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Nonviolent Resistance


On forgetting and forgiving: Killing and Our Current American Crisis

By John Grant

 

Kill one person, it’s called murder.

Kill 100,000, it’s called foreign policy.

        - A popular bumper sticker

Lament for Humanity: A 50 Year Reflection

Deeply affected by the death of my two uncles in World War II, on 1 July 1966, the 24th anniversary of the USS Sturgeon sinking of the Japanese prisoner-of-war ship Montevideo Maru which killed the man after whom I am named, I decided that I would devote my life to working out why human beings are violent and then developing a strategy to end it.

The good news about this commitment was that it was made when I was nearly 14 so, it seemed, anything was possible. Now I am not so sure.

What about cops?: Ban Assault Weapons, But for Police Too, Not Just Civilians

By Dave Lindorff

 

A few years ago, I contacted my local police department asking them to send an officer over to put down a doe that had been hit by a car on the street in front of my house. She had suffered a left front and right rear leg break but had somehow flopped herself well into the yard and was on the ground suffering. When a cop arrived, and began to approach her with his pistol I warned him off, saying the deer would hurt herself more trying to get away.

Women's Draft? Sign Me Up To Abolish War

By Rivera Sun

For too long, the women of this nation have been complacent while our brothers, sons, husbands, and fathers are sent to kill, maim, brutalize, destroy and even die in defense of our alleged liberty.

But now, the Senate has passed a $602 billion defense bill that includes an amendment for drafting women. If this bill were in effect today, I would be fined a quarter of a million dollars and face five years in prison for writing these words:

Women: do not register for the draft.

No one - man or woman - should register, or be required to register, for the draft. The draft should be completely eliminated. The military should be dismantled. War should be abolished. The bloated war budget should be returned to our children and students. The military industrial complex should be evicted from our politics and war profiteering should be completely and utterly outlawed.

According to the new bill, saying this and telling other women not to register for the draft is against the law, but I'll say these words as long as I live in every way I can . . . and I'll tell it to men, too. For too long, this nation has sat idle as horrific wars are waged in our names. Now, a Congress of the same predominantly rich, white, old men who send our brothers off to war would like the women of this country to pick up the weapons in our very own hands.

I refuse.

Fox in Hen House: Online Auctions For Public Lands Oil and Gas Bids May Be Industry-Owned, Run

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

If the recent past serves as prologue, then online leasing of oil and gas on U.S. federal lands may resemble the proverbial fox guarding the hen house, with one eBay-like company in particular standing to profiteer from the industry's proposed e-bidding scheme.

Image Credit: Willis Nowell | Flickr

Case Dismissed for State of the Union Activists: Resistance Continues

By Joy First

It was with great apprehension that I left my home near Mount Horeb, WI and flew to Washington, DC on May 20, 2016.  I would be standing in Judge Wendell Gardner’s courtroom on Monday May 23, being charged with Blocking, obstructing and incommoding, and Failure to obey a lawful order. 

As we prepared for trial, we knew that Judge Gardner has jailed activists found guilty in the past, and so we knew we must be prepared for jail time.  We also knew that the government prosecutor had not responded to our latest motions, and so we wondered if that was a sign that they were not ready to proceed with a trial.  With this uncertainty in mind, for the first time ever I got a one-way ticket to DC, and it was with great sadness that I said goodbye to my family.

And what was my offense that brought me there?  On the day of Obama’s last State of the Union address, January 12, 2016, I joined 12 others as we exercised our First Amendment rights attempting to deliver a petition to President Obama in an action organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.  We suspected that Obama would not tell us what was really going on, and so our petition outlined what we believed to be the real state of the union along with remedies to create a world we all would want to live in.  The letter outlined our concerns regarding war, poverty, racism, and the climate crisis.

As about 40 concerned citizen activists walked toward the US Capitol on January 12, we saw the Capitol Police were already there and waiting for us.  We told the officer in charge that we had a petition we wanted to deliver to the president.  The officer told us we could not deliver a petition, but we could go demonstrate in another area.  We tried to explain that we were not there to demonstrate, but were there to exercise our First Amendment rights by delivering a petition to Obama.

As the officer continued to refuse our request, 13 of us began to walk up the steps of the Capitol.  We stopped short of a sign that read “Do not go beyond this point”.  We unfurled a banner that read “Stop the War Machine: Export Peace” and joined the rest of our colleagues in singing “We Shall Not be Moved”.

There was no one else trying to get inside the Capitol building, but nonetheless, we allowed plenty of room on the steps for others to get around us if they wanted to, and so we were not blocking anyone.  Though the police told us we could not deliver our petition, it is our First Amendment right to petition our government for a redress of grievances, so when the police told us to leave, no lawful order was given.  Why then were 13 of us arrested?  We were taken to the Capitol police station in handcuffs, charged, and released.

We were surprised when four members of the group, Martin Gugino from Buffalo, Phil Runkel from Wisconsin, Janice Sevre-Duszynska from Kentucky, and Trudy Silver from New York City,  had their charges dismissed within a couple of weeks of the action.  Why were there charges dropped when we all did the exact same thing?  Later, the government offered to drop the charges against us for a $50 post and forfeit.  Because of personal reasons four members of our group, Carol Gay from New Jersey, Linda LeTendre from New York, Alice Sutter from New York City, and Brian Terrell, Iowa, decided to accept that offer.  It seems the government knew early on that this case could not be prosecuted.

Five of us went to trial on May 23, Max Obusewski, Baltimore, Malachy Kilbride, Maryland, Joan Nicholson, Pennsylvania, Eve Tetaz, DC, and me.

We were in front of the judge for less than five minutes.  Max stood and introduced himself and asked if we could begin by talking about his motion for extended discovery.  Judge Gardner said we would hear from the government first.  The government prosecutor stood and said that the government was not ready to proceed.  Max moved that his case be dismissed.  Mark Goldstone, attorney advisor, moved that the case against Eve, Joan, Malachy, and me be dismissed.  Gardner granted the motions and it was over.

The government should have had the common courtesy to let us know they were not prepared to go to trial when they obviously knew ahead of time the trial would not go forward.  I would not have had to travel to DC, Joan would not have had to travel from Pennsylvania, and others more local would not have bothered to come to the court house.  I believe they wanted to mete out whatever punishment they could, even without going to trial, and not allow our voices to be heard in court. 

I have been arrested 40 times since 2003.  Of those 40, 19 arrests have been in DC.  In looking at my 19 arrests in DC, charges have been dismissed ten times and I have been acquitted four times.  I have only been found guilty four times out of 19 arrests in DC.  I think we are being falsely arrested to shut us down and get us out of the way, and not because we have committed a crime that we will likely be found guilty of.

What we were doing at the US Capitol on January 12 was an act of civil resistance.  It is important to understand the difference between civil disobedience and civil resistance.  In civil disobedience, a person knowingly breaks an unjust law in order to change it.  An example would be the lunch counter sit-ins during the civil rights movements in the early 1960s.  A law is broken and activists willingly face the consequences.

In civil resistance, we are not breaking the law; rather the government is breaking the law and we are acting in resistance to that law-breaking.  We did not go to the Capitol on January 12 because we wanted to get arrested, as was stated in the police report.  We went there because we had to call attention to the illegal and immoral actions of our government.  As we stated in our petition:

 We write to you as people committed to nonviolent social change with a deep concern for a variety of issues that are all interrelated. Please heed our petition—end our government’s continuing wars and military incursions around the world and use these tax dollars as a solution to end growing poverty which is a plague throughout this country in which vast wealth is controlled by a tiny percentage of its citizens. Establish a living wage for all workers. Condemn forcefully the policy of mass incarceration, solitary confinement, and the rampant police violence. Pledging to end the addiction to militarism will have a positive effect on our planet's climate and habitat. 

We delivered the petition knowing that we could be risking arrest by doing so and knowing that we would face the consequences, but we also believed that we were not breaking the law by attempting to deliver the petition.

And of course it is utterly essential that as we do this work we keep in mind that it is not our minor inconvenience that should be at the forefront of our thoughts, but rather the suffering of those we are speaking up for.  Those of us who took action on January 12 were 13 white middle-class citizens of the United States.  We have the privilege of being able to stand up and speak out against our government without serious consequences.  Even if we do end up going to jail, that is not the important part of the story.

Our focus always needs to be on our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering and dying because of our government’s policies and choices.  We think of those in the Middle East and Africa where drones are flying overhead and dropping bombs that are traumatizing and killing thousands of innocent children, women, and men.  We think of those in the United States who are living under the mantle of poverty, lacking such basic necessities as food, housing, and adequate medical care.  We think of those whose lives have been shattered by police violence because of the color of their skin.  We think of all of us who will perish if government leaders around the world don’t make drastic and immediate changes to deter climate chaos.  We think of all those who are oppressed by the powerful.

It is critical that those of us who are able to, come together and speak up against these crimes by our government.  The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) has been organizing actions of civil resistance since 2003.  In the fall, September 23-25, we will be part of a conference organized by World Beyond War (http://worldbeyondwar.org/NoWar2016/ ) in Washington, DC.  At the conference we will be talking about civil resistance and organizing future actions.

In January 2017, NCNR will be organizing an action on the day of the presidential inauguration.  Whoever becomes president, we went to send a strong message that we must end all wars.   We must provide liberty and justice for all.

We need many people to join us for future actions.  Please look into your heart and make a conscious decision about whether you are able to join us and stand up in resistance to the United States government.  The people have the power to bring about change and we must reclaim that power before it is too late.

For information on getting involved, contact joyfirst5@gmail.com

Hammering for Peace

Bdownloady Kathy Kelly

Last winter, at the Voices home/office in Chicago, we welcomed two friends who were in town for a Mennonite church gathering focused on the symbol of beating swords into plowshares. Their project embraces a vision from the biblical “Book of Isaiah” which longs for the day when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they study war anymore.” Our friends quite literally enact this vision. They use saws to cut guns and rifles in half and then hammer on the broken weapons, turning them into useful tools for gardening and light construction.

Throughout the service, one of the men could be seen, on a screen, standing outside the Mennonite church hall, fashioning, with hammer and anvil, a rifle into a garden tool. Sparks flew with his hammer, but no-one was inflamed into anger. The fire our friends wanted to ignite was inside us. With what work can we replace war? If we are no longer training for war, what else could we be doing?” 

That winter night, at the Mennonite church, I couldn’t help but think of another activist who had swung a tool last December, in this case, a sledgehammer, because she was inspired to confront weapon makers and encourage alternatives to war. Jessica Reznicek, age 34, didn’t own the weapon system she wanted to transform. But she felt responsible to help the general public own up to its complicity with weapon systems funded by U.S. taxpayers. She took a sledgehammer to the doors of a major weapon producing company, Northrop Grumman, outside Offut Air Force base. In a written statement explaining why she swung her tool at the plate glass, Jessica asks people to understand that Northrop Grumman's weapon systems shatter and destroy the lives of people the world over.

As one of the manufacturers with the largest share of the global Unmanned Aerial Systems market, (18.9%), Northrop Grumman profits immensely from peddling complex weapon systems often designed to be eyes in the skies monitoring targets for assassination. This kind of surveillance and extrajudicial execution generates intense anger and backlashes in other lands. It also promotes proliferation of robotic weapons. But the U.S. military and acquiescent institutions encourage us to feel that we've been made safer by complex weapons of destruction, and we should instead be frightened of a young woman wielding a sledgehammer to break a plate glass window.

On May 24, Jessica Reznicek went go to a trial in Nebraska, expected to last two days, for her action. She has chosen to go “pro se,” – to defend herself. Courts in the U.S. seldom allow the necessity defense. If the judge in Jessica’s case does so, Jessica could try to defend herself saying she acted to prevent a greater harm. She could establish that the U.S. government consistently provides Northrop Grumman with lavish funding, devoting immense resources of materials and scientific ingenuity to the study of war, all desperately needed elsewhere. Northrop Grumman steadily experiments in perfecting the high-tech advantage of an empire bent on endlessly dominating the world through endless war.

I wish that the testimony of my friends who literally beat guns into garden tools  could be part of the courtroom proceeding. They urge us to make guns and other weapons unnecessary, using raw tools of compassion and service to heal the conflicts in which weapons are used. I wish my young Afghan friends here in Kabul, who live under constant surveillance of Unmanned Aerial Systems, could testify about their desire to refine tools of peace making and constructive service.

A Friendly Critique of the Break Free Climate Actions

I have enjoyed reading accounts and seeing photos of those committed and courageous climate activists who participated in the recent Break Free from Fossil Fuels actions conducted at various locations in 13 countries from 4-15 May 2016. See 'Break Free from Fossil Fuels'.

How to Oppose the Draft for Women and Not Be Sexist

For the majority of people in the United States who have no idea, yes, draft registration still exists, but only for males. However, the U.S. House of Representatives is interested in adding young women to the rolls. In fact the House Armed "Services" Committee passed such a measure in April, and it is now part of the National "Defense" Authorization Act pending review, amendment, debate, and passage.

An amendment proposed by Congressman Pete Sessions would undo this "progressive" development. Some rightwing groups that consult the Bible for their standards of women's rights also want to stop the extension of "selective service" to all 18 year olds. Some peace activists believe that the key to ending warmaking is actually activating the draft in as big a way as possible. And liberal humanitarian warriors want equal war rights for women. Much of the rest of the world, meanwhile, believes the United States has overdosed on military madness.

Ending Human Violence is a Task for Each of Us

Do you think that ending human violence is impossible? Do you believe that even aiming to do so is unrealistic? Well, you might be right. But you might also be interested to know that there are a lot of people around the world who are committed to trying. And, if you think the aim is worthwhile, you could be one of them.

The Boys Who Said NO! A Documentary on the Nonviolent Draft Resistance Movement during the Vietnam War

From www.boyswhosaidno.com

Over the past 200 years, there have been a series of dynamic and successful nonviolent direct action movements in the U.S. stretching from abolishing slavery and winning women’s rights to advancing wider civil rights, equality, disarmament, and peace.  Influential Americans including William Penn, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Addams, and Martin Luther King, Jr. all opposed war and defended human rights, and countless numbers of others have followed their example throughout the country and around the world. 

In that tradition, tens of thousands of young people followed their consciences and actively refused to cooperate with the draft and the Vietnam War during the 1960s and 70s because of the injustice and violence they represented.  Featuring recently filmed interviews with the men and women involved, The Boys Who Said NO! explores the important but little known story of young people who organized resistance to the draft and chose prison instead of war.

Nationally, over half a million young men evaded or resisted the draft during these years, and tens of thousands risked substantial fines and prison sentences of up to five years for publicly taking a stand.  In the end, the government convicted 3,250 draft resisters and sentenced them to between one and five years in federal prison.

These young men became part of the largest mass incarceration of war resisters in U.S. history. Ultimately, they inspired and influenced countless others to question the war, oppose conscription, and end the conflict in Vietnam.  United States history shows that activists like these, who have developed effective conflict resolution strategies using nonviolence, have moved critical national issues forwards without violence.

Our director is Judith Ehrlich, who won an Academy Award nomination for codirecting The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Her earlier films include The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It, about conscientious objectors in WWII. Our producer Christopher C. Jones was inspired to make this film by a reunion of seventy nonviolent activists in 2013. He is a former draft resister as are our other Advisory Team members Robert Cooney, Steve Ladd and Lee Swenson. Bill Prince, MD is our co-producer.

How do the lessons of the nonviolent draft resistance movement relate to social conflicts we have today and in the future? What impacts did the imprisonment of these young Americans have on their lives, on society and on stopping the war?  These are some of the questions the film explores. Please visit our website and see some early edited draft film segments: www.boyswhosaidno.com

New poem by TCBH resident poet Gary Lindorff -- 'Gun Tales of a Pacifist'

Gun tales of a pacifist

 

My brother and I learned to shoot

At summer camp.

That is where gunpowder

WAAAHHHH…but we don’t wanna get arrested!!

By Mike Ferner
 
As the macho, gun-toting, testosterone-addled cowboys who took over the wildlife refuge in Oregon call it quits, their pitiful whine can be heard all the way to Florida: “Waaahhh…but we don’t wannna get arrested…”
 
So much for the rugged-individualists and badass proponents of personal responsibility.
 
Let’s see what happens as their armed insurrection winds down.  How will the system treat the militant bullyboys? 
 
Will they get pepper-sprayed in the face as did the college students peacefully sitting in a driveway at UC Davis during Occupy protests, or shot in the head with a police projectile as did Veterans For Peace member Scott Olson in Oakland?
 
Will they get two months in jail like Ed Kinane for stepping across a line at the School of the Americas; or six months in jail like grandmother Mary Anne Grady, for taking pictures of demonstrators outside the Reaper drone base in upstate NY; or a $20,000 fine like Kathy Kelly’s peace group, for taking medicine to people in Iraq before the U.S. military invaded their country in 2003; or 10 years in prison for speaking out against the madness of World War One, like Gene Debs;
 
Will they be clubbed in the head, set on by German shepherds, slammed up against light poles by fire hoses like the kids demonstrating for civil rights in Alabama, or killed by vigilante executioners and buried in a dike for registering voters?
 
If they go to jail, will they conduct a peaceful hunger strike and endure force-feeding like Alice Paul and Rose Winslow did for demanding women get the right to vote?
 
If they are arrested, chances are very good that nothing like the above will happen to any of the massively-armed, good ‘ol boys in Oregon who would be the first to tell you they were only making a statement of conscience against government gone amuck.
 
But when the students at UC Davis, or Kathy Kelly, or Ed Kinane, or Gene Debs, or the civil rights protesters, or the suffragists, all unarmed and committed to nonviolence, conducted their protests they did so with the understanding they may well suffer serious bodily harm and at the very least be arrested and sentenced. 
 
They treated the police, the prosecutors and the judges with utmost respect.  They did not plead to lesser charges but underwent trials in hopes of educating more people about the evils against which they fought. 
 
So let’s see how the Rambo wannabes of Eastern Oregon handle themselves.  Seems they could use a few lessons in toughness from nonviolent peace and justice activists.   
 
###
Mike Ferner served as a hospital corpsman during the Viet Nam war.  In 2006 he participated in a five-week, water-only fast with Kathy Kelly and Ed Kinane to protest the war in Iraq and was also convicted of two felonies for painting “Troops Out Now” on a highway overpass, which cost him two months house arrest and $5,000.

Bloodless Occupation

By Tom H. Hastings

Video footage of the Oregon State Police shooting of armed occupier LaVoy Finicum following a vehicular chase is so very sad to watch. Finicum may have been quite stupid in his belief that American public lands should belong to private ranchers, but he did not deserve to die. Sadly, he arranged for his own death.

Finicum, the spokesperson for the armed militia which took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on 2 January 2016, was quite open—he carried a gun at all times and was ready to use it. He reached for it, apparently, and was shot dead. Geez.

Like Finicum, I’ve opposed US policy enough to risk arrest, to occupy federal facilities, and to stand up to federal law enforcement. Unlike him, I’ve actually done it numerous times and never been shot. I’ve always been nonviolent and, to be frank, my method makes victory possible and, in some cases, achieved. Finicum apparently thought that a gun makes you safer. It is the opposite.

I helped occupy Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s office twice—once when he was thinking about how he might vote on the 2002 Senate bill to grant George W. Bush essentially illimitable powers to invade and wage war on Iraq or anyone else. Wyden ended up voting our way. We were nonviolent and courteous.

I helped occupy his office again in 2006 to convince him to speak out against the war in Iraq. We were quite friendly, actually, with Homeland Security, who arrested us. Wyden did as we asked—he posted on his website (finally!) that he opposed the ongoing war and he even rose on the United States of America Senate floor to call for an end to that occupation. As usual, we carried no guns and in fact met with the staff ahead of time to explain nonviolence.

I’ve done other nonviolent occupations over the decades—even a one-man occupation of the Soviet embassy in nonviolent resistance to their weaponry. I’ve never even had a weapon pulled on me, let alone being shot, and every single public policy ask I’ve made has ultimately been granted.

It is so sad to see Muslim extremists reverting to 12th century brutality and American “patriots” regressing to 19th century behavior. LaVoy Finicum didn’t have to die; he needed to learn about nonviolence.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and is Founding Director of PeaceVoice

Being Where I Really Need to Be

By Joy First

Friday January 8 marked another day of flying to Washington, DC for a week of activism – again.  I was feeling sad leaving my family for a week and not looking forward to what I knew I was going to have to do in speaking out against the crimes of our government.

While in DC I stayed with my dear friend Malachy and his family and that is always a comfort to be in their home.  Each day was filled with activist work.  On Saturday we vigiled against drones at the CIA and I had the opportunity to share what we are doing at Volk Field in Wisconsin where we have been holding monthly vigils against drones for over four years, along with occasional nonviolent direct actions risking arrest.  On Sunday we met with a doctor who is the head of Physicians for Social Responsibility in the DC area.  He would like to engage more doctors from that organization in civil resistance.  He thinks it is a critical time for more people to take to the streets and work for peace and justice. 

On Monday we went to the White House where our friends from Witness Against Torture were holding their annual vigil marking 14 years since the first men were imprisoned and tortured in Guantanamo.  It was a moving vigil as about 20 activists in orange jumpsuits and black hoods walked into the picture postcard area in front of the White House.  As the police began pushing the rest of us back to the sidewalk in Lafayette Park I resisted and held my ground as long as possible.  For over an hour, our voices were raised together as we sang:

We hear a beautiful sound

It is the breaking of chains

We see a path of hope

We have found the way

 

Let them go home

Let them go home

Let them go home

Let them go today

Eventually those who had been standing in the picture postcard area joined us and we gathered in a circle in the street again and ended the vigil.  A number of men have recently been released from Guantanamo after 14 years of false imprisonment and torture, but Obama could have released them when he became president seven years ago, cutting in half their time there. 

As we stayed busy for several days, Tuesday January 12 was weighing heavily on my mind and I was anxiously waiting for that day when the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) was planning a nonviolent direct action.  On January 12, the day Obama was going to give us his State of the Union address we were going to deliver a petition to the U.S. Capitol on the “Real State of the Union” outlining what was really going on, along with ideas for solutions.  We also had a list of war crimes that had been committed by our government that we wanted to share. 

I woke up early on Tuesday morning.  Malachy and I had a big breakfast knowing we may not eat again for a long time.  We took the Metro to town and as we walked by the Capitol we scoped it out, paying attention to where we might want to go to deliver the petition, and noticing the police – how many there were and where they were.  We met up with Max and Janice and the four of us looked at the situation to get a better sense of how the action could unfold.

We gathered together at 11:00 am at a church near the Capitol.  It always feels so good to great my old friends and comrades in the struggle.  I have been risking arrest with many of them for over ten years now.

I was helping David Barrows stretch out his banner “The Real State of the Union” on wooden poles when Malachy came over and told us that he just heard that Tim Chadwick had died.  Tim had been a regular at NCNR actions for many years, but I had not seen him for a couple of years.  I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear this news.  Tim was an amazing activist and never gave up on trying to change the world, and we all knew that we had to continue with our action for the day in his honor.

The group who was going to risk arrest met together in a corner of the church hall to do final planning for the action.  We decided we would attempt to deliver the petition to Joe Biden, president of the Senate, as well as vice-president of Obama’s administration.  After the planning meeting, we all gathered together for an open mic where we were inspired hearing about what others were doing and sharing stories of past actions.

At 1:30 pm we left the church and gathered on the street corner near the Supreme Court and across the street from the Capitol.  We were planning to set up on the sidewalk directly in front of the Supreme Court, but the police there would not allow us to set up the model drones and so we moved to the corner with our drones – another infringement on our First Amendment rights. 

We had a rally with a number of speakers talking about the issues of war, poverty, racism, and climate crisis that brought us together that day.  Though we sent out a press release, the only media attention we got was from the foreign press, with just one local independent media person.  It is a real failing on the part of our mainstream media that they do not provide coverage showing dissent, with people talking about these important issues. 

At about 2:30, after each person risking arrest was able to share why they were engaging in nonviolent civil resistance, we walked toward the Capitol with petition in hand.  There was a long roadway leading from the sidewalk to the Capitol and we thought we might be stopped, but we were able to get to the steps of the Capitol before an officer stopped us and told us we could not go any further. 

We told him we wanted to deliver a petition to Biden, as well as a list of war crimes, and he said we couldn’t, but that he would escort us to the grassy area where we could protest.  We told him that we were not there to protest, but rather we were citizens who were attempting to deliver a petition to our government for a redress of grievances, a First Amendment right.  By this time, some members of our group were on the steps holding a banner saying, “Stop the War Machine: Export Peace”.  The officer said they needed to come down off the steps, and at that point the rest of us walked up the steps and stopped short of a chain blocking us from going further with a sign that said there was no access to the public past that point.

Art Laffin, who was there with others in solidarity, led the group in singing “We shall not be moved” and as we sang an officer gave us three warnings that we needed to get off the steps.  As we held our ground they started handcuffing those on the steps and told the others that they had to leave if they didn’t want to be arrested.

It was probably less than 15 minutes between the time we arrived at the steps of the Capitol and the arrests began.  I expect they wanted to clean up quickly before people started arriving for the president’s version of the state of the union.

The 13 arrested included Eve Tetaz, Alice Sutter, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Joy First, Trudy Silver, Linda LeTendre, Joan Nicholson, Carol Gay, Max Obuszewski, Malachy Kilbride, Martin Gugino, Phil Runkel, and Brian Terrell.  In addition, there were others who were important in making this action happen including our jail support David, Don, and Paki.

We were taken in vans to the Capitol police station where we were processed and released with a court date of February 3.  When we compared citations after the action some read we were charged with blocking, other citations noted the charge was incommoding and obstructing.

I will be surprised if the government goes through with prosecuting us.  It seems the government is dismissing a lot of cases against activists over the last few years.  In this case, we were exercising our First Amendment rights, simply and peacefully attempting to deliver a petition to our government.  We did block or obstruct anyone.  We were standing against a chain, we did not cross, that had a sign reading the public did not have access past that point.  What did we do wrong?  Why were we arrested? 

The charges may be dismissed, but it would be better if we went to trial and could bring these issues into the courtroom.  If we continue to be arrested and then the charges are dropped before trial, it appears that the government is using that as a way to block our access and not allowing our grievances to be heard.

As we have noted in many actions over the last several years, the government is becoming less and less accessible to the citizens.  If you are part of a wealthy corporation or have a lot of money, you will have the ear of those in power in DC.  But the rest of us do not have a way to access our government about our concerns.   We have written letters that have not been answered.  We follow up with visits to the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, the Department of Justice etc. and we are refused a meeting with anyone in a policy-making position.  My friend Linda said that as the crimes of the government become greater and greater, accessibility to the government becomes less and less.

I do not take action because I want to be arrested, though I know I put myself at risk for being arrested for the actions I take.  I am engaging in nonviolent civil resistance and I am acting in resistance to the crimes of the government.  I am not the one who is breaking the law, but we have many in our government, including Obama, who should be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

These actions are not something I relish doing, but I feel a deep spiritual calling to do this work for my grandchildren and all the children of the world.  I am not suffering by the minor inconvenience of being arrested, but there is much grave suffering by children, mothers, and fathers, sisters and brothers both here at home and around the world because of the illegal policies of our government.  And so, when I do an action like this I know I am exactly where I need to be and speaking out exactly as I need to be speaking.  There is no place else in the world I needed to be at that moment, but on the steps of the Capitol trying to deliver a petition of our grievances. 

There are so many grave ills facing the world - war, poverty, racism, climate crisis, and systemic violence to name a few.  Please consider taking to the streets.  We need more people in the streets engaging in nonviolent civil resistance.  That is the only way we will bring about real and lasting change.  We will not survive unless we do.  It is up to we, the people to demand change.

Video of the January 12 action

https://archive.org/details/RealStateOfTheUnionCD1122016540p

Found Guilty for Trying to Uphold the Law and Morality at Drone Base

By Bonnie Block

Joy First is the usual reporter on the trials of Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones activists  but she is in Washington, D.C. for the NCNR action on “The Real State of the Union. So I’ll report on my bench trial on January 8th.    

My statement to the court is below.  After I read the first paragraph the District Attorney objected but Judge Curran did not honor his objection and let me read the statement without interruption which is progress because in the past we have often been interrupted when trying to make our case. 

STATEMENT TO THE JUNEAU COUNTY COURT on January 8, 2016

I sit in this courtroom once again charged with trespass and the claim that trespass is purely a matter of “whether or not one entered or remained on the land of another” and that any justification for doing so is merely political and thus not relevant in a court of law.  Yet the bedrock foundation of the rule of law is due process. Thus I need a chance to speak of why my action on August 25, 2015 should not be viewed as trespass. There was no intent to harm anyone or damage anything which is what trespass laws exist to prevent. Rather it was an act of nonviolent civil resistance calling on Volk Field personnel to abide by the rule of law. Why do I say that?

Because:

Drone warfare is Illegal.  From all the reading and legal research that I’ve done I’m convinced the training of and use by operators of the RQ-7 Shadow 200 UAV’s at Volk Field is part of an illegal program.  I refer the Court to the 14-page Motion to Dismiss I filed in on April 18, 2014 prior to my first trial on an almost identical set of facts.  Obviously, I won’t repeat all of that but four things do need to be said.

First, targeted assassinations are murder because bombs from the sky provide absolutely no due process and murder is illegal in all 50 states. 

Second, The US has ratified the UN Charter which requires member states to settle disputes by peaceful means and to refrain from the threat or use of force against any other state.  The US claim that the right of self-defense allows it to engage in pre-emptive attacks is not valid.

Third, the UN General Assembly and its Human Rights Council both have declared drone warfare to be a war crime. This should come under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court but the US has not ratified the ICC precisely because it fears US officials being might be found guilty of just such crimes.

Fourth, drone warfare violates the provisions of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which sets the basic standards by which human beings should be treated.  Multiple international human rights organizations charge the US with violations of international humanitarian law.

Drone warfare is also immoral.I need not go into the moral arguments against drone warfare because this past Monday one of my co-defendants, Fr. Jim Murphy, eloquently set them out in this very courtroom prior to being sentenced to five days in jail.  I agree and affirm every word of his statement most especially that “we cannot remain silent without becoming complicit.” There is no justification for even one person much less thousands of people being killed, wounded or terrorized by US drones.  Data for each country in which drone strikes occur can be found at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 

Drone warfare is ineffective.  The recent release of “The Drone Papers” is just the most recent report showing remote-controlled wars are counter-productive.  A summary of this report published on October 23, 2015 at www.commondreams.com  states:  “Even a drone operator who defended this type of warfare… admitted that things have gotten worse on the ground: “The military has quadrupled drone strikes over the past seven years; and now instead if hiding in Waziristan, al-Qaida is flourishing all over the world.”

Not only that, but what goes around comes around.  The New York Times and other media outlets are reporting that US drone operators have the same or even higher rates of PTSD than military personnel who have been in combat.  And, God bless them, many are leaving military service because they can no longer stand the stress of participating in remote control killing.

Rights and Duty. Every citizen has not only the constitutional right, but I think a duty, to engage in nonviolent resistance when our government is in violation of the law. Crossing the line is one way of exercising our constitutional rights to free speech and petitioning a branch of the government for a redress of grievances over what is being done in our name and with our taxes.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Where, after all, do universal rights begin?  In small places, close to home. (...) Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

That’s why I keep coming to Volk Field and ending up in this Courtroom.  Wisconsin is our home and dismissal of this trespass charge could set a new precedent right here in this small place. We could honor universal human rights here. 

The myth that the use of force such as drone warfare will make us safe and the influence of the war profiteers producing drones and other weapons of war are both very strong.  But we could all, in our own way, be one of those tiny grains of sand that slows down the gears of the machinery of death.   We could help stop the drones originating from Volk Field rather than acquiescing in ratchetting up the level of violence and injustice because we’re “just following orders” or “we can’t make policy.”

Thus I continue to engage in nonviolent civil resistance to call on my government (and its military) to abide by the rule of law and that I believe fails to meet the elements or intent of the law of trespass.  Instead I ask—as do the children of Afghanistan—that we “Fly Kites, Not Drones.” 

- Bonnie Block

I was wearing one of the “Fly Kites Not Drones” T-shirts the WI Coalition has had printed so everyone in the courtroom saw our heartfelt desire--especially the Sheriff and one of his Deputies who had to identify me -- thus insuring they also saw the words on the shirt.

BUT as has happened previously each time one of us has gone to trial, the Judge did find me guilty of trespass under a County ordinance.  I said that as a matter of conscience I couldn’t pay the fine and would do the jail time or better yet community service.  (At my trial in 2015, the Judge said the County couldn’t afford to hire a supervisor for court-ordered community service and thus sentenced me to five days in the Juneau County Jail.)

This time I made came more prepared.  A local pastor, Rev. Terry McGinley, appeared on my behalf to say would supervise my community service at one of three non-profits in Mauston (the county seat) that he had already contacted. He also said he would report back to the Court upon the completion of the number of hours the Judge ordered and do this without charge to Juneau County. The Judge replied that he wasn’t able to make a decision “after just hearing about it three minutes ago.”

Apparently Judge Curran didn’t remember that we have been asking for the community service outcome for two years.  Or perhaps he was miffed that I was forcing the issue.  Anyhow, he sentenced me to pay the $232 fine and if it wasn’t paid in time Juneau County would attach my income tax refund and thus get the money --- regardless of my conscientious objection to paying a fine for an action taken in opposition to what I believe is a war crime! 

I plan to file a Motion for Reconsideration after Rev. McGinley has met with Judge Curran to see if there is still a way to work out doing community service in lieu of paying a fine.  So many human service programs have been cut because our elected officials doubled military spending since 9/11. Thus it seems only right to support a Food Pantry, an Aging and Disability Resource Center or a Habitat Restore instead. (These were the three agencies that told Rev. McGinley they would welcome court-ordered community service.)

Stay tuned.  Six more trials are scheduled later in January and in February.   

 

Obama's Oily Christmas Gift: Faster Pipeline Approvals

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Just over a week before the U.S. signed the Paris climate agreement at the conclusion of the COP21 United Nations summit, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law with a provision that expedites permitting of oil and gas pipelines in the United States.

My 2016 New Years Day: The Good, the Sad and the Ugly

By John Grant

 

Philadelphia -- A number of things converged to make my New Years special this year. Three of them were good, one was not so good -- in fact, it had the sense of a nasty omen for the future.

Where will that money go?: The Zuckerberg Family Donation and a Legacy of Control

By Alfredo Lopez

 

When I was very young, my parents used to tell me why having "lots of toys" wasn't a good idea. "The more you have, the more you want," they would say. I didn't have many toys -- we were poor -- so the idea of possessions feeding greed didn't make much sense to me then.

Warmongers & Peacemongers: Learning How Not to Rule the World

By John Grant

 

[Al Qaeda’s] strategic objective has always been ... the overthrow of the House of Saud. In pursuing that regional goal, however, it has been drawn into a worldwide conflict with American power.

Talk Nation Radio: Maria Santelli on Conscience and War

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-maria-santelli-on-conscience-and-war 

Maria Santelli is Executive Director of the Center on Conscience & War, a 75-year old organization founded to provide technical and community support to conscientious objectors to war. Based in Washington, D.C., Santelli has been working for peace and justice since 1996. She discusses conscientious objection and this week's attack on a hospital in Afghanistan.

See http://centeronconscience.org

Read her articles at http://www.truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/51409

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi's Dream

 

On behalf of those of us who struggle to honor Gandhi's legacy to the world, I would like to wish Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi 'happy birthday!' Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 and had he defied both the assassin's bullet and the aging process, he would have been 146 years old this year.

Accommodating abuse: Critics of BlackLivesMatter# Practice Defiant Denial

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

Over 1,500 miles separate Harris County, Texas and Harrison Township, New Jersey yet public officials in those two jurisdictions seemingly share a disdain for persons who protest against police abuse.

 

Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field

By Joy First  

Voices for Creative Nonviolence engaged with a number of Wisconsin peace groups to organize an 8-day 90-mile walk across southwest Wisconsin from August 18-25.  The purpose of the walk was to call attention and make connections between the militarized police violence at home and the military using violence abroad through drone warfare and by other means.  In both cases the victims are people of color, which forces us to reflect on the systemic racism of our society.

The walk began at the City/County/Jail complex in Madison on August 18.  Dane County has one of the highest rates of racial disparity of any county in the country on many issues, including when it comes to incarceration - hence starting the walk at the jail.  In fact, in order to make the prison population match the general population in Dane County, we would need to release 350 Black people.  This is horrific, especially when we understand that so many people of color are in jail for nonviolent crimes and crimes of poverty that could better be solved by more positive interventions.  It is up to all of us to stand up with our brothers and sisters and proclaim that “Black Lives Matter!”

Talk Nation Radio: Salt Rebellion in U.S. Colonies and Sailing Food from Maine to Boston

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-salt-rebellion-in-us-colonies-and-sailing-food-from-maine-to-boston

Why sail food from Maine to Boston, and what do salt and the British colonies in North America have in common with Gandhi's India?

Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha, and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Occupy Radio, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. She tours nationally speaking and educating in nonviolent civil resistance. Her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. See http://riverasun.com

Marada Cook is a food entrepreneur who can be found at Crown O'Maine Organic Cooperative, Northern Girl, and Fiddler's Green Farm.

Read Rivera Sun's article "Maine Sail Freight Revives: A Salty History of Revolution, Independence."

Find the Maine Sail Freight at http://thegreenhorns.net

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

U.S. Bows Out After Plowshares Conviction is Vacated: Appeals Court Ill-Informed on Nuclear Overkill

By John LaForge

The 2012 Transform Now Plowshares anti-nuclear action made the “Fort Knox” of weapons-grade uranium look like “F Troop.” Three senior peace activists got through four chain-link fences and past multiple “lethal force” zones before stringing banners, spray-painting slogans and pouring blood on the Highly-Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee – all without being noticed by guards.

The guard that finally spotted the three activists – Sr. Megan Rice, 85, of New York City, Greg Boertje-Obed, 60, of Duluth, and Michael Walli, 66, of Washington, D.C. – testified that he knew a peace protest when he saw one. He had watched a lot of them while on duty at Rocky Flats, the former plutonium warhead factory near Denver, Colorado. That’s why he shrugged off official protocol and didn’t draw his gun on Greg, Megan and Michael that night.

Redemption Remains

It is possible for people to behave well in a crisis. It is possible for people to maintain their dedication to good and kindness in the face of fear and horrific loss. The loved one of a murder victim can love and comfort the murderer. This fact is going to become ever more crucial to understand and demonstrate as the crises of a collapsing climate engulf us.

In 1943 six residents of Coventry, England, bombed by Germany, wrote a public letter condemning the bombing of German cities. Imagine if they — and what they asserted was the general view of their neighbors — had been listened to. We’ve had seven decades of endless revenge, including a particular new burst of it that began around September 12, 2001. But some have pushed back.

A new film called In Our Son’s Name provides a powerful example. Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, whose story the film tells, published a letter shortly after September 11, 2001, that read:

“Our son Greg is among the many missing from the World Trade Center attack. Since we first heard the news, we have shared moments of grief, comfort, hope, despair, fond memories with his wife, the two families, our friends and neighbors, his loving colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald/ESpeed, and all the grieving families that daily meet at the Pierre Hotel.

“We see our hurt and anger reflected among everybody we meet. We cannot pay attention to the daily flow of news about this disaster. But we read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands, dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son’s death. Not in our son’s name.

“Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times.”

That was their immediate response when it mattered, and of course it ought to have been heeded. Orlando Rodriguez taught a course on terrorism at Fordham University after the death of his son, trying to reach at least a small number of people drowning in the sea of patriotism and militarism.

Phyllis Rodriguez wanted to meet Aicha el-Wafi, the suffering mother of the indicted Zacarias Moussaoui; and when they met they helped each other through their grief. Phyllis comforted Aicha during her son’s trial, at which Orlando and a dozen others testified for the defense.

“Our son’s life is not worth more than her son’s life,” said Phyllis, articulating both an obvious truth and an idea that millions of people would find incomprehensible, due to the power of nationalism and hatred.

The Rodriguezes began speaking publicly. Phyllis and Aicha spoke at events together.

Zacarias Moussaoui was reportedly amazed that any American would speak up for him. If he were to meet with and get to know people like Orlando and Phyllis he might come to oppose the ideology he had embraced. But that might not happen any time soon. He’s locked away for life, and the judge reportedly told him as he left court that he would “die with a whimper” and “never get a chance to speak again.”

As a substitute for meeting with people responsible for their son’s death, the Rodriguezes met at Sing Sing prison with five men convicted of kidnapping and murder. The men expressed their desire to meet with their victims and apologize, something they are denied the right to do. They also expressed the need to tell their stories and have someone listen. Phyllis and Orlando understood this perfectly, going into the meeting with the belief that while they had had ample opportunity to tell their story, these men hadn’t.

Orlando said the meeting with prisoners helped release some of his anger. He began teaching in prison, wishing he could teach the people who killed his son, wishing he could teach them not to do it. Of course that’s not really possible, but we can collectively compel the U.S. government to end policies that “create further grievances against us.”

What if every dead child were, in some sense, our son or daughter? Can we allow ourselves to think like that? Can we understand the grief and pain? Can we respond collectively with the wisdom and magnanimity that we long to see and occasionally do see in individuals.

Here’s a way to start. Buy a giant popcorn to share and show In Our Son’s Name to everyone you can.

Speaking Events

David Swanson at St. Michael’s College, Colchester, VT, October 5, 2016.

David Swanson in Fairbanks, Alaska, October 22, 2016.

Find Events Here.

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