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

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Case of the Wayward Letters

A representative from Bath Iron Works met with three protest leaders last Saturday to accept four letters addressed to Maine's Congressional delegation.  We were told they would hand the letters over to congressional staffers inside the 'christening' ceremony.  Artist Russell Wray (on right in gold sweatshirt) later called PR man Matt Wickenheiser and learned the letters had not yet been delivered.  Maine public radio reporter is shown on the left recording the conversation. Photo by Peter Woodruff

The plan last Saturday was to deliver four letters addressed to Maine Senators Angus King and Susan Collins and House of Representatives members Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin who were inside the Aegis destroyer 'christening' ceremony at Bath Iron Works.  A delegation of protest leaders was going to attempt to enter the BIW gate into the ceremony.  The Bath Police Department (Lt. Savary) called prior to the protest and said that BIW would indeed arrest anyone trying to enter the ceremony from our event.

The Bath police said they'd worked out a plan with BIW to have one of its representatives accept the letters who would then immediately go back inside the event and hand them over to staffers of the congressional leaders.  We agreed to that plan.

A BIW representative took the letters promising to hand them over the congressional staffers.  He also gave artist Russell Wray the phone number of BIW PR man Matt Wickenheiser and Russell called him later that day to inquire whether or not the letters had indeed been delivered.  Come to find out they had not been handed over.

Instead Russell was given this convoluted explanation:

Matt Wickenheiser of BIW just called me back a few minutes ago. He told me that the letters would be Fed-Exed tomorrow morning [Tuesday] down to BIW’s DC office. They would then be delivered to our congressional delegation. He expected they would be received this week.

I asked him, as an aside, why they wouldn’t let us in to deliver the letter ourselves. He said it wasn’t because he thought we might do anyone harm, but rather because they feared we would disrupt the event.
Who really knows if BIW is ever going to hand these letters over as promised?  Why would they not just deliver them to the staffers at the 'christening' as they had promised?  Instead this contorted plan to ship them via airplane to Washington DC and have some BIW worker there make the delivery seems like some Laurel & Hardy routine.  It's an interesting example how the weapons industry wastes taxpayer dollars.  BIW will probably ask for a special congressional appropriation to reimburse them for this expensive maneuver!

I forwarded Russell's message about his conversation with Wickenheiser to Lt. Savary of the Bath police and told him that we feel like we got snookered on this one.  I told him that this is no way to build trust.  Maybe BIW mislead the Bath police as well.  This just goes to show that in the future we might have to make the delivery inside the 'christening' ceremony ourselves.

I guess it is fitting in a way though that BIW delivers the letters to Congress.  It's symbolic of the fact that much of Washington is under the control of the military industrial complex.  BIW, by its decision to deliver the letters to the nation's capital, underscores this sad but real truth.

Just to make sure, a volunteer called the four congressional offices in Washington this morning and asked them to notify us if, and when, they do receive our heartfelt communication.


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