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Americans Abroad, A Force to Reckon With?
M illions of people across the world marched against Bush’s war on February 15, 2003. For many of the seven million U.S. citizens living abroad, it was a day of intense frustration and anger. Luckily, February 15 was also a day when many from the U.S. living abroad ran into each other on the streets of Prague, Berlin, Paris, and across Europe. This spawned the organization of a Europe-wide co-ordinated movement that is now called American Voices Abroad (AVA).
My participation with AVA began as I was crossing Prague’s famous Charles Bridge, running across the Vlatava River though the heart of the old city. I was frustrated because I wasn’t home in the U.S. organizing against this Iraq war as I had against the first Gulf War when I was a student at Santa Monica College.
When the protest got to the U.S. Embassy, there were a number of speakers. One of them was from the U.S., Arie Farnam, who I found out later was a freelance journalist and regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor .
After the demonstration I introduced myself to Farnum and also met Gwen Albert, a U.S. citizen working at Prague’s Buddhist center, the Om Zentrum. The two invited me to a meeting in the coming week. At this meeting of students and others generally opposed to the war, we discussed organizing a press conference.
The Czech people were 70 percent against the war at the time, but the Czech government was wavering, probably playing the U.S. in an effort to win some aid. We thought it would be helpful to support the Czech people by showing that many U.S. citizens living there were opposed to war in Iraq.
In the next two weeks, Farnum organized a major press conference that attracted 40 of the top journalists in Prague, including one of Germany’s national public radio stations, as well as Czech print and electronic media outlets. In the next week, Farnum got us invited onto a national public TV program. We participated in a debate with officials from the Czech Army, as well as someone from the Iraqi National Congress who painted us as supporters of Saddam Hussein for opposing the war.
After I finished working in Prague, I moved to Berlin to organize a conference called Towards Carfree Cities IV. After a few weeks of settling in, I saw a leaflet for a three-day film festival during the July 4 weekend, organized by a group called American Voices Abroad (AVA). The festival featured a number of films focusing on various U.S. foreign policy gaffes and such recent leftist films as Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election , a documentary.
At this film festival, I signed up to be on the AVA email list and soon attended my first meeting. AVA had formed officially during the lead-up and beginning of last year’s gulf war, with various U.S. citizens organizing just as in Prague. I found out that there were a number of other AVA groups, including ones in Amsterdam and Paris.
Early Organizational Focus
A t its first congress in the summer of 2003, AVA agreed on a few major points. The first was that it was against the USA PATRIOT Act. The second was that AVA would support any presidential candidate opposed to Bush’s doctrine of preemptive war.
At the time, these issues seemed easy to coordinate around. The problem was that as a campaign this would only be relevant through the Democratic primary. Furthermore, (from the information available in Summer 2003), AVA might end up supporting a Ralph Nader- type candidate as the possibility that the eventual Democratic candidate in the 2004 election may have voted for the USA PATRIOT Act as well as the Cheney/Bush war in Iraq.
Nonetheless, AVA has been an active, visible, and feisty group. In March 2003 at the beginning of the Iraq war, AVA members were often outnumbered by journalists at its press events. The German news gobbled up the story of an estimated 10,000 people from the U.S. living in Berlin actively organizing against the war. No longer was the U.S. Embassy the sole source for a U.S. position on the largest issue of international concern. All this took place against the backdrop of a Berlin filled with “No War” and rainbow colored “Pace” (Peace) flags, flying in every district and in a very high percentage of store windows as well.
Also in 2003, another group of radical U.S. anti-war activists had led a clever, satirical “We Love War” demonstration. This action had a large number of Anarchists donned in bright red, white, and blue garb, with signs such as “More War, More Police,” “War =Freedom & Profit,” and “Peace? No Way.” This crowd of 300 marched through the heart of Berlin and the old squat neighborhoods of the Prinzlaur Berg district, attracting bemused smiles and confusing many police.
AVA was organizing rapidly. Members included visiting professors, filmmakers, journalists, translators, student backpackers who had first come to Berlin long ago and decided to stay and teach English to survive, and 1968 radicals who had organized in Berlin and then decided to stay. Contacts were made with local journalists.
AVA decided that education was a priority. More film nights were organized. A National Lawyers Guild attorney toured across Europe, giving lectures about the unconstitutionality of the PATRIOT Act at large public events. Scott Ritter made it to Prague for a lecture to accompany the screening of his film about the U.S. government manipulation of the weapons inspection process. All in all, AVA was staying out in front of the public and getting coverage in the mainstream press.
100,000 in 2004
B y the time of the second AVA European congress in Prague (November 2003), it was agreed to start a new campaign. The “100,000 in 2004” campaign was kicked off on Martin Luther King’s birthday by AVA chapters across Europe, including chapters in Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Hamburg, and Montpelier.
The Prague group held an all-day event at a U.S.-owned English language bookstore. The Globe bookstore had readings from the U.S. Constitution and such writers as Martin Luther King, Mark Twain, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. They also had poetry, more films, and they registered voters online.
One AVA member had read an LA Times quote from 2000, “Republicans abroad elected Bush in 2000.” This quote inspired some members to research the process by which U.S. citizens living abroad can register to vote. Shockingly, they found that the U.S. Department of Defense is in charge of this process, which may explain why so many U.S. soldiers register to vote. Luckily for AVA, we have been experiencing a number of current and former U.S. military and governmental staff joining our ranks.
Further inspiration for AVA comes from groups like the GI Hotline. This organization provides advice and information to U.S. military personnel that either have gone absent without leave, or may be interested in leaving the service. This group in Europe has been stunned by the number of calls they have received. They also have been designing leaflets to give out across Europe at spaces frequented by U.S. military personnel.
AVA has taken the position that it needs to be a potent force in Europe to get a large turnout of U.S. citizens living abroad to vote against Bush. One of the top stories in the European press in mid-February was about the massive growth in Democrats Abroad. DA chapters in places such as Paris and Tokyo experienced a 400 percent growth rate in turnout for foreign Democratic Party caucuses over the 2000 figures.
It is obvious that it is not only citizens of “old Europe” who are at odds with Bush/Cheney foreign policy.
Colin King, who teaches Philosophy at Humboldt University in Berlin, sized up why many have joined AVA: “Many of us are expatriates by choice. We feel better far from a country in which we see so much apathy, provincialism, unreflective consumer egotism and obstinate ignorance of the rest of the world—to name just a few things which could irk someone about the United States. AVA is poised to stand strong as an organizational political tool for progressive U.S. citizens in Europe and its strength and effectiveness will only get stronger.”
Jason Kirkpatrick is the former vice- mayor of Arcata, California.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.