Stop Militarizing the Police

August 15, 2014

The tragic death of Michael Brown at the hands of the Ferguson police is a reminder that the upsurge in violence is not restricted to the Middle East or any one place.  It’s right here in our own communities.

Like the Trayvon Martin killing two years ago, the problems of racism, easy access to firearms, and the assault on our civil rights are all, once again, in the spotlight. I suspect I don’t have to explain why peace activists are taking action, mostly in support of activists of color who are leading the organized response to this latest perversion of justice.  Anti-violence is at the very heart of our struggle.

In this case however there is another element that directly connects to our ongoing work to build a more peaceful and just future – that is – militarism.  It’s time to demilitarize our police.

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ‘wind down’ (though clearly not all the way down) the Pentagon has been offering surplus weapons to local police forces for free.  Tens of thousands of M-16’s, as well as mine-resistant trucks and other battlefield hardware have already been transferred to jurisdictions around the country – but the Pentagon still has lots and lots of free stuff to give away.

A bipartisan chorus has already begun to speak out in Congress against this practice.  Even Tea Party and right wing extremist Ted Cruz is raising alarm.

Tell your Member of Congress where you stand.

How much military hardware has been transferred to local jurisdictions?  It’s not easy to know as the Pentagon makes the trail difficult to track.  Most of the data available comes from local and state officials – like the State of Missouri which CNN reports has received some $17 million worth in transfers from the Pentagon.

I find, and I’m confident you do as well, the images of police in full military gear aiming assault rifles at unarmed protesters upsetting.  We can expect to see more and more of this in the future too, if we don’t do something about the economic terrorism visited upon the poor in our society at the hands of the 1 percent.

We know, for example, the Pentagon has in place plans for dealing with civil disorder brought about by economic or environmental disaster threatening the stablity of the government.  Arming local jurisdictions is a step in the wrong direction.

Since the 1980’s the US government has enabled the militarization of the police force as part of its so-called War on Drugs.  Post 9/11 politics opened the flood gates with grants from the federal government to prepare for the imminent terrorist threat.  Now, as combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, the Pentagon is literally giving battlefield hardware away.

The militarism of policing – both in terms of weaponry and tactics – is a threat to our freedom as great as any coming from outside our borders.  It’s time to put it to a stop.

Write you Member of Congress today!

Please forward this message to your friends.


Gaza-Israel Peace Events in DC this week, starting tonight

July 30, 2014

There is a lot of activity happening here in the nation’s capital calling for an end to the siege of Gaza, here is a summary with links for more information.

Washington Post op-ed by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-MN, “End the Gaza Blockade to Achieve Peace”

Candlelight vigil for Gaza, tonight at 7 pm at the White House, organized by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Palestine Voices Global FaceBook demonstration, Thursday, 8:00 pm 

Congressional Briefing this Friday, August 1 on Capitol Hill, 2103 Rayburn House Office Building , 2:00 pm , “Is Israel Complying with U.S. and International Laws” sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and four other organizations. Panelists will include Tariq Abu Khdeir, Palestinian-American teenager from Tampa, Fla. who was brutally beaten by Israeli security forces while restrained and unconscious

Gaza Update with special guest Tariq Abu Khdeir and other speakers, this Friday, August 1 at 7:00 pm, Busboys and Poets 5th and K Sts., NW, Washington, DC

National March on the White House: End the Massacre in Gaza, this Saturday, August 2, 1:00 pm, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, called by ANSWER

 


Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

June 13, 2014

by Kevin Martin

Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

Believe it or not, some are responding to the escalating violence in Iraq with calls for U.S. military intervention. Have they learned nothing?

Please take action: Tell President Obama not to try putting out the fire with gasoline – no U.S. military intervention in Iraq, invest in diplomacy and international cooperation instead.

The advance of the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is no doubt alarming, but not a complete surprise in the context of deep social, ethnic, religious and political divisions in Iraq and the wider region. Our former Executive Director, David Cortright, has a sensible, concise post on this issue you might find illuminating.

Contact the president and send this alert to friends, family and colleagues you believe would want to take this action. The people of Iraq and the region need peace, reconciliation and development, not more war and definitely not U.S. bombs or troops.

Please take action to let the president know more war is not the answer.

To learn more about the situation in Iraq, here are a few recent articles you might find illuminating.

New York Times article on the current situation and consideration of U.S. military intervention

The Guardian on the collapse of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army as ISIS advanced on Mosul

The Guardian again on the spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria


Does War Have a Future? Peace Action National Board Member Larry Wittner on History News Network

June 3, 2014

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, “What’s Going On at UAardvark?

 

National officials certainly assume that war has a future. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military expenditures totaled nearly $1.75 trillion in 2013. Although, after accounting for inflation, this is a slight decrease over the preceding year, many countries increased their military spending significantly, including China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, 23 countries doubled their military spending between 2004 and 2013. None, of course, came anywhere near to matching the military spending of the United States, which, at $640 billion, accounted for 37 percent of 2013’s global military expenditures. Furthermore, all the nuclear weapons nations are currently “modernizing” their nuclear arsenals.

Meanwhile, countries are not only preparing for wars, but are fighting them―sometimes overtly (as in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and sometimes covertly (as in portions of Africa and the Middle East).

Nevertheless, there are some reasons why war might actually be on the way out.

One reason, of course, is its vast destructiveness. Over the past century, conventional wars (including two world wars) have slaughtered over a hundred million people, crippled, blinded, or starved many more, and laid waste to large portions of the globe. And this enormous level of death, misery, and ruin will almost certainly be surpassed by the results of a nuclear war, after which, as Nikita Khrushchev once reportedly commented, the living might envy the dead. After all, Hiroshima was annihilated with one atomic bomb. Today, some 16,400 nuclear weapons are in existence, and most of them are far more powerful than the bomb that obliterated that Japanese city.

Another reason that war has become exceptionally burdensome is its enormous cost. The United States is a very wealthy nation, but when it spends 55 percent of its annual budget on the military, as it now does, it is almost inevitable that its education, health care, housing, parks and recreational facilities, and infrastructure will suffer. That is what the AFL-CIO executive council―far from the most dovish institution in American life―concluded in 2011, when it declared: “There is no way to fund what we must do as a nation without bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The militarization of our foreign policy has proven to be a costly mistake. It is time to invest at home.” Many Americans seem to agree.

Furthermore, a number of developments on the world scene have facilitated the abolition of war.

One of them is the rise of mass peace movements. Many centuries ago, religious groups and theologians began to criticize war on moral grounds, and non-sectarian peace organizations began to emerge in the early nineteenth century. Even though they never had an easy time of it in a world accustomed to war, these organizations became a very noticeable and, at times, powerful force in the twentieth century and beyond. Drawing upon prominent figures like Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, sparking new thinking about international relations and world peace, and mobilizing millions of people against war, peace groups created a major social movement that government officials could not entirely ignore.

Another new development―one originally proposed by peace organizations―is the establishment of international institutions to prevent war. The vast destruction wrought by World War I provided a powerful incentive for Woodrow Wilson and other officials to organize the League of Nations to prevent further disasters. Although the League proved too weak and nations too unwilling to limit their sovereignty for this goal to be accomplished, the enormous carnage and chaos of World War II led government officials to give world governance another try. The resulting institution, the United Nations, proved somewhat more successful than the League at averting war and resolving conflicts, but, like its predecessor, suffered from the fact that it remained weak while the ambitions of nations (and particularly those of the great powers) remained strong. Even so, the United Nations now provides an important framework that can be strengthened to foster international law and the peaceful resolution of international disputes.

Yet another new factor on the world scene―one also initiated by peace activists―is the development of nonviolent resistance. As staunch humanitarians, peace activists had pacifist concerns and human rights concerns that sometimes pulled them in opposite directions―for example, during the worldwide struggle against fascist aggression. But what if it were possible to battle for human rights without employing violence? This became the basis for nonviolent resistance, which was not only utilized in dramatic campaigns led by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., but in mass movements that, subsequently, have challenged and toppled governments. Indeed, nonviolent resistance has become a new and powerful tool for people to drawn upon in conflicts without slaughtering one another.

In addition, the modern world has produced many other alternatives to mass violence. Why not expand international exchange and peace studies programs in the schools? Why not dispatch teams of psychologists, social workers, conflict resolution specialists, mediators, negotiators, and international law experts to conflict zones to work out settlements among the angry disputants? Why not provide adequate food, meaningful employment, education, and hospitals to poverty-stricken people around the world, thus undermining the desperation and instability that often lead to violence? Wouldn’t the U.S. government be receiving a friendlier reception in many countries today if it had used the trillions of dollars it spent on war preparations and destruction to help build a more equitable, prosperous world?

Of course, this scenario might depend too much on the ability of people to employ reason in world affairs. Perhaps the rulers of nations, learning nothing since the time of Alexander the Great, will continue to mobilize their citizens for war until only small bands of miserable survivors roam a barren, charred, radioactive wasteland.

But it’s also possible that people will finally acquire enough sense to alter their self-destructive behavior.

- See more at: http://hnn.us/article/155841#sthash.SW1zL9g5.dpuf


Facing the Dangers of 21st Century Great Power War – Conference in NYC May 3

April 7, 2014

For those of you in or near NYC, or planning to be there around the NPT PrepCom, please consider attending this conference on Saturday, May 3. Peace Action is a co-sponsor, and Field Director Judith Le Blanc and PANYS Executive Director Alicia Godsberg will be among the speakers.

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Facing the Dangers of 21st Century Great Power War
A Conference on the Centenary of World War I
Saturday, May 3, 2014 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Assembly Hall, Judson Memorial Church
229 Thompson St., Manhattan
South of Washington Square Park
9:00-9:30 Registration

9:30-11:00 Looking forward, looking backward:  WWI, today’s risk of great power war, peace movements, and disarmament.

•       Dr. Erhard Crome, Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.
•       Zia Mian, Princeton University.
•       Andrew Lichterman, Western States Legal Foundation.

11:30-12:45 Risks of Great Power War:  Regional Perspectives

•       Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee
•       M.V. Ramana, Princeton University
•       Irene Gendzier, Boston University.

12:45-1:45 Lunch (See registration information below)

1:45-3:00 The Risk of Great Power War:  Regional perspectives: BRICs, Sub-Imperialisms, and Post-Cold War conflicts

•       Michael Klare, Hampshire College
•       Emira Woods, Institute for Policy Studies
•       Paul Lansu, Pax Christi Europe.

3:00-4:15 Limits of the Moral Imagination: Industrialized Warfare, Moral Thresholds, and the Forgotten History of Arms Control:

John Burroughs, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
Paul Walker, Global Green
Götz  Nuneck Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg.

4:15-5:30  Disarmament Movements, Peace Movements, and What Is To Be Done.
•       Reiner Braun, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
•       Akira Kawasaki, Peace Boat
•        Judith LeBlanc, Peace Action

To Register:  Write to Jennifer Sherys-Rivet at JSherysr@afsc.org. For more information, call 617-661-6130. (Lunch available with pre-registration $10)

Conference conveners and Sponsors: American Friends Service Committee, Peace and Economic Security Program; International Peace Bureau; and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and its U.S. affiliates, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and the Western States Legal Foundation, Rosa Luxembourg Foundation. Endorsing Organizations:  Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons, Peace Action


Judith LeBlanc Honored as Democracy Champion by National Priorities Project

November 15, 2013

11/8/13 – NORTHAMPTON, MASS.–Judith LeBlanc has been recognized as a Democracy Champion by National Priorities Project (NPP). Selected as one of 32 allies and partners from across the country, NPP recognizes LeBlanc for exemplary leadership and tenacious commitment to the democratic ideals upon which our nation was founded.

“We are honored to celebrate our remarkable allies and partners, without whom our work to democratize the federal budget would be impossible. These Democracy Champions represent a broad cross-section of social movements. We are proud to partner with them as we work towards a federal budget that reflects Americans’ priorities,” NPP Executive Director Jo Comerford said.

National Priorities Project is a national non-profit, non-partisan research organization dedicated to making federal budget information accessible so people can both understand and influence federal spending and revenue decisions. Over the past 30 years, NPP has reached well-over 40 million people and leveraged its research to support thousands of national, regional and state organizations.

“Peace Action and I are honored to be among the awardees, and we treasure our partnership with the National Priorities Project, especially our joint Move the Money grassroots training program on cutting Pentagon spending in order to invest in better human and environmental priorities,” said Le Blanc.

To learn more about NPP’s 30-year history visit: http://nationalpriorities.org/en/about/npp-turns-30/.

Below is the full list of the 2013 Democracy Champions. To learn more, visit: http://nationalpriorities.org/en/about/npp-turns-30/democracy-champions/.

  • Eric Byler & Annabel Park
    Co-Founders, Coffee Party USA
  • Sister Simone Campbell
    Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
  • Tim Carpenter
    Founder and National Director, Progressive Democrats of America
  • John Cavanagh
    Fellow, Global Economy, Institute for Policy Studies
  • Ben Cohen
    President and Head Stamper, StampStampede
  • Cheryl Contee
    Partner, Fission Strategy
  • Tom Engelhardt
    Tomdispatch.com
  • Seth Flaxman & Kathryn Peters
    Co-Founders, TurboVote
  • Barney Frank
    Member of Congress (1981-2012); Chairman, House Financial Services Committee (2007-2011)
  • Anna Galland
    Executive Director, MoveOn.org
  • Christie George
    Director, New Media Ventures
  • Michael Leon Guerrero & Cindy Wiesner
    Grassroots Global Justice
  • Sarita Gupta
    Executive Director, Jobs with Justice
  • Van Jones
    Host, CNN’s Crossfire
  • Judith Le Blanc
    Field Director, Peace Action
  • Annie Leonard
    Founder and President, The Story of Stuff Project
  • Tiffany Dena Loftin
    Power Shift Coordinator, Energy Action Coalition & Organizer, Dream Defenders
  • Katherine McFate
    President & CEO, Center for Effective Government
  • Heather McGhee
    Vice President, Policy & Outreach, Demos
  • Jim McGovern
    Member of Congress (1996 – present)
  • Bill McKibben
    Founder, 350.org
  • Ellen Miller
    Executive Director and Co-Founder, Sunlight Foundation
  • Leslie Moody
    Executive Director, The Partnership for Working Families
  • Bill Moyers
    Moyers and Company
  • Liz Ryan Murray
    Policy Director, National People’s Action
  • Eli Pariser
    Co-founder, Upworthy
  • Ai-jen Poo
    Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance & Co-director, Caring Across Generations
  • Robert B. Reich
    Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California
  • Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner
    Executive Director/CEO and Co-Founder, MomsRising
  • Micah L. Sifry
    Co-Founder and Editorial Director, Personal Democracy Media
  • Jessie Spector
    Executive Director, Resource Generation
  • Deborah Weinstein
    Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs

Life Stories: Activist Bill Towe, a voice against war and for the poor

November 12, 2013

Our former Peace Action board of directors co-chair, Bill Towe, passed recently. Here is a wonderful remembrance of Bill in the Raleigh News and Observer including quotes from his children, Maria and Chris.

BY ELIZABETH SHESTAK

CorrespondentNovember 10, 2013

Bill Towe.

COURTESY OF MARIA TOWE

  • William H. Towe

    Born: March 27, 1933

    Family: An only child, Towe marries Betsy-Jean Robertson Towe and they raise two children together, Chris and Maria Towe, who give him two grandchildren. He lives all over the Triangle, as well as in Henderson, before settling in Cary. He is widowed in 2011.

    Education: Undergraduate degree from Davidson College, master’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. Spends two years enlisted in the U.S. Army, deployed to Germany, in the late 1950s.

    Career: Leaves a position teaching history in Virginia to work full time for peace causes. His positions over the years include, but are not limited to, senior planner for the Soul City project, research director for the N.C. Voter Registration Project, the Office of Economic Opportunity under Gov. Jim Hunt, and national co-chairman of Peace Action.

    Dies: Oct. 18

     

Growing up in Wilson, Bill Towe often asked his parents why his nanny did not eat with them.

Though his parents demonstrated that everyone was equal in their rights, in the 1930s South they had a hard time explaining why their housekeeper and cook, an African-American woman, did not join them at the table.

In that instance, the distance kept during meal times had more to do with employment status than skin color, but it left a mark on Towe. As an adult, Towe dedicated his life to eradicating inequalities – and injustices – of any kind.

A key turning point came when Towe rejected the option to take over his father’s successful insurance company in Wilson. Following a brief stint in the military, he later left a career as a history teacher to work full time for nonprofits and state organizations seeking to bring peace where there was strife, justice where there were wrongs.

His career as an activist was often likened to that of a long-distance runner. Friends and family can now say he is finally able to rest after a lifetime of fighting for others. Towe died last month at the age of 80.

Towe’s early career had a slightly different direction – one that went straight up, as he was a tent raiser for the circus. Sometime near the end of high school, Towe, an only child, literally ran away with the circus, his children said. He was certainly running away from an unwanted career in Wilson, where a comfortable life selling insurance was ready for the taking.

“It was always assumed by my grandfather that that’s where my father would work. My dad had other plans,” said his daughter, Maria Towe.

From there he went to Davidson College, then enlisted in the military for two years and was stationed in Germany. Upon his return he earned a master’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, and embarked on a teaching career.

He met his wife of 47 years, Betsy-Jean, while teaching in Hampton, Va. They shared the same values from the start. She was the first white teacher to work in a black school, his family said, and it wasn’t long before he resigned from teaching to work for $12 a week (plus gas money) as a civil rights organizer.

Together they helped organize the Virginia Civil Rights Committee. A cross was burned in their front lawn, but rather than react with hatred, they took the stance that Ku Klux Klan members were from “poor and downtrodden” white families, he once wrote.

When they moved to North Carolina, Towe worked on various peace projects, some at the state level, some for nonprofits. No cause was off-limits, though in the end, it was his work combating weapons proliferation that was the most public.

And the most noticeable.

He designed and wore a bright blue spandex suit, of superhero design, donning a gigantic boomerang atop his head under the moniker “Captain Boomerang.”

This getup often made an appearance at the state fair, where, as he manned the N.C. Peace Action booth (he was national co-chairman of this Washington-based nonprofit) he talked about the ways the United States sold weapons to other nations, only to have those same weapons later used against American soldiers. He felt those funds would be much better spent on schools and other peace measures.

But for as overt – and brightly hued – as his political presence might have been in the public, at home he was just the opposite.

“He never really wanted to engage in political discussions. He definitely had his beliefs, but he never got up on his soap box,” said his son, Chris Towe.

Towe met Cyrus B. King, a longtime Raleigh activist, after he moved to the area in the 1980s. In recognizing Towe’s impact to fellow activists years ago, King reminded folks of Towe’s tireless dedication – and financial contributions. Many feel he personally kept Peace Action afloat.

“Anytime there was a peace demonstration like the ones at Fort Bragg on the anniversaries of the war in Iraq, Bill and Betsy-Jean were always present,” King said.

“If you have email and you were foolish enough to give your address to Bill, you have received reminders of events that you should participate in and you have received more action alerts than you can possibly respond to.

“But if you complained, as I sometimes did, you should be reminded that not only was Bill sending out those emails, he was participating in all those demonstrations, going to all those events, writing all those letters that he was asking you to write but he was at the same time keeping N.C. Peace Action alive and making a significant contribution to national Peace Action.”

His message lives on with his friends and family.

“His main thing was that everybody is human. And everybody deserves the same human rights,” Chris Towe said.

 


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