By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
“Unjust laws exist.” So wrote Henry David Thoreau in his 1849 essay, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” The naturalist and pacifist asked, “Shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” His answer was simple: “I say, break the law.”
One hundred and sixty-four years later, on May 15, 2013, Ken Ward Jr. and Jay O’Hara did just that. They navigated a small lobster boat, named “The Henry David T.,” to a point off the Massachusetts coast near the enormous Brayton Point Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built in 1963 that is the largest source of carbon emissions in the region. They dropped anchor and blocked access to the pier, preventing a cargo ship from unloading 40,000 tons of coal. They suspended banners from their boat reading “#CoalIsStupid” and “350,” a reference to the international climate action group 350.org. Three hundred fifty parts per million (ppm) is the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists feel is the maximum level that will allow the planet to avoid catastrophic human-induced climate change. Ward and O’Hara succeeded in blocking the coal shipment. From the boat, they reported themselves to the local police and were later arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard.
O’Hara, a Quaker and a sailmaker on Cape Cod, explained, “We were charged with … disturbing the peace, conspiracy to disturb the peace, negligent operation of a motor vessel and a failure to act to avoid a collision of a boat.” They faced years in prison. They decided to mount a “necessity defense,” admitting that they broke the law, but claiming that they did so only to prevent a much greater harm, i.e., the burning of coal that increases global warming. Last Monday, Sept. 8, they finally went to court. Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter offered them a deal. He dropped all criminal charges against them in exchange for a guilty plea to a civil offense and a fine. D.A. Sutter then went a step further — a few steps, actually, to the plaza in front of the courthouse, where he shocked the two defendants and close to 100 of their supporters with a short speech:
“The decision [we] reached today … certainly took into consideration the cost to the taxpayers in Somerset, but was made with our concern for their children, the children of Bristol County and beyond, in mind. Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced. In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been gravely lacking … we were able to reach an agreement that symbolizes our commitment at the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office to take a leadership role on this issue.”
Sutter’s incredible demonstration of political leadership is timely, indeed. This week, the World Meteorological Organization released its latest Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, packed with dire statistics about the accelerating threat of climate change. “The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2013,” the WMO reported, with current concentration of carbon dioxide at 396 ppm. The WMO also warned, ominously, “The current rate of ocean acidification appears unprecedented at least over the last 300 million years.” Defendant Ken Ward, a former deputy director of Greenpeace USA, noting the urgency he feels for the climate, told me, “We should … be taking emergency actions everywhere we can. And the very first emergency action is to stop burning coal.”
Henry David Thoreau is best known for his book “Walden,” in which he describes the year he spent living in a cabin he built on Walden Pond, near Concord, Mass. Thoreau opposed the 1847 U.S. invasion of Mexico. He was a staunch opponent of slavery. To protest these violent policies, he decided he would not pay taxes. When he was jailed for his protest, he was visited by his friend, the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is said that when Emerson asked, “Henry, what are you doing in there,” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, what are you doing out there?” Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience was one of the first modern articulations of the resistance tactic of nonviolent noncooperation. His words and actions have inspired millions, among them Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
The People’s Climate March will happen in New York City on Sunday, Sept. 21. Organizers expect it to be the largest march for the climate in history. The march’s slogan: “To Change Everything, We Need Everyone.” Sam Sutter says he’ll be there, as will the two activists he prosecuted. I asked the district attorney and the defendants if they would be marching together. They all smiled. Prosecutor Sutter said, “It’s certainly possible.” Jay O’Hara concurred, “Sounds like a plan.”
This Fall the Resource Center for Nonviolence is inviting you to PARTICIPATE. We have several events surrounding the idea of participation. One that we are really excited is a reception and presentation with Nina Simon.
We have a great resource in our community on this topic:
Nina Simon, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History! Nina will share her experience and advice about how she and her team have transformed the MAH in to a participatory experience for our community. The museum’s profile, attendance, and participation have skyrocketed under Nina’s leadership. Nina is the author of “The Participatory Museum,” speaks around the country, and leads a summer professional development camp on the topic of Participation.
Nina Simon and the Resource Center for Nonviolence invite you to participate!
Wednesday, October 8, 6:30 PM for a mixer (light refreshments) 7:30 PM for Nina’s presentation.
Suggested donation, $10-20 sliding scale.
Please RSVP by October 1. Space is limited. Email Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 831.423.1626. It’s all at the
Resource Center for Nonviolence:
612 Ocean Street, across from Hotel Paradox.
We welcome everyone and we especially invite leaders, staff, board members, activists from community groups, non-profit organizations, political and religious groups to meet Nina, visit the Resource Center for Nonviolence, and consider how you can improve participation in your organization.
We hope you will join us!
Anita, Candace, Irene and Peter
PLEASE JOIN US FOR OUR ANNUAL DINNER & PROGRAM
Friday, October 24, 2014
AT: Peace United Church of Christ
900 High St., Santa Cruz
NEW this year:
5:00 – 6:00p.m.
Social Hour and Silent Auction
Gourmet Vegetarian fare
7:00p.m. Program featuring political scientist,
author and professor Erica Chenoweth speaking on
“Nonviolence is Participatory.”
The Annual Dinner celebrates the community that supports and participates in the program work of the Resource Center
Political scientist Erica Chenoweth, Ph.D., coauthored “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” Dr. Chenoweth is Associate Professor at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, and is Associate Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute, Oslo. Foreign Policy magazine ranked Chenoweth among the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2013 for her efforts to promote the empirical study of civil resistance.
The Annual Dinner is one of our biggest annual fundraisers. Please be as generous as possible. If you cannot attend, please consider a scholarship donation so youth and families that would not otherwise be able to attend will participate thanks to your support.
RSVP by October 10. Please tell us how many of you are joining us.
GENERAL RESERVATIONS: $40-100 per person sliding scale for the Dinner and Program.
Table Host $500 -$1000 Reserved seating for a table of 8.
Organizational Host $300 – $500 Reserved seating for a table of 8 for a non-profit organization.
Sponsor $200 – $300 Reserved seating for 4 people.
Supporter (2) $100 – $200 Reserved seating for 2 people.
Supporter (1) $60 -$100 Reserved seating for one person
Scholarship Donation: if you cannot attend: any amount
Program Only: $8-25 sliding scale
TO MAKE RESERVATIONS: 831.423.1626, email: email@example.com or visit rcnv.org
Write checks to “RCNV” and mail to 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060.
**Please note “ANNUAL DINNER” in the memo.
AL HELM (the dream): Martin Luther King in Palestine
Film and Discussion
Thursday, August 14 @ 7:00
The Resource Center for Nonviolence 612 Ocean Street
An African-American gospel choir goes to Palestine to sing in a play by Clayborne Carson about Martin Luther King Jr. They become witnesses to life under occupation and a nonviolent movement for social justice.
No entry fee.
For more information: Click For Flyer or 831.423.1626
All They Will Call You Will Be Detainees
One of corporate journalism’s bad habits is framing international stories on the premise that news is what happens to the US. There is no better recent example of this than the story of tens of thousands of children fleeing Central America for refuge in other countries, including, but not limited to, the US. With some exceptions, this story is covered as the US’s “border crisis,” and the latest installment in our supposed immigration debate, with the children little more than nameless symbols of a troubled policy.
The framing of the refugee crisis as a domestic political story can be read in the headlines: “Obama, on Texas Trip, Will Face Immigration Critics” (New York Times, 7/10/14); ”Obama Hardens Tone on Border” (Washington Post, 7/8/14); “In Border Crisis, Obama Is Accused of ‘Lawlessness’ for Following Law” (Washington Post, 7/9/14).
Some reporting has bucked the trend and attempted to look beyond US borders. In “Fleeing Gangs, Children Head to US Border” (7/9/14), New York Times reporter Frances Robles reported on the root causes for a refugee crisis that could see 90,000 reaching the US border by the end of this year. Violence, gangs and poverty are mentioned, and that’s good, as far as it goes, but these stories don’t ask some obvious questions. Like, why are almost all the children from three Central American countries? The largest number of child refugees are from Honduras, with El Salvador and Guatemala accounting for almost all others. Why these three countries?
And why aren’t children streaming out of Nicaragua, which suffers from “staggering poverty, but not a pervasive gang culture or a record-breaking murder rate,” as the Times‘ Robles notes, but does not attempt to explain? According to the the landmark 2013 study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Nicaragua, with 11.3 homicides per 100,000 population, has a homicide rate about one-eighth that of world leader Honduras (90.4), and roughly a quarter of that of El Salvador (41.2) and Guatemala (39.9). Why is Nicaragua so much safer?
Here’s where it might come in handy to quote Central Americans and experts on the region. But these vital groups are nearly invisible in coverage, particularly in the large number of stories that treat it as a domestic or political story.
If journalists interviewed University of California/Santa Cruz Honduras expert Dana Frank, they would learn that in the nation with the highest crime rate on Earth, the criminal gang culture extends into every level of government. This includes the US-allied federal government that came to power following a US-backed coup (Guardian, 6/29/12) that removed a popular, democratically elected president (Extra!, 9/09). As Frank wrote last Wednesday in “Who’s Responsible for the Flight of Honduran Children?” (Huffington Post, 7/9/14):
Missing from the discussion about Honduras, though, is the post-coup regime governing the country that is largely responsible for the vast criminality that has overtaken it. Equally absent is the responsibility of the United States government for the regime. Yes, gangs are rampant in Honduras. But the truly dangerous gang is the Honduran government. And our own tax dollars are pouring into it while our top officials praise its virtues.
Mexico City-based writer Laura Carlsen suggests other US policies have also served as important drivers in the flight of the children. Carlsen takes on US reports that cite the laxity of US immigration policies, the lure of social welfare programs and the irresponsibility of the children’s parents, by pointing out how US drug war and trade polices have made conditions increasingly unlivable. In “Child Migrants and Media Half-Truths” (Americas Program, 6/23/14), Carlsen writes:
So why does the mainstream press seek to place the blame on the parents and a supposed softening of immigration policy?
Because the alternative to blaming migrant families themselves is unpalatable to them.
The alternative is to accept that the Central American and North American Free Trade Agreements have left thousands of youth with no economic opportunities.
It is to accept that US security aid for drug wars has armed and aggravated violence in Mexico and Central America.
It is to understand the high cost of supporting the Honduran coup and how the Honduran people and the US population continue to pay that price, as out migration has surged over 500 percent in the past two years, and human rights violations, instability and violence are skyrocketing.
Veteran Latin American correspondent James North writes in the Nation (7/9/14) that the White House is “showing little concern for international law, and none at all for Washington’s own historic responsibility in Central America,” by “asking Congress to change the law so America can deport the refugee children more quickly.” North explains the US’s responsibility:
The United States has a particular moral responsibility in the Central America refugee crisis that goes even deeper. Americans, especially young Americans, probably know more about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda than they do about how their own government funded murderous right-wing dictatorships in Central America back in the 1980s. The Reagan administration’s violent and immoral policy included $5 billion in aid to the military/landowner alliance in El Salvador, which prolonged an awful conflict in which some 75,000 people died–a toll proportionally equivalent to the casualty rate in the American Civil War. But once shaky peace agreements were signed in the 1990s, the United States walked away, leaving the shattered region to rebuild on its own.
This history is virtually never mentioned in reports on the refugee crisis. In addition to the loss of blood and treasure caused by the US during the Reagan era, the US-supported governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras targeted popular democratic organizers and institutions, flooded those nations with guns, and interrupted political and social development. The three countries sending almost all of the refugee children abroad are the same three in which death squads flourished and where US policy became most deeply embedded in the political culture.
Nicaragua, whose political development has taken a different trajectory–seldom in lock step with Washington, its agencies and military advisers–is not experiencing astronomical crime rates or a refugee problem. It’s still very poor, but far less violent.
But there is virtually no media discussion of how “our border crisis” might be somewhat of our own making–”blowback” resulting from US policy going back to the 1980s.
Are US journalists interested in the actual roots of Central America’s refugee crisis? Or are they ignoring them because they confer moral responsibility on the US, and that discussion would spoil a swell debate about just how quickly the kids should be returned to their homelands?
The 18″ x 24″ full color poster has an amazing photo of Pete Seeger smiling and playing his banjo. The quote is from Pete’s song Clean Up the Hudson, 1989. Printing donated by Community Printers. Photo by Bob Fitch Photo Archive- copyright Stanford University Libraries
Poster text: “Think Globally, Act Locally! Sing and Shout for a world that’s free of war and toxics and bigotry.”
Spread the word far and wide to all your friends and to Pete Seeger and folk music fans… Thanks!
The Resource Center for Nonviolence has undergone many changes over its 38 years, and in the last 3 years. The founding of Project ReGeneration in August, 2011, the purchase of the new building at 612 Ocean Street in September, 2011, the death of Scott Kennedy in November, 2011, the move into the new building in March, 2012, and subsequent use of the new building by 75 nonprofit and social change groups for events and meetings.
The Center continues its mission of advocating nonviolent social change in all sorts of issues, and of cultivating nonviolent activists. The Center today is a mix of co-founders, and people who have come into the organization throughout its history, and people who have become involved in the past few months.
On May 9, 2014, Joan Baez helped us launch the public phase of our Building for the Future Capital Campaign. Following that great concert, on May 10, 2014 we dedicated our Main Hall to Scott Kennedy. Pictures for both events can be found on our Flickr page here and here! Both events sought to reach out to the community and provide a platform for a very important campaign. Please join us in realizing our goals and transforming the Center from a plain and practical building into a vibrant community center.
If you would like to know more about the campaign please check the following links to our campaign packet:
or give us a call at 831.423.1626, we would love to speak with you!
The Resource Center for Nonviolence has been a staple in Santa Cruz for almost 40 years. We have been influenced by so many in this amazing community and it is great to see that the feeling is mutual! See what others in the community are saying!
Congressman Sam Farr says:
“While I cannot join you in person [for the Scott Kennedy Hall Dedication], I want to express my strong support and appreciation of the services that the Resource Center provides to the Central Coast community.”
For the full letter please click here!
Senator Bill Monning writes:
“The Resource Center for Nonviolence was founded in 1976 as a peace and social justice organization dedicated to promote the principles of nonviolent social change and enhance the quality of life and human dignity. Scott Kennedy was a lifelong international activist dedicated to sharing the values and lessons of non-violence. Additionally, he was a local community leader and a dear friend who I had the pleasure of knowing for over 30 years. I was proud to talk about the impact Scott had on our community and the world.”
For more words click here!
And for pictures of the Joan Baez Benefit and Scott Kennedy Hall dedication check here!
With the Joan Baez concert and Scott Kennedy Hall dedication upon us, it is nice to be reminded of our history. Sentinel journalist Wallace Baine does a great job of bringing our history to light and touching upon the work we continue to do. Below is the newly published article showing our relationship to music and how it helps make an activist movement!
by Wallace Baine
Joan Baez Concert, Friday, May 9 at 7:00 at the Rio Theatre – Sold Out
Open House and Scott Kennedy Hall Dedication, May 10 at 11:00 at the Resource Center for Nonviolence
Kathy Kelly speaks on
The Cost of War, the Price of Peace:Eyewitness Reports from Afghanistan
Wednesday, April 16, 7:00p.m.
at the Resource Center for Nonviolence
612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz
Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare.
During each of nine recent trips to Afghanistan, Kathy Kelly, as an invited guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, has lived alongside ordinary Afghan people in a working class neighborhood in Kabul. Voices for Creative Nonviolence believe that “where you stand determines what you see.” They are resolved not to let war sever the bonds of friendship between them and Afghan people whom they’ve grown to know. They insist that the U.S. is not waging a “humanitarian war” in Afghanistan.
Kelly has actively protested drone warfare by holding demonstrations outside of numerous U.S. military bases. From 1996 – 2003, Voices delegations openly defied economic sanctions by bringing medicines to children and families in Iraq. Kathy lived in Baghdad throughout the 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing. They have also lived alongside people during warfare in Gaza, Lebanon, Bosnia and Nicaragua. Kathy was sentenced to one year in federal prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites (1988-89) and spent three months in prison, in 2004, for crossing the line at Fort Benning’s military training school. As a war tax refuser, she has refused payment of all forms of federal income tax since 1980.
John Malkin with the Good Times has written a piece about Kathy’s visit, please check the link for more information.
Suggested Sliding scale donation: $8-15. No one turned away for lack of funds.
For more information: 831-423-1626, www.rcnv.org