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'll be taking an 'unpaid leave of absence' from my job at the Global Network from December 15-March 15, 2020 in order to help my friend Lisa Savage on her campaign for the US Senate in Maine. She's running as a Maine Green Independent Party member and needs to gather 2,000 petition signatures of registered Greens during that period. I'll be back to GN after March 15.

Friday, April 05, 2019

No to NATO - No to War Witness at the MLK Memorial


On this solemnity of Rev. MLK's martyrdom, as well as NATO's 70th anniversary commemoration in WDC, there was a protest early this morning [April 4] at the State Dept. where NATO Foreign Ministers were meeting. This was followed by a spirited March to the MLK Memorial and a program. I offered an abbreviated version of this below reflection at the MLK Memorial. As I was speaking early in the program, group organizers were informed by police that because they did not have a permit the group would have to move away from the King Memorial to the street. As some creative negotiating took place, speakers were asked to modify their remarks. The group persisted and were able to get through a somewhat altered program without further police interference. I ended my reflection with a reading of the King's Bay Plowshares solidarity statement. In these difficult times, let us continue to do all we can to heed Dr. King's exemplary nonviolent ethic as we nonviolently resist the US/NATO war making alliance and  strive to create a disarmed world and the Beloved Community. With gratitude,  Art

No to NATO - No to War Witness at the MLK Memorial--April 4, 2019 

Reflection by Art Laffin (Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, Washington DC)

My friends, as we gather here today on this sacred land, which originally belonged to the Piscataway Indians that was stolen, we call into our presence all the holy cloud of witnesses, all the peace and justice makers throughout history, as well all the victims of U.S. empire who have gone before us.

Today we remember and honor one of the greatest prophets of justice the world has ever seen--the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.-- on this the 52nd anniversary of his extraordinary "Beyond Vietnam--A Time to Break the Silence" speech and the 51st anniversary of his assassination. We also are here to renounce and resist the evils of militarism and war as NATO foreign ministers gather for NATO's 70th Anniversary. Twenty years ago I joined with others to resist NATO's 50th Anniversary Summit here in D.C. I am honored to be with all of you great peace and justice makers who are continuing that resistance and saying NO to NATO--NO to War!

The powers that be would like to keep Dr. King's life-giving witness set in stone, confined to a memorial monument. They want us to embrace a sanitized version of Dr. King and not face the fact that he named the U.S. government as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. The powers, don't want us to confront the sins of white supremacy, systemic racism and inequality, or work to bring about nonviolent change as Dr King did.

The powers also want us to believe that Dr. King was killed by a lone assassin. They do not want us to come to terms with the fact that after four weeks of testimony from over 70 witnesses in a civil trial in Memphis, Tennessee, twelve jurors reached a unanimous verdict on 

December 8, 1999  that Dr. King was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. Coretta Scott King welcomed the verdict saying, “There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband...And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief. The King family stands firmly behind the civil trial verdict!"

My friends, those forces who conspired to kill Dr. King thought that by doing so they could silence his message. To the contrary, Dr. King’s spirit is very much alive and his mandate for racial and economic justice, nonviolence and peace is just as relevant and urgent now as it was 51 years ago. No matter what the powers do to distort and manipulate the life, message and even death of Dr. King, his life stands as an eternal testament of truth, courage and hope in resistance to the forces of evil and death.

In his Beyond Vietnam speech, Dr. King declared: "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values...A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just...A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Dr. King's words aptly describe our current national plight. We, who are here today, along with countless others, decry the policies, exorbitant expenditures and war profiteering that drive the U.S. and NATO war machine. We denounce every aspect of the U.S. war machine, including the 2020 U.S. military budget which is now approaching $1 trillion; the over $1 trillion that has been earmarked over the next twenty years to upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal; the killer drone program; the new U.S. Space Force and deployment of missile defense systems encircling Russia and China! We denounce U.S. intervention around the world, including its continued support for the Saudi regime's brutal war in Yemen and it's illegal efforts to overthrow the Venezuela government. We decry the U.S. commitment to maintain some 800 foreign military bases and spend over $225 million this year on its AFRICOM military intervention operations in Africa.

With decry, too, NATO’s expanding war machine as evidenced by its $1.5 billion budget.   

These gross expenditures are about one thing: to assure global military domination of earth and space and control strategic resources. This criminal looting of public treasuries, while vital social programs continue to be cut, constitutes a direct theft from the poor of our society and world. Here in the U.S., the new Poor Peoples Campaign-A National Call for Revival, has brought to light this horrific reality. An estimated 140 million Americans are poor and low income.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist has turned its Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight due to the climate crisis and the nuclear threat. This threat has been exacerbated by the provocative actions of a reckless U.S. president and his advisers. We implore Mr. Trump and the entire political, military and corporate establishment to listen to and heed what Dr. King proclaimed: "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men...This is where we are. (Human)Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to (human)mankind... It  is no longer a choice... between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Now is the time for all the nuclear nations, beginning with the U.S., to join with the 22 countries who have to date ratified the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons.

My friends, now more than ever, we need to continue to exorcise and resist what Dr. King called “the tragic death wish possessing our nation” and actively promote his prescription for revolutionary change! Imagine for a moment how different our nation would be if every person in government and in every sector of society, read and acted on Dr. King's Beyond Vietnam speech. Instead of being the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, we call on the U.S. government and corporate power structure to truly embrace Dr. King's nonviolent ethic, renounce empire and violence, make reparations to its victims and become the world's greatest purveyor of nonviolence and force for racial, economic and environmental justice. And we implore NATO to do the same and follow the example of nonviolent resisters in Germany and other European countries who are acting to remove U.S. nuclear weapons from their soil. 

History has shown that social change occurs when people make great sacrifices in order to bring it about. Seven friends, known as the Kings Bay Plowshares (KBP), have made such sacrifices. On this day last year they carried out a plowshares disarmament action at the King’s Bay Naval Base in St. Mary, Georgia. Carrying hammers and small baby bottles containing their own blood, they sought to symbolically disarm weapons of mass murder. The base is the Navy’s Atlantic Ocean port for six Trident submarines which have the capacity to cause the devastation of 3,600 Hiroshima-scale attacks. 

They are currently being charged with two felony counts and a misdemeanor and are awaiting trial. Liz McAlister and Fr. Steve Kelley have been jailed for one year now. Mark Colville has also been jailed most of the last year while the other four, Carmen Trotta, Clare Grady, Martha Hennessy, (Dorothy Day's granddaughter) and Patrick O'Neill are out on bail and ordered to wear ankle bracelets. They face long prison sentences if convicted.

I would like to share a solidarity statement that the KBP have sent to us titled: We Withdraw Consent from NATO’s Seventy-Year Death Grip on the Planet

"On April 4th, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the state killing of Rev. Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. seven Catholic peacemakers walked onto the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, to expose the epitome of Dr. King’s “triple evils” of racism, materialism, and militarism. We remember his words in the speech he delivered, “Beyond Vietnam”, a year before his assassination. We continue to say no to NATO, “the greatest purveyor of violence” in the hands of the United States military. We continue in the tradition of nonviolent, direct action to support true democracy and the rule of law for all peoples on Earth. We want the massive cost of the weapons industry to be converted for human and environmental needs. We are grateful for the voice of the people that is being raised to end this endless war making."

Please keep the KBP in your thoughts and prayers and check out their web site: KingsBayplowshares7.org for updated info.

My friends, through God's amazing grace, I once had the opportunity to be on a Trident sub. On Labor Day, 1989, I, along with six other friends, carried out a plowshares action in New London, CT directed at the 10th Trident submarine. After hammering and pouring our own blood on the sub, three of us, myself included, were able to beach our canoe and climb aboard. There, in full view of armed security who were on a nearby pier, we prayed and read from Scripture, before being arrested and jailed. While atop of the Trident, I realized I was participating in a sacred act that was nothing short of a miracle. We were truly enfleshing God's dream for the human family to beat swords into plowshares. True disarmament was occurring. I believe now, as I did then, that if we have the faith to believe that a disarmed, nonviolent world is possible, and act on that belief, miracles can happen. Just as the Berlin Wall came down so, too, can the oppressive walls from Palestine to the U.S./Mexico border! The Pentagon, the military-industrial complex and NATO can be abolished and transformed into life-giving enterprises. All the swords (weapons) of our time can be turned into plowshares. War can be forever abolished! 

In closing, Dr. King said: "We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. We still have a choice today, nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation... Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one's enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problem of our world...Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism!" And now we must add environmental destruction. My friends, let us recommit ourselves today to live and act in this hope as we seek to create the Beloved Community!

Thank You!

Photo by Susan Crane

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