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'm back to work for the Global Network. Will continue to help Lisa Savage for US Senate campaign on my free time. Trying to self-isolate as much as possible. Best wishes and good luck to you all.

Monday, October 26, 2015

From Peace Walk to Next Protest: The Work Continues

Japanese peace activists protesting the US deployment of Aegis destroyers (outfitted with provocative 'missile defense' systems onboard) aimed at confronting China. A similar destroyer will be 'Christened' in Bath next Saturday.
Kittery police outside the gates of the Navy shipyard last Saturday spent most of their time taking photos.  The military security team was on the phone during the entire rally likely reporting every move we made back to HQ. One seacoast local newspaper alarmingly reported that the police had to be called when we arrived at the Kittery shipyard but then acknowledged that we remained on the other side of the road and all went well.

I spent today with one foot working in the past (wrapping up our recent 16-day peace walk) and one foot in the future as I began pulling together the protest at Bath Iron Works (BIW) this Saturday, October 31 where another Navy Aegis destroyer will be 'christened'.

I sent out a news release to Maine media letting them know about the scheduled protest.  I drafted an "Open letter to Maine elected officials" that we will try to deliver to them during the 'blessing of Christ' ceremony at BIW. I shared the letter with Maureen Kehoe-Ostensen who is preparing the flyer for the event.  I went up to the attic and sorted through all of our signs and banners choosing the appropriate ones for the protest on Saturday.  Our double theme on that day will be continuing the timely and important message about the Navy's impact on ocean life and the call for the conversion of BIW to sustainable production so that we might have a chance to impact the coming ravages of climate change before it is too late.

Everyone keeps asking me if I am sad that the peace walk is over.  Sixteen days is a long time to stay on task and walk an average of 11-12 miles per day.  So that part of the walk I can easily let go.  Despite sleeping late the last two days I am still a bit groggy and I of course miss the community of walkers.

I went to the chiropractor to get an adjustment today and was only 1/8 inch off between my legs.  One knee was out of whack as was an ankle.  Not too bad for having walked about 150 miles or so.  (I did not walk each and every mile due to having to now and then shuttle the gear car ahead in the morning.  Fortunately Katie Greenman helped me with that task later in the walk.)

I feel really good about what we did on the walk.  Via numerous radio spots, newspaper articles, social media, handing out 1,500 flyers, many spontaneous conversations, and thousands of car drivers reading our messages and seeing the art work on our van we were able to reach a huge audience with our messages.  Because most of the mainstream media is 'off-limits' to our peace and environmental efforts we have to go around that obstacle to find ways to reach the public in a close and direct way.  I think the walk helped us do that.

I spoke to one of the women who hosted us at one church along the journey.  She told me that despite the church priest trying to cancel their pot luck supper for the walk due to its political nature, the women of the church committee hosting us remained strong and refused to cancel the event.  They had such a positive feeling about the event that since our visit there has been discussion at the church about becoming more active in political issues.  That is a good outcome for sure.

Artist Russell Wray who designed the dolphin and incredible banner on our van kept saying toward the end of the walk that he didn't want it to end.  He dedicated himself each day to carrying a whale windsock and his sign that read 'Navy Sonar Kills!' along with a drawing of a beached whale.  I often walked behind Russell and can attest to the fact that many cars honked at his sign along the way.  Images are important.

We've got to repeatedly ask some serious questions about US Navy policy.  Some of them include the following:

  • Where do these Aegis destroyers go when they leave BIW?
  • What kind of environmental impacts result from the deployment of US Navy ships at ports around the world?
  • What is the military mission of these Aegis destroyers that are being sent to encircle the coasts of China and Russia?
  • How much do these ships cost?  Could we use those funds more effectively dealing with climate change?
  • Would we create more jobs building rail systems, solar, wind turbines and tidal power at Bath Iron Works or the Portsmouth Navy shipyard in Kittery?
  • Would the workers, if given the option, prefer to build something other than destroyers?
  • Can we have a successfull conversion of war production effort without the larger community getting engaged?  How can we get the public to think and talk about what we should be doing with their tax dollars - should we continue building for endless war or should we be dealing with climate change?
  • What happens when the US economy finally hits the wall and Congress has to dramatically cut the Pentagon budget?  Shouldn't we begin now trying to convert these war industries before it is too late and then they just close their doors and everyone loses?
  • What kind of future are we leaving for our children by our silence?


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