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

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.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Photos from Today's Protest Prior to Start of Zumwalt 12 Trial in Maine

Photos by Regis Tremblay

Prior to the start of our Zumwalt 12 trial today in Bath, Maine supporters from all over the state gathered at 8:00 am with defendants outside the Sagadahoc County Courthouse.

At the start of trial more than 60 supporters were in the courtroom - with more having to wait outside in the hall because there were not enough seats inside.

After opening statements by many of the defendants the state brought a string of policemen to the stand to point out each of us who were arrested at Bath Iron Works on June 18 when we protested at the 'christening' of a new $4 billion Zumwalt stealth destroyer.

The trial resumes in the morning at 9:00 am in Bath.

Below is my opening statement that I gave to the court and the jury:

Opening statement

My name is Bruce Gagnon and I live here in Bath – in fact our house is just a few doors down Centre St. 

I grew up in an Air Force family, living behind the barbed wire fences on bases throughout the US, England and Germany.  In 1968 (at 16 years old) I was Vice-President of the Okaloosa County, Florida Young Republican Club working on the Nixon for president campaign.

In 1971 I tried to join the Air Force like my dad (who was from a paper mill family in Rumford) but flunked my induction physical because of a high school football injury.  I had to get a medical waiver to get into the military at a time when most young men my age were trying to avoid the Vietnam War draft.

After my training I was sent to a base in California that was an airlift base for the war.  GI’s from around the country came to our base to fly to Vietnam and when the planes returned they would bring the body bags of dead soldiers along with the wounded.

One day a GI came to our base and refused to get on the plane to fly to Vietnam.  Instead he sat on a curb and cut his penis off.  It was at this base that I changed and became a peace activist.  I’ve been organizing full time in the peace movement since 1983 after first working as a organizer for the United Farmworkers Union organizing fruit pickers in Florida.

I want to explain my thinking about this case so that as you listen to us you will have an idea what to pay attention to.  I am going to testify under oath that our actions at BIW on June 18 were reasonable.  I will admit that I sat in the road on Washington Street in front of the shipyard as the ‘christening’ ceremony was beginning. 

The judge will explain to you that the law requires the state to prove much more to you than that we blocked part of Washington Street.  The state must prove we were being unreasonable. 

As you listen to us please remember your oath to presume that we are innocent unless the state can convince you that beyond a shadow of a doubt that what we did on June 18 was unreasonable.

You will hear me testify that I believe our country’s democracy is now in danger and that real citizens input and fair policies are difficult to bring about because of the undue extraordinary influence of corporations (like General Dynamics) and the big money they put into our elections.  I will testify that every day, ordinary citizens, like myself, and like each of us in this courtroom, have a hard time getting our meager voices heard by the big wigs in Washington. 

I will testify that sometimes we need to do a Boston Tea Party type action.  In fact our own national independence was kicked-off by a non-violent act of civil disobedience which I am sure that King George in England at the time thought was very unreasonable.

The evidence will show that I spoke with the Bath police department weeks in advance of our protest (as we always do).  Then nine days before the event I emailed the Bath chief of police a copy of the news release announcing that we were going to do civil disobedience that day.

I will testify that we were trying to remain cooperative while at the same time exercising our first-amendment freedoms to protest what we consider the hugely expensive and horribly destructive Zumwalt ‘stealth’ destroyer that could be used to sneak up on China and blast them with new electro-magnetic rail guns that can fire a shell the distance between Philadelphia and NYC.

We intend to show that we are regular people with important concerns about peace, jobs, climate change, and the cost of the Zumwalt destroyer which will actually worsen our country’s fiscal crisis.

I will testify that I have been a regular peace vigiler in front of Bath Iron Works for many years.  I’ll describe how I have encouraged other activists to hold signs calling for the conversion of BIW – build offshore wind turbines and commuter rail systems up and down the coast of Maine – getting us out of our polluting cars so we can help lessen our carbon footprint on our Mother Earth so the future generations can live.  

Under oath I will share information about studies that show building rail would double the jobs at BIW since military production is the least cost effective way to create jobs.

Some years ago one BIW worker came to me and asked me to help him draft a petition for shipyard workers saying they wanted to build wind turbines.  He got 800 fellow workers at the shipyard to sign it.  I helped arrange for him to meet with the editor of the Times Record who wrote an editorial congratulating him for his vision.  The editor asked these questions: who ever thought the Navy base would close in Brunswick?  What happens if our fiscally broken nation runs out of money and we have to close BIW?  Shouldn’t the community be talking about alternatives to building increasingly expensive warships?

Our BIW friend, very active in the union, was the first worker to ever speak at a shipyard protest during a ‘christening’ some years ago.  On June 18, the day we were arrested, he was with us at BIW filming the whole event. He is sitting here in the courtroom today.

We know it’s asking a lot to bring these issues to you, our fellow citizens on this jury, but we have few alternatives.  I was taught in the schools on Air Force bases where I grew up that the people controlled our government in this democracy but over the years I’ve learned that everything was not actually as advertised in America.

We have to start somewhere if we hope to return sanity, hope and real democracy to our nation.  We ask you to think about these things we say here. 

Thank you for listening.



Blogger Zinn Reader said...

Wow, what an informative and effective opening statement. With your words, Bruce, you speak for many, many citizens as a citizen who allegedly lives in a democracy (the people rule) where our voices can be heard. And, sometimes, committing nonviolent civil resistance is the only viable avenue to advance our cause as patriots, as citizens.

2/1/17, 10:38 PM  

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