Coordinator Trip Report
- New Mexico
16 February, 2004
From: Bruce Gagnon
The Maine Caucus was held the next day on Sunday, Feb 8 and I had to vote absentee due to my need to fly to Albuquerque, N.M. My absentee vote for Dennis Kucinich was just one among many that gave him 16% in the state, his largest showing to date. My partner, Mary Beth Sullivan, was asked to give the pro-Kucinich speech to over 500 folks who attended our town caucus. I was sad to have missed her stump speech but I heard that she knocked many people off the fence into the Kucinich camp.
I went to Albuquerque to hold protests at the nuclear power in space symposium organized annually by the University of New Mexico’s (UNM) Nuclear Engineering Department.
I didn’t arrive in Albuquerque until late Sunday night (after three plane rides) and I missed a showing of our new video Arsenal of Hypocrisy that was held that evening at the Peace & Justice Center. Following the video a panel discussion was held that included Bill Sulzman (Citizens for Peace in Space, Colorado Springs), MacGregor Eddy (WILPF, Salinas, CA), Jeanne Pahls ( Stop the War Machine, Albuquerque), Greg Mello (Los Alamos Study Group, Albuquerque), and my host Bob Anderson (Stop the War Machine, Albuquerque).
On Monday, Feb 9 we organized two protests at the space symposium that was held at the Albuquerque Hilton hotel. During the middle part of the day we vigiled outside the hotel and then we returned at 7:00 pm to be there while a Boeing sponsored awards banquet was held. We had made it known that we’d like to “speak” to the gathered proponents of weapons and nuclear power in space but no formal invitation came our way. So 20 of us, including many students from the UNM Greens, marched into the hotel with our signs, down the long hallway past the corporate displays and the 1967 space nuclear reactor, before we were stopped just outside the door of the big banquet room. Since we couldn’t go in we began chanting “No nukes in space” and “No weapons in space.” The door swung open now and then when someone had to go to the toilet. It was delightful to see the shock on their faces as they ran head-long into our signs and chants! We were certain that our voices echoed inside the banquet room. Score one for direct action!
The police were slow to arrive so after 15 minutes we decided to leave. We again marched through the hotel and out the lobby door. Spanish speaking TV came to film us and luckily we had a Spanish speaking student who could give our message to the public. During the next two days we were on the front cover of the UNM student paper with photos and articles about our protest. While in New Mexico I also did four radio interviews and the Albuquerque Tribune invited Bob Anderson to write an op-ed that will appear this week explaining our concerns. I was also invited by the paper to write an op-ed for next week talking about what motivates me to return to Albuquerque each year to organize protests at the space nukes convention.
My next stop was to speak to a group in Taos, which is located in northern New Mexico and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. The evening talk gave me a chance again to see the lovely moon in the sky just above the snow capped peaks. The next morning I returned to the same spot to speak to 55 students at an alternative high school and was very pleased that they had so many questions for me that the teachers had to extend my time by 15 minutes. I thank Beryl Schwartz, a former Maine activist, for hosting me and then driving me to Santa Fe where I spoke the next evening as well.
On Feb 12 I made my way back to Albuquerque where I met Bob Anderson who drove me three hours south to Silver City. In order to get there we had to go through the Gila National Forest, over the mountain pass into Silver City, the home of the wild west gangster Billy the Kid. But before Kid's time this was Indian country - the home of the great Apache leaders Geronimo and Cochise. My heart cried when I thought about the fact that Geronimo’s skull today sits inside the Yale University “Tomb”, the club house of the powerful Skull & Bones Society that both George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry belong too. The grandfather (Sen. Prescott Bush) of our current president led a grave robbing party years ago that took Geronimo’s skull as a prize for their club house where select elites are taught how to manage and control the U.S. empire – irrespective of party affiliation.
Silver City is a mining town. As we approached we passed huge mountain-like piles of tailings from the strip mining of copper that has gouged enormous holes in the Earth and polluted the water supply. Many famous struggles took place in Silver City as workers ran up against the greed of the giant mining corporations.
The turnout for Silver City was much higher than expected for such a small community and the fact that we had competition that evening – a theatre production of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” The response to our new video was excellent and I answered their many questions afterward until my voice began to run out. By this time it was 9:00 pm and Bob and I still had the drive back to Albuquerque ahead of us. My plane home was leaving early the next morning so we headed north but had to take the long way around to avoid the mountain pass due to the fact a snowstorm was in our path. Half way back to Albuquerque we hit the nearly blinding storm and witnessed one car upside down on the highway and several more run into the ditch. We later learned that two people perished that night due to highway accidents but we were lucky and made it home by 2:00 am. After a quick check of my e-mails I was in bed only to be wakened by Bob at 5:30 am for the trip to the airport.
Once home I had one day to rest before Mary Beth and I headed south to Cambridge, MA. to hear Noam Chomsky talk about the militarization of space and science at MIT on Sunday. We were told to get there early and we did, 1 ½ hours before his talk began. We set up our literature table as students and community people arrived early to get a seat in the auditorium that filled to capacity. I would guess well over one thousand were there. Friends had suggested I come and had helped me try to arrange to make an announcement to the crowd about the Global Network annual conference that will be held in Portland, Maine on April 23-25. I was not given the chance to make the announcement from the stage but faculty organizers asked me to get to the audience microphone during the question period. I did and after introducing myself and the GN, I began to make the announcement but many in the audience roared “Ask a question!” Noam held up his hand, stopped the noise, and urged them to listen to me saying that the Global Network did important work on the issue. The audience then applauded. I invited folks to come to our table in the lobby which many did after Noam finished his talk. Afterwards I thanked Noam for saving me from certain lynching by the crowd.
All during this trip I was reading the autobiography of Emma Goldman. It was striking to see the similarities between her time and ours today. In 1919-1920 over 16,000 people were arrested in America during the famous raids by the Attorney General Palmer (with assistance of his young aide J. Edgar Hoover). Over 250, including Emma, were deported. Many were arrested and sentenced to long years in jail for speaking out against WW I and the draft during the Wilson administration. All I could think about were Code Orange, Homeland Security, the Iraq war, and the Patriot Act.
So now I am home at last and can rest a bit. Many thanks to my kind and generous friends in New Mexico for a great and exciting visit.