Peace & Nonviolence Update
August 23, 2011
A field of gold T-shirts with the message “Tax Wall St. -End the Wars-Public Investment in Jobs” greeted Rep. Chabot as he walked into the North Avondale Recreation Center 15 minutes late for his town hall meeting. Of the approximately 90 people there, about 90 percent were wearing gold t-shirts or toting signs expressing support for strengthening social security, ending the wars, preventing foreclosures, and preserving medicare.
Rep. Chabot avoided eye contact with the crowd as he filibustered for 30 minutes before spending 25 minutes responding to a handful of pre-selected written questions from the audience. Many of the questions seemed to throw him off. No interaction between Rep. Chabot and his constituents was permitted during the townhall. There was no opportunity to speak and no opportunity to challenge his assertions. Taking pictures and filming the meeting were also prohibited. Some people wore tape over their mouths to protest this violation of freedom of speech.
Despite the restrictive, controlled environment, our message was unmistakable. The field of gold t-shirts dominated the scene, defining a path toward shared prosperity and fiscal responsibility.
The Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center organized the “Tax Wall Street – End the Wars- Public Investment in Jobs” T-shirt effort. In subsequent public meetings, Rep. Chabot had to take questions from the audience.
Main Line Peace Action/DelMont PDA in eastern Pennsylvania reports: “The Coalition for Peace Action, based in Princeton, has adopted our Campaign for Smart Security as their main project for the coming year and has featured it at their Annual Meeting on June 18 (where Barney Frank was the main speaker), their Peace is Patriotic picnic July 2 (where Bill Hartung was the main speaker), and will feature it again at their Annual Conference on November 13.
“We have six adopting organizations in our [PA] coalition, and we have venues to present at several more, including the Summer Conference of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America in Harrisonburg, VA, this week, with 300 in the audience.
“There will be a Town Hall meeting in Philadelphia sometime over the summer, and we plan to be part of that. We have promoted the online poll as much as possible. We hope it will go through until the end of the month.
“Even though we are supporting both these efforts, our main focus is still on building those coalitions, looking for organizations that will use our presentation and hopefully adopt the resolution. We are realizing that it is in the reaching out to these other organizations that relationships grow, and that the relationships themselves are the main fruit and reward of our efforts, not to mention the education and awareness that happens in doing so. The focus is Congress, and we know they ultimately make the decisions, but the real prize is, as Bob Smith reminded us at yesterday’s picnic, the ‘beloved community’ that MLK told us about that grows around our work.”
The Campaign for Smart Security also:
Their plan is to get as many organizations of various kinds to be sending these resolutions to their Congressional delegations, in order that the lawmakers will be well aware of their constituents’ wishes regarding cutting military spending and new priorities.
The Campaign for Smart Security also participated in the CLEAR coalition’s protest at the Capitol urging a fairer state budget. They want to made contact with groups at such protests, drawing connections between the state budget crisis and the federal budget crisis.
The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane reports: “We started up an Activist Change Theater (ACT) group to provide us with another medium to reach the public with our message. We are planning to debut at a large community event on Aug 20 where the Army recruiters will also have stage time and have previously painted young children’s faces with camo.
“In our coordinated work with Fellowship of Reconciliation groups in the state we are asking leaders to sign on to letter to state representatives and senators to pass a joint resolution. [The Western Washington and Olympia chapters of FOR have Bring Our Billions Home campaigns.]
“Our local bit of good news is our Mayor, who is currently running for re-election, signed on to the Mayor’s resolution and spoke publicly at a candidate forum on the local impact of the wars on our city’s economy. With Spokane being such a strong military community with Fairchild AFB, this is a pretty big deal.”
Peace Action Montgomery [County MD] reports: “We are starting to organize a series of town halls in MD–for Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Annapolis and Baltimore. We couldn’t pull this off in the summer, so we are looking to early fall, probably for Montgomery in late September. We have had a couple of organizing meetings for the first one in Montgomery County. There’s a fair amount of excitement. We are struggling with making it more than a one-off; it has to be tied to larger movement-building. How will this lead to the next thing and what will the next thing be? Our goal is to strengthen the grassroots movement in MD on changing spending priorities. How is that going to work?”
Speak Out: For Good Jobs Now – Rebuild the American Dream
Monday, June 27, 2011 during the “Speak Out: For Good Jobs Now – Rebuild the American Dream” event featuring Representatives Keith Ellison (MN- CPC Co-Chair), John Conyers (MI), Hansen Clarke (MI), Marcy Kaptur (OH), and Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church located in Detroit, MI. Photos by Leona McElevene, State Coordinator, Michigan Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)
View full sized photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pdamerica/sets/72157626941615269/
Save Our Nation, Cut Military Spending from Peace Economy Project
NYC Mayor Bloomberg announced a city budget to slash 5% of teachers, thousands of other public service jobs from firefighters to librarians. The struggle against the budget cuts was launched on May 12. A coalition of unions and community groups brought 20,000 New Yorkers to Wall Street and City Hall to press for taxing the rich & the banks, ending the war in Afghanistan, and moving the money from the Pentagon to our communities. Peace and the cost of the wars was one of the 8 issues that were the focus of the teach-ins and feeder marchers. Members of the NPN participated: Veterans for Peace, Brooklyn for Peace, UFPJ, US Labor Against the War, Grassroots Global Justice, Peace Action and the War Resisters League.
The War Resisters League put together a skit which they performed on Wall Street about the war economy and banks’ investments in cluster bombs. See Y1’s footage of the protesters marching and chanting, and the May 12 Coalition’s photos of the event. The Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, the New York Post, El Diario, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, Univision, other cable stations and a dozen online blogs covered the event.
The Coalition to Fund Our Communities-Cut Military Spending 25% was formed nine months after the Wall Street crash of 2008. Organizers calculated that a 25% reduction in military spending could mean $6.471 billion for Massachusetts every year, or $610 million for Boston every year, based on their share of the US population.
This money is desperately needed for jobs, affordable housing, health care, education, youth, clean energy, community safety, veteran services, anti-violence programs, libraries, and other services.
Through the Boston Coalition, organizations like the Boston Workers’ Alliance, City Life/Vida Urbana, La Alianza Hispana, the Chinese Progressive Association and SEIU1199, raise awareness and exert political pressure to right the imbalance between funding the Pentagon and meeting community needs. Like many coalitions, this one allows over-stretched organizations, devoted to separate missions, to work together on a common concern. The Coalition, which has grown to 25 groups, meets monthly and has mobilized at four key junctures:
1) meeting with Congressman Mike Capuano and delivering 475 letters from constituents asking him to cut military spending and increase funding for jobs and community needs;
2) staging a jobs-not-wars rally at a Roxbury subway stop,
3) persuading Boston Mayor Tom Menino and two Boston City Council members to send letters to the Massachusetts congressional delegation declaring their support for cuts in military spending to fund community needs and most recently,
4) participating in a Boston Budget Speakout.
The Speakout focused on the third year of state budget cuts in education, health care, and community services. The event supported a bill to raise taxes on those making over $100,000 a year and bring in $1.2 billion in new state revenue. The Boston coalition introduced the 25% solution as a complementary solution to the state’s funding crisis by unfurling a 54-foot banner showing federal government’s discretionary spending on the military, alongside a seven-foot banner representing federal spending on education, housing and urban development. Four inches represented Boston’s city budget. Meanwhile placards displayed some mind-bending tradeoffs: Half of one F-35 fighter plane would cover the Boston schools’ budget gap. Just one hour of Afghanistan war funding would cover the Boston youth jobs program for an entire summer. This visual display of military spending in relation to other priorities provided a stark picture of these tradeoffs. The Coalition speaker emphasized that while raising taxes was essential to meeting immediate budget shortfalls, cutting military spending was the only way to sustain revenues for community needs.
How do they do it?
According to organizers Becky Pierce and Mike Prokosch, Dorchester People for Peace (DPP) formed in 2002 to play a particular role in the nationwide effort to end the war in Iraq. The focus was to build a multi-racial anti-war movement in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Because their community faced an escalating war at home and constant community crises, DPP expected that realizing their goal would require careful and patient work over the long-haul. But DPP was also convinced that the success of an anti-war campaign rested on mobilizing those in their community who were most deeply affected by national priorities that allowed military spending to chew up funding for vital services.
While engaging in anti-war activities on the city, state and federal level, DPP honored its particular mission through consistent community outreach and relationship building. To meet the challenge of building a multi-racial coalition, it did internal education in anti-racist and multi-cultural organizing. A breakthrough came in 2003 when DPP started a campaign against military recruiting in the public schools, which were giving students’ contact information to recruiters. DPP visited community groups with information about military recruitment in poor and minority communities, and distributed postcards that parents and students could use to opt out of the recruitment drive.
As a result of this counter-recruitment campaign, DPP was able to transform many community contacts into working relationships. DPP organized itself to keep in close communication with the community leaders and groups it had met through the campaign. Key to this was to mobilize in support of the many local battles that underscored the urgency of new priorities for gaining social justice. For example, DPP joined with City Life/Vida Urbana to help block foreclosure evictions. With the Boston Workers’ Alliance, they worked to reform Massachusetts’s criminal records system.
In 2009, the economic downturn and a renewed attack on crucial community services, gave rise to the 25% solution and the platform on which DPP could draw on its patient years of relationship building and community support to co-found the Coalition to Fund Our Communities-Cut Military Spending 25% with the active support of Dorchester’s diverse activist community.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus has come up with a People’s budget that makes sense: http://beavercountyblue.org/2011/04/25/budget-debate-getting-us-headed-in-a-progressive-direction/
“Working Oregonians continue to feel the brunt of an ongoing financial crisis. We need our congressional delegation to do everything possible to ease their burden. The more than $3 billion Oregonians have already spent on the war in Afghanistan is not making America or Oregonians more secure. Instead of continuing to spend our tax dollars in Afghanistan, we need to invest most of that money in our schools, helping seniors and those most in need and, above all, in creating good-paying jobs in Oregon and across America. This is the best way to make America more secure and to secure the future of our children.”
-Richard Sanders, the Executive Director of the Oregon Education Association. Read labor leaders’ letter to the Oregon congressional delegation.
Activists in Rajasthan, India organized two workshops and two village rallies and village meetings. They report: “All our taxes are going for military expenses, weapons , warfare preparation instead of solving drinking water, health and food problems etc., so we are living in very bad condition and we should put the pressure to our Government through Members of Parliament and elected leaders, that they must reduce the budget for military spending and this money should be used in community development activities – Millenium Development Goal activities, or tackling poverty and climate change problems.” They are forming an action plan for the whole year. They are forming an action plan for the whole year. See more worldwide actions at http://demilitarize.org/event-reports/.
Secure ongoing funding for jobs and services in our communities by building a movement to radically change Federal spending priorities and end the wars.
This year, we can start building a movement to achieve this goal by:
Mark Twain wrote, “One thing you can say about the weather…is that there is plenty of it.” Just about the only thing we can say about national politics in the coming year is that there will be plenty of it. The Tea Party’s rise, strains in the GOP, and battles over the deficit, taxes, war funding, military appropriations, jobs and human services all offer ways to present “cut military spending” as a solution to our economic crisis.
We must continue to pressure Washington to do the right thing. However, it will be hard to move any positive legislation through this Congress. It is also hard to organize grassroots campaigns around Congress’s schedule, which changes unpredictably. We think it makes sense for us to:
If we are going to succeed in moving the money, it will be because people who need the jobs and services keep demanding them, relentlessly and in very large numbers. To build that wave of demands this year, we can as local organizers:
This website, www.newprioritiesnetwork.org, which will provide (1) resolution campaign resources, (2) toolkits for educating and organizing, (3) links to relevant national actions.
Set up a “Resources craigslist” on that website where you can share tools you’ve developed or look for the ones you need. We’ll put them in a permanent toolkit on the site.
Continue grassroots conference calls where organizers on the ground are solving each other’s problems and providing models for each other’s organizing.
Highlight national organizations’ actions and initiatives when they help achieve our key goals: raising up “cut military spending-fund our communities” as a solution, and building coalitions and strength on the ground.
Do long-term visioning, planning, and messaging to define what a peace and justice economy looks like and how we can get there.
Continue inviting new organizations to join the network – racial and economic justice organizations and networks, national and local organizations, faith-based organizations.
* Such a campaign is described in a proposal developed by U.S. Labor Against the War [link forthcoming]