Report on Keep Space for Peace Events in Washington DC
14-17 April 2000
by GLOBAL NETWORK COORDINATOR BRUCE GAGNON
On April 14, after some challenges by the DC police saying that we could not use our "soapbox" stage and sound system, our rally on Pennsylvannia Ave. in front of the Treasury Department got underway on time with over 200 persons attending. We did in the end get to keep our stage and sound system.
We were surprised at the massive amount of media that came and stayed through most of the event. As usual Dr. Michio Kaku was a wonderfully powerful speaker giving a history of the efforts by the U.S. government to put the Star Wars "shield" in place.
After the two hour rally that featured speakers and music we moved onto the sidewalk at the White House and kept a moving picket line going for a full hour. Friends from the United Kingdom (14 came in all -- the largest foreign delegation to our meeting) brought signed postcards addressed to President Clinton calling for him to Keep Space for Peace. The night before the demonstration we had strung them all together on string and they made a wonderful sight as we moved back and forth in front of the White House, chanting and singing. We also passed out hundreds of leaflets to the tourists that passed by. At the end of the picket we attempted to present the postcards and an international sign-on letter to Clinton at the White House gate but it was refused.
On April 15 we gathered in an auditorium at American University in northwest Washington DC. Over 150 people joined for the full day of events. Beginning with a wonderful speech by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) that called for a global ban on weapons in space we were inspired over and over again by a great slate of speakers. Throughout the day three musicians weaved their songs into the fabric of the event that heard from representatives of groups in Africa, Australia, England, Germany, Puerto Rico, and throughout the U.S. That evening we gathered at another location across campus for a beans and rice supper prepared by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington and even more great entertainment.
Our international strategy meeting on April 16 was abbreviated in order for people to go downtown and join in the IMF/World Bank protests. Many had gone early that morning to join the 6:00 am march toward the World Bank. Others took off near noon to jump into the action. All reported excitement and wonder at the wonderfully creative effort of the protesters. And they saw numerous instances where the police overreacted with force.
At the strategy meeting we heard from all present about local efforts in the past year to organize protests against the nuclearization and weaponization of space. It is exciting to know that we now have active affiliates working from Bangladesh to London, from California to New York. Many reviewed plans for protest in coming months and we decided to promote global actions on/before June 26, the date of the next BMD test from Vandenberg AFB in California and Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. We hope to have a long list of actions around June 26 to provide to the international media. It is understood that media and governments around the world will be watching this BMD test which makes it a major event of significance.
Because the U.S. must have new/upgraded radar systems worldwide in order for BMD to function it is crucial that we increase our outreach in places where those sites are now located or will be in the future. The list includes Greenland, Alaska, Norway, Australia, England, California, and Hawaii.
At the strategy meeting we also reviewed plans for our Congressional & White House May 1-15 Int'l Call-In Days to Protest Star Wars and urge all reading this to help spread the word during those days.
We have also decided to begin to provide an interactive list serve to our current e-mail list and should have that underway soon.
In the meantime we are encouraging local groups in the U.S. to host a Keep Space for Peace event and to invite a speaker from the Global Network. We will also be organizing tours of people from outside the U.S. to come the United States to speak out against U.S. plans for domination and control of space.
On Monday, April 17 we gathered on the steps of the Capitol in the cold rain holding our banners as hundreds of tourists lined up to take the tour of the Capitol. While we bannered and passed out literature others from our groups visited their Senators and Congresspeople to ask them to work to stop BMD and plans for weapons in space. Our friends from England joined the large delegation that visited the office of Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and got his promise to deliver the Keep Space for Peace postcards to Clinton.
This was a historic weekend for those working to stop a new arms race in space. The Russian Duma had just voted to approve the START II Treaty that further reduces nuclear weapons. And Russian President Putin has called on the U.S. to join Russia in reducing nuclear weapons to new lows, around 1,500. A great step toward disarmament that would be! But there is just one problem. Russia and China keep reminding the U.S. that if we deploy the new Star Wars system that all bets will be off! They have stated that they will build even more nuclear missiles in an attempt to overwhelm the U.S.'s Star Wars program.
So we all left the DC events understanding our great challenge but also feeling that we are truly building an international movement. With radio interviews on the BBC World News Service and Radio for Peace International we are getting our message out to people all over the world. With active protests blossoming globally a true democratic debate about what kind of seed should be carried into space is underway. The message of the weekend was that we are not alone. We must each do our bit to keep space for peace.
It was decided that the Global Network meeting in 2001 will be held in Yorkshire, England where the U.S. bases Menwith Hill and Fylingdales are located. Both will be key radar facilities for the BMD system. And our hardworking friends there will not wait for us to arrive before pressing on. They will hold a walk from July 4-8, 2000 from Menwith to Fylingdales calling for the end to Star Wars.
Let us all keep working and moving forward.
Original call to action
Keynote Address by Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Address to Conference by Patricia Mische, Pax Christi USA (Ohio)
Nuclear madness - what you can do - Address to Conference by Helen Caldicott
The contents herein are Copyright 2000, Global Network/Bruce Gagnon, the article may be reproduced for non-profit purposes as long as the source is recognised, otherwise reproduction can be arranged through the Global Network.