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, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. We must all do more to help stop this western corporate arrogance that puts the future generations lives in despair. @BruceKGagnon

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A city scene from New Orleans with the Superdome in the fore ground. It is devastating to see the human, physical, and environmental damage that has been done to these three states coastal regions as a result of the hurricane. It is hard to imagine how the government(s) will be able to afford to rebuild these communities any time soon. What will happen to the hundreds of thousands of people who now have no home, no job, and little future? The states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama have very low tax bases so they won't have many resources to apply. The federal government, already spending over $4 billion a month on the Iraq war, is now in fiscal crisis. How will the nation be able to help these people? What will happen?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Portland and Bangor newspapers in Maine reported today, on the front page, our plans for a peaceful protest on Sept 10. The Navy's Blue Angels will come to the Brunswick Naval Air Station to "perform." The protest is being sponsored by Maine Veterans for Peace and I am coordinating the event. Cindy Sheehan and Kathy Kelly will be speaking at the protest. Already hate mail has begun to pour into the VfP web site and I have received angry phone calls at my office. Some people feel we have no right to protest at the Navy base. They say the airshow is family entertainment. VfP maintains that it is a recruiting gimmick for the military - in these days when enlistment numbers are sagging. Others say, that because the Navy base has just been put on the base closure list (set to shut down in 2011) we have no right to protest there. Others say Cindy Sheehan has no right to come to Maine to protest. Should the peace movement have to request permission in order to protest in public? Should we take a poll of the public and if the public thinks the protest "not at the right time or place" should we back off? I think not. Did Martin Luther King ask for permission before he led civil rights activists over the Edmund Pettis bridge into Selma, Alabama? Did King cancel the protest because controversy would ensue? Did Gandhi cancel plans for his salt march knowing that it would be controversial? Should Cindy Sheehan not have gone to Crawford, Texas because it would open up "wounds" in the hearts of Americans? I think the peace movement must shine a light on the manifestations of violence in our culture. We must do so with a non-violent spirit, but we must not fear the inevitable conflict that will result. The great American abolitionist Frederick Douglas said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Growing numbers of U.S. soldiers in Iraq are showing their disenchantment with the war. The Bush team has responded by increasing their recruitment of mercenary troops from Latin American countries (El Salvador, Honduras, Columbia, etc). Some in the peace movement predict a coming draft. I don't see it happening any time soon. The legions of jobs leaving the U.S. will ensure that poor and working class kids will keep joining the military as few other options exist for them.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Lewiston office window of Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins sported an anti-war sign for six hours on Friday. Inside the office we read the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and an equal number of innocent Iraqi civilians. A high proportion of the Iraqi names were children and elderly. We are demanding that the senator hold a public town hall meeting on Iraq in the state. Her staff has advised us that she does not feel comfortable with large crowds.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Today for six hours, in the Lewiston ground-floor office window of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), sat the blue anti-war yard sign that reads "War is not the answer." Inside the office about 50 people participated at some point during the long six-hour day of reading the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and an equal number of innocent Iraqi civilians who have been killed since the U.S. "preemptive" shock and awe attack in 2003.

Today was the fifth time in recent months that peace activists from around Maine occupied a congressional office to bring the reality of war to the politicians who continue to ignore growing public opinion. Previous readings have been done in Portland, Bangor and now today in the working-class town of Lewiston.

The office of Sen. Collins sits on the busy downtown Lisbon Street which was full of cars and pedestrian traffic all day long. Just across the street from the senator's office sits a small park where we set up a staging area with many signs, banners, a table and literature. Peter Stewart (South Montville) sat at the table all day long talking with passers-by and was even successful in getting a few of them to cross the street and join the office occupation for awhile. One mother and her child entered the office and rang the bell for a spell that chimed for six long hours after each name was read.

The local Lewiston Sun Journal sent a reporter and photographer. The photographer stayed for what seemed like several hours taking an enormous amount of pictures. One particular photo background shot he worked on for some time was the one of the Bush and Cheney pictures on the office wall. One local TV station also came and took extensive footage and did an interview.

Dud Hendrick and Pat Wheeler once again came down from Deer Isle and brought the huge banner that was blank except for the words "Iraq War Dead." As each name was read an X ( red or black) was marked. By the end of the day the banner was completely covered in X-marks.

At one point I stepped outside for a break. When I came back in I noticed that the framed pictures of Bush and Cheney had been taken off the wall and were sitting face down on a table. I later learned that Maureen Block (Swanville) had taken them down - surely noticed at some point by the staffpersons who took turns at the reception desk - but never to be returned to the wall.

Richard Clement (Gardiner), one of many Veterans for Peace members present today, once again brought his large notebook full of U.S. soldier names. There was one difference today though. Richard has now had to go to a second notebook to hold the growing list of names of dead GI's. Richard's own son just recently returned from a year in Iraq. At one point, when Casey Sheehan's name was read, the whole room froze as his name is one we all know.

Months ago Karen Wainberg (Portland), Mary Beth Sullivan (Brunswick), and I met with some folks from the Lewiston area to plan today's action. We were impressed with the way they spread the word throughout their community, did media work (one local radio newsman did an advance story and it ran on five local stations), and they showed up and were there until the end. Judy & Kevin Simpson, Bonnie Shulman, and Bonnie Lounsbury (all from the Lewiston/Auburn area) were great organizers for this reading of the names and we are grateful to them.

After the action several asked when do we do it again. They felt we must continue to put pressure on our senators to hold a town hall meeting on Iraq. (Our pressure on Rep. Tom Allen eventually forced him to hold one on July 17 in Portland that 500 people attended.)

We will be doing this again soon. We are now talking about visiting the office of Sen. Olympia Snowe in Biddeford next, perhaps sometime in mid-October. First we need to line up some local organizers, have a meeting with them, and then promote the action.

Each time we hold these reading of the names we get more new people to turn out. This is what we are trying to do. We are trying to get people who feel strongly about the war to take a step out into action. The reading of the names is a heart-rending and effective way to bring the war home. Please join us in the future.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Oops! Guess I got my facts wrong again. Just wishful thinking on my part. It is interesting to note these days that Bush likes to hang out in places with very little human population - Utah, Idaho. Where next? Maybe the moon or Mars? Bang zoom to the moon G.W.!!! Hey not a bad idea. Atomic Bob, Dunbar and Vic will lead the way on a nuclear rocket! (Sorry guys, just funnin. You know how G.W. likes to tease.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Here is a photo of a real, live, U.S. Army tank in Iraq. Several of my ardent critics have clearly shown that my earlier photo of a tank was not in Iraq but Israel. (Though I'd strongly claim it was made in the USA - one of the few things that are these days.) So it is actually true that the U.S. has tanks in Iraq and is daily using them to destroy people, fire depleted uranium shells that will leave radioactive toxic contamination for thousands of years to come, and kill many innocent Iraqi people. Let the critics have at it now!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bush is having to get back out on the road to sell his war to a public growing increasingly opposed to the failing policy of occupation in Iraq. I watched much of his speech to the VFW in Salt Lake City via C-SPAN today and the tepid applause from the audience throughout the speech indicated it was not going over well. The mayor of Salt Lake City had called for protests of the Bush visit and another mother of a dead GI in Iraq, from the Gold Star Families for Peace, traveled there to speak against the Bush war plan. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was all over the news yesterday calling Bush's war "another Vietnam." Humpty dumpty had a great fall, and all the kings horses and all the kings men could not put humpty back together again!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Army has announced that they are planning for the U.S. to continue its occupation of Iraq for at least the next four years. Is there any doubt that the U.S. government (controlled today by the oil and weapons industries) has no intention of ever leaving? Last night I got an e-mail from a Maine friend who has a son in Iraq. He just got there and killed his first Iraqi a couple of days ago. He told his parents he barely missed being killed himself. Why do we have to stay in Iraq any longer? How many more innocent lives must be lost? How much more of our hard-earned tax dollars must be wasted there before the American people speak out with a resounding and emphatic NO?

Friday, August 19, 2005


Just back from five lovely nights at Bulldog Camp up in northern Maine. The rustic camp of about 8 small log cabins sits next to Enchanted Pond.

Mary Beth, and our friend from Portland Karen Wainberg, and I shared the expenses and the cabin. We took a couple long hikes, heard the loons sing one evening, took a couple canoe trips, picked wild blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. We took turns cooking for each other and read while sitting on the cabin's porch overlooking the pond (it was quite a large lake but Mainers call them ponds. Don't know why.) On the other side of the pond was a large mountain that some said looks like a bulldog. I didn't see it.

I read two books while there, one a historical novel about the Haymarket affair in Chicago in the late 1880's when political activists were framed and hung for a riot that was largely caused by the police. It was a moving story and illustrated how the powers that be will use all resources at hand (media, police, courts, etc) to try to stop social justice movements -- in this particular instance the movement for the 8-hour work day. The leading economic elites of the time were determined to kill the movement.

Mary Beth and Karen read my new book and gave me good reviews. Since I got home I've heard from three others giving me the high sign so I am feeling quite good about the early reactions to it.

The cabins had no electricity and no hot water. We used gas lamps for light and had to heat water on the stove to wash up with. It was truly a Maine woods experience and I would have liked to stay for two weeks - the only downside was the bed's mattress was bad and my back is crying out. Our two dogs loved the trip and were free to run wild and they surely did.

So now back to work but the memory of Bulldog camp will linger for awhile....

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Cindy Sheehan speaking outside of Bush's Texas vacation ranch. Cindy will be in Brunswick, Maine on September 10 to speak at the Veterans for Peace march that will protest the Navy's Blue (Hell's) Angels jet performance team. Brunswick Naval Air Station will host the Hell's Angels the weekend of September 10-11. The slogan of the protest will be - Real angels don't drop bombs!

Friday, August 12, 2005


This report covers the period of July 28 - Aug 10 as I traveled to the northwest for a speaking tour in Oregon, Washington, and Canada.

Before I left I did several radio interviews on Oregon stations promoting the trip. Stuart Henderson (Florence) served as the coordinator for my Oregon trip that took me to Portland, Corvallis, Florence, Eugene, Salem and Hood River. In Washington I spoke in Olympia, Seattle, Suquamish, at the Ground Zero peace community near the Bangor Trident submarine base, and in Bellingham. Then my last stop was in Victoria, British Columbia. All together I drove 1,200 miles and took several ferry rides in the beautiful Pacific ocean waters.

The Florence, Oregon talk was especially exciting as Stuart worked hard to turn out double the crowd they normally get for such events. Stuart even put flyers on cars in this tourist-busy coastal town in order to spread the word.

In Eugene my host, Michael Carrigan, took me to a noon-time hour-long interview on the local college public radio station that is heard throughout the region. My talk that evening in Eugene was again well attended and I was particularly pleased that Lane County Commissioner Peter Sorenson attended. Sorenson is now a candidate for governor - running against the unpopular incumbent governor who is a Democrat. One of his major themes in the campaign is opposition to the war in Iraq. This was the first day my new book, Come Together Right Now, was available and I sold one box of them that evening. Michael also arranged for me to meet with the editorial board at his local newspaper.

I was in Seattle for several days thanks to retired Episcopal minister Bob Beveridge. Bob, and his wife Berta, took good care of me. They led me to several great events held around the 60th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. My talk at Bob's church, St. Mark's Cathedral was well attended and the next day Bob and I took a ferry out to Bainbridge island to join a Buddhist Peace Walk. It was nice to walk the 12 miles that day after having been in a car for a week straight. The three-week walk began at the Hanford nuclear facility, and ended at the Bangor submarine base. On August 8, about 75 of us gathered at the base gates at 5:00 am to greet the thousands of sailors entering the base for work. Twenty folks blockaded the front gate and backed the traffic up for at least a half-hour before they were arrested and taken away.

While participating in the walk I was able to speak to two different gatherings of folks who turned out to support the walk. A member of Veterans for Peace, Mark Wilson, also spoke. He announced he is running for the U.S. Senate in Washington. It was good to hear a candidate speaking the truth about the war and the need for economic conversion. Very refreshing stuff.

On August 6, Bob and Beta took me to Seattle's "From Hiroshima to Hope" lantern floating ceremony at Green Lake. Well over 1,200 people attended this moving event that began with music and theatrical remembrances of the tragic nuclear bombing. This was the 20th year of the ceremony where people placed candlelit lanterns in the lake at dusk, creating a magical scene. I was very touched by the whole event.

On August 8, after the dawn demonstration at the submarine base, I drove north and spoke in Bellingham, just a few miles below the Canadian border. Long-time friends Dorie and John Belisle moved there about nine years ago from Florida and started an apple farm. Their kids had come to the Florida Youth Peace Camp for several years that I ran while working with the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. Today, in addition to the farm, Dorie works with local farmers to get them to plant trees along creeks and river beds on their land in order to protect the water bodies and ensure salmon survival -- as the fish are diminishing these days. John serves on the local planning commission to try to stop the rapid destruction of farm land for suburban living. He and I spent time talking about how peak oil will impact farm life and suburbia as prices of oil rise and supplies dramatically diminish in coming years.

From the Belisle farm I drove seven miles north to the Canadian border. Canadian immigration made me sit for 30 minutes as they ran computer background checks on me after hearing I was a political activist. They got hung up on my past arrests for non-violent civil disobedience and I had to spend time explaining the nature of the actions over the phone to one of their supervisors. Fortunately I finally was allowed into the country, but as a result of the delay I missed my scheduled ferry ride to Victoria.

After a wait I took the next ferry ride to Victoria and was amazed at the beautiful islands along the trip. (On the ferry ride back to Washington I was to see several Orca whales jumping out of the water.) Immediately after arriving in Victoria I was taken to a CBC radio interview to promote my talk at the university that evening. A potluck supper was held at the home of my host Susan Clarke. There I met several transplanted Americans who had moved to Salt Spring Island, just off the coast of Victoria. They had much to say about their reasons for leaving the U.S. - something I hear many people say they'd like to do these days.

My talk at the university was well attended and well received. I read from my new book at the start and end of the talk. My last chapter in the book is about America's addiction to war and violence and the need for a national 12-step program to heal our passion for war. Before I read from the last chapter I shared the story about my own family life - one of alcoholism and domestic violence. My military step-father had returned from Korea and Vietnam, never dealing with his emotions from the war experiences, and turned to drinking and violence to relieve his suffering soul. I told how he had often beaten me. Throughout this trip I had seven people approach me telling me that this was their story as well.

During the Buddhist Peace Walk one monk told me that a woman had been crying in their temple the night before when they returned there to sleep after my talk. They asked her why she was crying and she said that her husband had come back from Vietnam with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and had turned to alcohol and regularly beat her son. Her son had significant problems as a result and was now in prison. The monk told me my story had touched her heart.

Conversion was the central message of my trip. I said over and over again that we must convert the military industrial complex to sustainable technology development. And I said, we must heal the broken hoop - we need to convert the warlike heart of the American nation and the American people.

While in Seattle the Navy's "Blue Angels" jet performance team was making tremendous noise over that city. I began to refer to them as the "Hell's Angels" in my talks. That same Navy Hells Angels flight team comes to Brunswick, Maine on September 10-11 and I am now organizing a statewide demonstration to oppose their visit on Saturday, September 10. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier that died in Iraq who is camping outside George W. Bush's Texas ranch at this very minute, will be one of the speakers at our event. Our theme is that real angels don't drop bombs.

In the closing chapter of my book I say this, "After awhile this proclivity to violence turns to ugly addiction. We, as a culture, begin to celebrate it and brag on our prowess. We romanticize the wars and the warriors. We idolize the weapons and stand in wonder as the warplanes fly overhead in celebration of our collective insanity. And insanity it is. If you doubt it, just ask some of the people whose countries we have invaded."

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Just got back at noon today from my trip out west. Was supposed to arrive last night but once again the airlines are falling apart at the seams and my plane out of Seattle was delayed 3 hours so I missed my connection home to Portland. Had to spend the night in Atlanta, thankfully Delta paid for the hotel, but I didn't get alot of sleep last night.

My last couple of trips have all had serious airline delays and cancellations. The whole airport scene, not matter which major airline hub I fly into, is very chaotic these days. I know most airlines are in financial trouble but their service is getting worse, and their flying customers are frustrated and furious.

My last talk (Aug 9) in Victoria, British Columbia was outstanding as the audience was alive and engaged. The Canadians are really paying attention to the issues, frankly generally more educated than the Americans I speak with. And they are much more responsive and furious about what they see the U.S. doing. If only more folks in the U.S. were as passionate we'd be better off today than we are.

I am busy signing books this evening and putting them in envelopes as we can now fill our hundreds of orders for my new book. I hope to have all the orders filled by this weekend.

I plan to post my northwest trip report on the blog in the next day or so.

Next week I go on a week long vacation to a northern Maine camp and will not be writing on the blog. No phones, internet, e-mails or anything. I need a rest. I am tired but my spirit is strong as ever. See you all soon.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

This is the apple farm outside of Bellingham, Washington that I just visited. Friends John & Dorie Belisle at Bellewood Acres struggle to keep their business alive by hard work, smart marketing, and community service. Dorie is a leader in local sustainable agriculture programs and John serves on the county planning commission to try to limit growth that is chewing up available farm lands for suburban living. They made it possible for me to bring the Global Network message to their community.

Monday, August 08, 2005


I was up at 4am to get ready for a 5am protest at the Bangor, Washington submarine base. Abut 75 folks folks gathered at the front gate as the navy personnel entered the base. Twenty folks blocked the front gate and were arrested. Buddhist monks, who lead a 3-week walk to the base, were there at the front gate drumming and chanting. Everyone was surprised at the lack of negative response as the folks drove into the base after having traffice backed up for well over 1/2 hour. Only saw a couple of very negative responses. The sub base is home of the west coast Trident nuclear submarine fleet.

Following the action I drover further north to Bellingham and will speak here tonight and in the morning head on to Victoria in Canada for a talk there. Then on Aug 10 I head back to Seattle to fly home.

Am visiting old friends from Florida who have an apple orchard outside of Bellingham. They've been here about 10 years and have been inviting me to visit for many years.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Yesterday I join the Hanford to Bangor Peace Walk that is heading to the submarine base where the Trident II missile subs are docked. I walked about 14 miles along with 30 other folks. The walk is being led by the Buddhist order Nipponzan Myohoji, the order that does peace walks around the world. The walk made it as far as Squamish, the place where Chief Seattle is buried.

Thursday night I spoke to a good audience at the St. Marks Episcopal Church in Seattle. Retired Episcopal minister Bob Beveridge has scheduled me four days worth of activities in the Seattle area. This evening we will attend the Hiroshima memorial service and lantern floating ceremony. On Sunday we will head back to the walk and to a day long non-violence program at Ground Zero, the name of the anti-nuclear activist group that has been protesting at the Bangor sub base for 30 or so years. I will speak there, stay the night, and then attend a protest at the base gates early Monday morning. Monday afternoon I will be back on the road heading north to speak in Bellingham, WA.

Long-time Florida friends John & Dorie Belisle moved to Bellingham years ago and bought an apple orchard there. They've been inviting me up for a visit for many years and now it will be possible to make the trip.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


I spoke in Olympia, WA tonight on a panel talking about the need to get rid of nuclear weapons and Star Wars. I dragged my weary bones up here today from Hood River, Oregon where I spoke last night. I swam yesterday in the beautiful river that flows from the nearby mountains. Before that I was in Salem and Eugene. After one week on the road I am feeling the road weariness and look forward to getting to bed as soon as I get this written. In the morning I prepare to head to Seattle for a couple days of events there.

I am staying at the home long long-time Global Network member Holly Gwinn Graham who is also one of our great singer/songwriters who has written many fine space protest songs. Jackie Cabasso, from the group Abolition Now, is staying here and also spoke on the panel this evening.

Holly's home has a great view of the water, which is part of the lower fingers of Puget Sound, from her from door. A very special spot.

Monday, August 01, 2005


Spoke to 75 people in Eugene last night and had the first test of how my book would sell. I had one box (32 books) shipped overnight to Eugene. After the talk sold 29 of them so was pleasantly surprised at the reaction. Folks were pleased with the turnout on a hot summer Sunday night. Said it was more than they had expected.

Earlier in the day, at noon, I did a one-hour radio interview on the local college NPR station. Show beams out throughout the region and got a great response from it when people arrived at the meeting last night. Got an e-mail from the host of the show this morning saying the station is already getting very positive reaction to the interview. Nice to hear.

Today I meet with a person at the editorial board of the local Eugene newspaper and then drive to Salem for a talk there tonight. Unfortunately I will only have 3 books with me. Don't get another box until I get to Olympa, WA.

Hope you all are doing well. I always enjoy reading the comments, even those from my critics. Think peace.