Volume 21, Number 3
Tiffany Ten eyck
Worst Places To Be Black
Mass Destruction U.
Global Recession I
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Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Over a year after Democrats won Congress on a still un-fulfilled anti-war pledge, Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV) was one of the many anti-war groups still calling for a transformation of U.S. foreign policy. Buttressed by mass opposition to the war, the Chicago group went to Iowa for caucus week to launch a civil disobedience campaign called Seasons of Discontent: A Presidential Occupation Project (SoDA POP).
Throughout the primary season, the SoDA POP members will be in campaign offices making demands that no major candidate will likely agree to. In Des Moines, they asked candidates to support a complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan within 100 days after they take office, as well as an end to military plans and sanctions on Iran and a commitment to fully fund the reconstruction of Iraq. They refused to leave offices until they received these assurances. Fifteen were arrested in Iowa, and in the process they revealed the discomfort, even among “anti-war” candidates, with the anti-war movement.
These acts of civil disobedience express hope and despair. The transgression rejects an unresponsive corporate “democracy,” but appeals to its leaders for support. Jeff Leys reconciles this tension: “We have to use every non-violent lever at our disposal. We need to do this extra-legal work as an extension of the necessary work of participation.” Leys spent the week in Des Moines campaign offices and at the precinct.
After arrests at Guliani headquarters, another wave of protests hit the Clinton campaign, which literally shut the door on debate. Four protesters risked arrest and tried to enter, but ended up protesting outside the locked office until it closed for the day. On New Year’s Eve, cameras crowded the doors of Huckabee headquarters where three more protestors inquired of the reverend: “Who would Jesus Bomb?”
For months members of the Chicago community have asked Senator Obama to take this risk, not just to end the war, but to change priorities. Says Kelly: “There’s such an opportunity for leadership among the Democrats to educate Americans about the consequences of this war and about what could be done with the money that would be voted to fund ongoing wars.” They met up again with the campaign in Des Moines to ask for Obama’s support. The response from the office of a candidate running on his anti-war credentials revealed not just hostility, but a coordinated attempt to marginalize the anti-war message.
About a dozen protesters entered, carrying banners and pictures of Iraqis they’d met in their travels. Obama’s people swiftly removed members of the press, claiming that space had to be made for visitors at the front entrance, which was then promptly locked. A sign was posted, directing visitors to the back entrance away from the protest.
With the red, white, and blue Obama “O” as his backdrop, John Tuzcu, a member of Des Moines Catholic Worker, read from the Illinois candidate’s plan to leave tens of thousands of troops in Iraq through his first term. The campaign staff quietly evacuated the main room in protest of the protesters. Brian Terrell, 51, read from MLK’s April 1967 speech on Vietnam; “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” Obama’s people whispered to each other, then had police usher the protest out the side door.
Kelly and others are giving equal scrutiny to the liberal field. Leys is concerned; “The biggest danger is that Democrats are normalizing the idea of partial withdrawal, and disarming the anti-war movement to the idea of residual troop levels.” The SoDA POP organizers are pushing for withdrawal, not just from Iraq, but also from a failed strategy that diverts public funds for a highly militarized global presence.
The VCNV project is about reclamation of the political process, and reclamation of funds better used for the common good. Leys sees the drain of the war effort on public services in Chicago: “The state government is on doomsday number three for mass transit funding. Fares might be doubled in the next few weeks, and the suburbs are already cutting their routes and services to the city.”
As the war brings its effects home, it has sparked a rise in civil resistance actions nationwide in the last year. Each arrest makes it clear that Americans don’t accept these realities willingly. Leys hopes that more voices will join to create a more forceful culture of protest: “We need to acknowledge that we haven’t done enough yet to build up anti-war sentiment in Congress.”
Robert Braam, one of the people arrested in Des Moines, called the discontented to action: “Only thing we did wrong? Stayed in the wilderness too long. Only thing we did right? The day we stood up to fight.”
Paul Abowd is a freelance writer who’s work has appeared in local Michigan University student newspapers and in Labor Notes.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
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, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate 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.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org 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 the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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 in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
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 across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock 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.
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.
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.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.