us as much.  He said his entire squad agreed with the village protest.

It's hard to keep a movement going at a hyper pace over this many years so like the ocean on the other side of the Navy base gates the Save Jeju Now movement has ebbed and flowed.  It's the law of nature in motion - movements come and go - they go up and down.  The key to successful organizing is being able to maintain some level of activity in the lean times so that when the tide comes flowing back in again there is organization ready to lead the surging people.

The anti-base examples we find on Jeju Island and in Okinawa - both so connected to the oceans - are truly models for all of us.  Tonight fellow Mainer Brando and I were sitting outside sipping a beer and sharing cookies.  We both agreed how lucky we are to be here and how important it is for other activists around the world to visit these models of sustained organizing on Jeju Island and in Okinawa.  I wish I could get every peacenik I know to come here and see for themselves.

Extra Stuff:  While in Seoul I did an interview with an Internet based progressive media outlet called  Voice of the People.  You might not read Korean but they have some good photos of me at the August 15 rally.  See it here

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