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

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

REMEMBERING A GREAT PROTEST AT THE SPACE CENTER

Bobbie Heinrich was arrested on January 17, 1987 at Cape Canaveral and was one of the leaders of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice.  She got arrested several times at the space center and was an important activist  in her Ft. Myers community.  Bobbie and her husband were avid gardeners who were pioneers in the idea of localization.  They had lived in Africa for many years.

Dr. Benjamin Spock spoke at the January 17 protest at Cape Canaveral.  In his book "Spock on Spock" he ended the autobiography with a photo of him climbing over the base gates.  He wrote, "Every effort made in this direction, every letter and every demonstration, has done some positive good.  Without these protests, things would be much worse."


January 17, 1987 was a special day.  It was the date of the largest peace protest in Florida history when well over 5,000 people marched onto the front gates of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in protest of the planned test launch of the first Trident II nuclear missile.  I was then coordinator of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice where I worked for 15 years.  We initiated the call for the protest and asked for help from groups around the country.  Our march to the gates that day was led by famous baby doctor Benjamin Spock and he was the first person to climb a ladder to get over the barbed wire fence. We called the protest "Cancel the Countdown".

In all 186 were arrested for symbolically trying to enter the base to sit on the launch pad where Trident II nuclear missiles would be test fired. About 50 were arrested in the days preceding the January 17 event when they tried sneaking onto the launch center that is located inside the national seashore and surrounded by ocean and swamps.  Some hiked up the beach toward the launch towers along the shore and others trudged through the alligator infested swamp marshes.  Some were arrested at night with military helicopters searching for them.  For a solid week the media around Florida was intensely covering the arrests prior to the January 17 rally.  Peter Lumsdaine from California came to help and was a key organizer of these back country actions at the Cape.

Events really got going two weeks prior to the January 17 rally and march.  We organized a Peace Pilgrimage to Stop the Trident that began with a protest at Kings Bay nuclear submarine base on the Florida-Georgia border.  John and Martina Linnehan took on the responsibility for making the pilgrimage such a success. The peace pilgrimage was led by Buddhist monks and more than 200 people made the two week trek to the space center. 

When Jimmy Carter was president (after saying during his campaign that "the arms race is a disgrace to the human race") he went on to build the huge new Trident sub base in the sleepy north Georgia fishing town called St. Marys. Once the Trident missiles were tested they were to be put inside the nuclear submarines at Kings Bay and at the other Trident nuclear sub base at Bangor, Washington.


As the pilgrimage came south, affinity groups were formed that began to plan the back country occupations of the space center in hopes they could get on the launch pad and delay the launch.  

From Boston a peace train was organized by the national peace coalition called Mobilization for Survival (Mobe).  They reserved several rail cars on Amtrak and the train went from Boston to Orlando stopping along the way holding quick news conferences in major cities at the rail stations and a couple hundred activists jumped on-board the train for the ride to Florida.  It was Mobe who got Dr. Spock, Peter Yarrow and Odetta to come to Florida for the protest.

Other organizers streamed into Florida in the weeks prior to the protest to help and we put them to work across the state helping build turnout.  Thanks to local supporter Smitty Hooper in Cocoa Beach we opened an office there to coordinate local organizing near the space center.

It was my job to coordinate the overall operation and it was one of the most thrilling campaigns I every worked on.  There were lots of threads weaving this protest together and in the days prior to the Internet and Facebook we had to organize the old fashioned way - traveling the state, talking to people, phone calls, mailing leaflets, and the like. One night while speaking to a peace group in southwest Florida I mentioned that we needed to raise $1,500 to pay for a trailer with port-a-toilets for the peace walk.  After the meeting a woman walked up and handed me a check for $1,500.

In the end I spent about five days in jail along with many others, some stayed in the lock up for weeks.  The Brevard County jail was so over crowded the night of January 17 that they had to set up a huge tent in a parking lot to hold the men who had been arrested.  It was cold and raining outside and we chanted for hours demanding better treatment.  Eventually, late in the night, they brought us plastic pads to lay on but I refused to do so.  I held out for us being moved to a warm and dry inside location.  I lost the battle and held tightly to the tent poles through that long and memorable night.  I admit there were moments that I regretted taking such a hard line but my pride was at stake here - I'd made a demand and was going to stick with it - through thick and thin, and cold and rain.

Some years later I was shopping at the Albertson's grocery store in downtown Orlando near where I lived.  In those days they had bag boys push your cart of groceries into the parking lot and they loaded your car.  As we approached my car the young man noticed my bumper stickers and got excited.  He told me a story about the Cape Canaveral protest a few years before and how he and his father were watching the news reports on TV about peaceniks going over the fence.  "I loved it," he said.  "My dad hated it and screamed at the TV."

I realized in that moment that the protest had not just been about the 5,000 people there.  The audience for this public participatory production had been extensive, even national.  It made me wonder even more what other creative ways we could find to get our message beyond our limited confines.

In the end this bold day of action was the kind of direct citizens challenge that we need to mount against the military industrial complex.  We were proud to have organized many of these events at the space center in Florida over the years.

A few other friends yesterday have offered their memories of that protest.

Long-time Catholic Worker activist Patrick O'Neill from North Carolina writes:
"As 5,000 people (from dozens of cities around the nation) converged on the gates of Cape Canaveral 27 years ago today, we soon discovered the Air Force had changed plans on us -- the gates -- which were always open, were closed to prevent our plan to occupy the base to protest the Trident II D-5 missile, the most diabolical first-strike weapon ever made. Undeterred, the late great activist and famous baby book author, Dr. Benjamin Spock, (then 86 years old and leading the march) walked straight up to the 8-foot fence and scaled it with his wife right behind. More than 200 others followed Spock over or around the fence line [by going into the river], joining one of the greatest mass acts of nonviolent direct action ever staged in the South. That day marks one of the strongest efforts ever carried out in opposition to US nuclear policy."

Frank Donnelly (then in Florida but now living in Maine) writes:
"I'll join in on this, 27 yrs ago I along with others rode bus from Lake Worth, Florida to the protest where I saw Patrick for the first time since prison, I was still on probation . I remember that most of the folks on my bus where older Jewish women along with a friend visiting from Maine, he was worried we'd be arrested .It seemed to me there was more than 5,000 but maybe I was just hoping. It was a great day for the peace movement we sure could use lots more like that day. Peace to you both."

Leslie Cagan (then national coordinator of Mobe in New York City) writes:
 
"In the 1980's, Mobilization for Survival was a fairly strong national network of about 125 organizations - mostly local groups with several national organizations as well. Committed to trying to build a strong national peace and justice presence meant we did what we could to help nurture grassroots, community based activism. As is so often the case, the most creative, the boldest and most challenging ideas came from that grassroots activism and our national work was given shape by those initiatives. Such was the case with the plans for an action in Central Florida at the time of the 1st flight test of the Trident nuclear weapons missile. Here was an opportunity to take the widespread opposition to nuclear weapons right to the front door of one of the facilities directly involved. It was a no-brainer - Mobilization for Survival quickly jumped into the work.

We did what we could to let people far and wide know about the plans for the protest in Florida. Most importantly, we encouraged those who could to make the trip there themselves. And we facilitated this by organizing a peace train that came down the East Coast picking up folks along the journey. I don't recall now how many stops it made or how many people got on board. But that didn't really matter since everyone knew the great majority of the people at the demonstration would be Floridians. What did matter was that people in other parts of the country were taking notice, helping in whatever ways they could, and being inspired to think about what anti-nuclear actions they could take in their own backyards.

I had the good fortunate of people able to go to Florida for several days before the action, and of course was there on that great day. It was exciting to watch the buses roll in and to be there as people gathered for the rally and march to the front gate of the facility. I'll never forget the sight of hundreds of senior citizens who had retired to Florida opening up their folding chairs and taking out their lunch baskets...rejoicing in the fact that they did not have to travel all the way up the Washington, DC or New York City (where so many of them had come from) to be part of this protest! Some of these folks were too frail to do the march to the front gate, let alone to climb over the fence that day. But their full support for the action was evident, and inspiring.

It was a great day, and another one of those important reminders that a national movement is grounded in communities all across the nation. Mobilization for Survival was thrilled that we could help build this protest, and I, personally, was honored to have been a part of it."

I thank Patrick for the reminder of this special day.  He is good at remembering these important landmarks in our life and celebrating them.  His joyous and loving personality brings us all great gifts.

SATURDAY NIGHT


LOOK UP


Friday, January 17, 2014

EATING REAL LOCAL

Tim Rinne in Nebraska tends his winter garden and shares his story.

The following guest editorial by friend and GN board member Tim Rinne appeared in the December 8th edition of the Lincoln Journal Star and was reprinted in the Wednesday, December 11th edition of the Grand Island Independent.

How embarrassing.

Here I am, a lifelong resident of one of the premier agricultural regions of the world, whose family has farmed in the state since 1868, and I didn’t get it.

You would have thought that eating at least three times a day for 50 years would have stirred me to take an interest in how that food got on my plate.

But no. I just ate.

It took a quote from an aristocratic British farmer (a member of the House of Lords, no less) to get me to grasp not just the centrality of food production in our lives — but how fragile this system is.

“Nine meals away from anarchy” is how Lord Cameron of Dillington described Britain in 2007.

The first time I came across this statement I wasn’t even sure I knew what he was talking about. But the inspiration for his disquieting comment comes, in part, from our side of the pond. From the experience of Hurricane Katrina.

Our grocery stores (where most of us do all of our ‘hunting and fishing and farming’) operate on what is called ‘just in time delivery.’ Your average grocery outlet carries just three days of inventory — the equivalent of ‘nine meals.’ Any disruption to that delivery schedule and our food security is at risk.

Hurricane Katrina, Lord Cameron declared, provided a textbook case of the social disruption that occurs with a sudden calamity. The first day (meals 1-3), people rush to the grocery store to stock up. The second day (meals 4-6), those who can afford it go back and buy whatever’s left. And the third day (meals 7-9), when the larder’s empty and people are hungry, the social order begins to break down.

Or, in Lord Cameron’s words, “there will be rats, mayhem, and maybe even murder.”

Scarcity does ugly things to a population. “The better angels of our nature” (to use Abraham Lincoln’s phrase) tend not to fare very well when people are hungry and afraid. Our first thoughts are for ourselves and our own, and conflict invariably erupts with our neighbors over competition for resources. The Pentagon, in fact, already is bracing for wars over food and water — and not just in the poor nations of the globe. As Lord Cameron warns, everyone who eats is vulnerable to food insecurity. It’s a world we want to avoid if we can help it.

So to bring this all back home, we need to be asking where that food on our grocery store shelves comes from.

And the answer for more than 90 percent of it is: from somewhere other than Nebraska.

Agricultural powerhouse that we are, barely a tenth of what we grow in the state is consumed locally. The other nine-tenths is exported to out-of-state markets.

It hasn’t of course always been that way. My father assures me that, growing up on the farm in Johnson County in the 1930s, 95 percent of their diet came from within 5 miles of where they lived. They had to buy their coffee and sugar. And they never had fresh strawberries in December. But they ate three times a day and they could tell you where their food came from — because they either grew it themselves or got it from a neighbor.

That kind of food localization is something we need to get back to, particularly those of us living in towns and cities where the single-largest irrigated crop in America is grown: our lawns.

We can’t eat the grass they’re made of. They sap enormous amounts of water, fossil fuels and arable land.

But we religiously nurture them in our yards, while the average bite of food on our plate travels 1,500 miles or more.

This is a recipe for disaster. And with the increased risk that extreme weather events like drought and flood pose to agriculture because of climate change, we frankly have no choice but to develop a more stable — and locally based — food system.

In April of this year, yet another British government official, Agriculture Minister David Heath, warned of coming food shortages and exhorted Britons to replace their lawns with gardens and “dig for survival.”

Call me overly cautious, but I’m taking the minister’s advice. I don’t like missing meals. It makes me crabby.

Tim Rinne is the state coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace. He and his wife, Kay Walter, have converted their entire property in the Hawley Historic District to an ‘edible landscape.’  You can see a whole slideshow of his garden photos here

FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL



A story of pirates in Somalia told from the perspective of a struggling, young Somali fisherman. Among other awards, this short film won the Grand Jury Prize in short filmmaking at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

YOUNG MAINERS SPEAK OUT



This video is from the January 9 rally in Augusta inside the state capital. There was a special effort to get young people to speak.  The rally was multi-issue that connected all the dots.  This particular video segment from the rally shows the public divestment movement on campuses across Maine.

Video/audio Peter Woodruff.  Edit/video Martha Spiess.

DANGER ZONE



This graphic tells the story.  The US military "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific is provocative.  Imagine if another nation was moving 60% of its military might right off the shores of the US's east and west coasts.  Washington would take it as a declaration of war.  When the US does it no one is supposed to bat an eye.

China is the target.  North Korea, that pip-squeak with mostly outdated military technology (according to the Pentagon), is just the excuse.   When I was in the Air Force I had a friend that had once been stationed in Korea near the DMZ during the late 60's.  Cold War fever was burning strong.  In those days he was a security guard and was put on the runway in the middle of a freezing Korean winter.  His job?  'Watch out for the communist hordes coming over that hill.  You are the first line of defense.'  He froze in fear with his gun until one cold night it dawned on him that the Chinese Communists were not coming over the hill.  He eventually got out of the security guard job and moved into base administration where I worked.  But in the end we were all complicit on some level - we helped the war wheels turn - in our time it was the Vietnam War.

The corporate masters who invest heavily in China want to control the whole ball of wax.  They are greedy and want everything.  So they use the big military stick that has time and again brought chaos but has always helped give the capitalist class control.  (Look at Vietnam today.) Mr. Big benefits from the chaos and the times of stability.

Back here at home we have lots of parades to honor the vets.  We should remember the post-WW I "bonus Army" who dared set up camp in Washington to demand their actual "war bonus" during the depression and were met with the back-hand of the US military led by future Generals MacArthur and Eisenhower.  In order to climb the Army ladder of success these two ambitious "leaders" knew they had to take charge of the repression of the bonus Army protesters, their own citizens, and they willingly did.  (Congress ran out the back door - they've always been pawns.)  We’ve had a military dictatorship in America for a long time.

Today we have more homeless veterans than ever but there is one big difference from the bonus days.  The people now have become more beaten down, broken, war weary both from battles abroad and the struggles at home.  The people increasingly are taking anti-depressant medications that often are addictive and dangerous to our health.  Money is made selling legal drugs to a public who just wants to know how to survive. (Probably a huge reason for the excitement over the sporadic legalization of marijuana across the country. People are looking for another way, it is the longing we all have to be more connected to the spirit.  Maybe a joint will help.)

But sadly all the TV ads selling drugs and promises of “nice quiet Sunday's on the porch sipping tea" are nothing but Hollywood creations.  Those images help to keep us taking the bait.  We've swallowed them easily in the past but they are getting harder to take.

The ads on TV also remind us that we have to keep our mouths shut about peace issues because we have to 'always' support the troops.  That is another illusion created to keep us docile.  The oligarchy doesn't give a shit about the troops.  The troops are disposable.  Displays of "patriotism" trotted out a few times a year are intended to keep the illusion (and our fear of Mr. Big) fresh in our minds. They have the mind control system down to a tee. 

Just where do you want me to stand sir?  'Don't cross that line...salute me...do my bidding even though you think it is wrong.....'

......you get nice stuff in return for your silence.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

CLOSER LOOK AT AIPAC



US Senators from both parties imperil the prospect of peace with Iran.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

NEWSLETTER DONE


We wrapped up the Global Network newsletter today and it is off to the print shop.  You can see it online here.  Our wonderful web master Dave Webb in England got it up on the web site in record time.  Dave also chairs the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and serves as board convener of the Global Network.  He is one busy guy but now that he has retired from teaching he somehow finds the time to fit it all together. I can't imagine how he did it all before he retired.

There is extensive reporting in this issue about the US "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific and anti-drone campaigning.  We also have some great articles about Jeju Island, the rush to drill for oil in the Arctic, Boeing the war corporation and more. 

Nancy Randolph in nearby Topsham, Maine does the layout work after I pull the copy and graphics together.  She has a creative eye and we work well together.  She's been doing posters, leaflets, and newsletters for the GN since we moved to Maine in 2003.
We are looking for folks who will help us distribute copies of the printed newsletter in their local community.  We will provide newsletters to you for free and only ask reimbursement for the cost of postage to you.  So if you can help pass them around please let us know how many copies we should send you.  Distribution is key - our last edition had the widest distribution ever.  You can place an order for bulk copies by sending me a message at globalnet@mindspring.com

Thanks for the help.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

REACTIONS TO AIPAC'S ATTEMPT TO KILL IRAN DEAL


There has been alot of buzz across the Internet the last couple of days about the swelling opposition in Congress to the Iran nuclear deal.  Right-wing Republicans and Democrats have joined up for a strong effort to kill any deal with Iran by unilaterally increasing already painful sanctions.  Israel wants Iran taken down.  Below is an excellent take on the issue by Kevin Zeese who helps run PopularResistance.org

It seems like right now there is not a lot of likelihood [Senate leader] Harry Reid will let any vote come to the floor.  It is definitely a destructive bill that pushes the US in the wrong direction and we should keep a list of those who have supported Iran sanctions at this key moment.  So, it is good to have the list.

Is it the right time for protest?  Depends where and what purposes.  It would be good to draw attention to the 58 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) senators and protest them, perhaps in their home states as war mongers when the rest of the US doesn't want war.  They should receive some bad politics for their actions.  People should know their senator puts Israel before US interests.
 

As to DC, not sure -- Reid is seeming pretty strongly opposed to moving forward and a bunch of Dem senators who are chairs of key committees have told him do not bring this to a vote.  Robert Naiman tells Real News: "Ten Senate Democratic committee chairs, led by Dianne Feinstein, who's head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Carl Levin, who's head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, ten Senate Democrats sent a letter to majority leader Reid saying, do not bring this bill to a vote, we oppose this bill, please let us know of any plans to bring this bill to a vote, 'cause we oppose bringing this bill to a vote."
 

This may be where it ends.  AIPAC gets its symbolic show of strength without pushing to far into what would have become a crisis for them if they actually succeeded.
 

There is more of an update, just posted here
 

By the way, the fact that people like Feinstein and Levin, loyal AIPACers, are playing the role of blocking the vote, makes this all look very orchestrated to me. A show of force by AIPAC but if they blocked Obama on Iran AIPAC/Israel would lose major support in the US.  They can't carry out their threat without a lot of political cost.
 

Kevin Zeese
Baltimore, MD

Then, just to make this a bit more interesting, I'd like to add some words on this by Tarak Kauff from Woodstock, NY.  Tarak is a leader of Veterans for Peace and often in the street.

Kevin's analysis is always astute. Thanks Kevin. However, I am still thinking that a demonstration (banner drops, office occupation, outside demo) in DC at the Hart, where the 3 Senators who proposed the bill offices are would be appropriate.

Even if this is a symbolic show of strength for AIPAC and the bill would not come to the floor, orchestrated, as Kevin suspects, or not, it presents an opportunity to publicly denounce and expose AIPAC, Shumer, Menendez, and the rest who play AIPACs deadly game. And their intentions are always deadly. Since they brought this up, my feeling, if we can get enough support for the action, is to proceed as if this is a real move towards war - which in any respect, long term or short term, it is.

AIPAC and their congressional lackeys should be slammed every time they open their mouth - and this time they have put their foot in it but good. What with some key Dems opposing this, it is, I think, perhaps a great opportunity for us to further weaken and divide the pillars.

Tarak Kauff
Board of Directors
Veterans for Peace

THE RISE OF FASCISM



  • This is a very good video and fills many gaps in our US history.  Our organizing needs to point out and name this corporate fascism or else it's maniacal ego will grow and become even more repressive.  We are right on the edge of the wall now.  Time to protect the kids and push back.

  • I once saw George W. Bush's Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld briefly quoted on video.  He was walking out of the Pentagon and spoke this one powerful line:  "We plan everything."  Rumsfeld was answering the question about the quagmire that Iraq had become and the press was wondering if the Bush team was just plain incompetent.  Rumsfeld's answer has lodged deeply into my brain and I think of it often.  The oligarchy has all the resources it needs to control the political and economic system.  If they make mistakes they cover them and move on.  But clearly the Bush team knew that their plan for Iraq, to destroy and permanently destabilize the country, would cause many in the public to question their "ability" to run a war.  They actually wanted people to question Bush's competence.  That way folks might not spend much time asking a different question: "Mr. Rumsfeld, now that we all see the mess you've made in Iraq, are you willing to confess that you did this on purpose because your wider plan is to create permanent instability in many countries around the world that stand in the way of complete corporate control of declining resources on our planet?"  
  • They plan everything....but now and then the boiling public outrage gets beyond even the control of the NSA and CIA.  Occupy was a real challenge but was then crushed under orders from the White House. The oligarchy knows and fears the growing public anger about massive disparity between the rich and the poor. Now is the time when the elites get dangerous - they get scared and mean.  But we are like Wack-a-mole at the county fair - we keep popping up and they can't hit all of us.
  • I taped the next edition of my public access TV show today.  My guest was Pastor Bill Bliss from a church (UCC) in Bath who is doing good work in our community on behalf of those who are struggling with our collapsing economy.  He was actually my first guest when I started doing the TV show in December 2003.

Monday, January 13, 2014

RODMAN ON HIS KOREA VISIT



Actually he is right....he is just a person trying to make peace in his own way.  Someone has to the break the ice at last - instead of a hot shooting war - and it turned out to be Dennis Rodman.  Sometimes history comes calling and you have to go with it.....

WHO STILL BE THE DEVIL?



"Somebody Blew Up America" by Amiri Baraka with Rob Brown-saxophone, recorded live on February 21, 2009 at The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY.

This production is part of "Free Jazz at the Sanctuary," a 13-part series of performance videos featuring some of the world's most talented improvisers. Each hour-long show is available on DVD directly from Downtown Music Gallery (www.downtownmusicgallery.com). For more information on this series, visit www.JazzSanctuary.org

WE ARE BEING SCHOOLED......



Frack U. Mexico. Directed by Greg "Gringoyo" Berger. Screenplay by Al Giordano.

Good news! Mexico has the fourth largest shale gas reserves in the world, and the Mexican Congress is about to change the constitution so that private companies can drill for it. That means that U.S. companies will soon be there, fracking for gas. Sure, there may be some complications from the more than 500 chemicals that will be pumped into Mexico's aquifers, but never fear: Joe T. Hodo, President of "Frack U. Mexico!" is here to show you why Mexicans should stop worrying and learn to love fracking...or else.

NO MORE EXCUSES



On the 12th anniversary of the arrival of prisoners at the U.S. detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, activists occupy the National Museum of American History to create their own exhibit.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

THE FUNNIES....



Maine - the way life should be......

THE BEAUTIFUL WORDS




SUNDAY SONG