Co-ordinator Trip Report

12 August 2001

by Bruce Gagnon

I am just back from a week's speaking tour to the northeast where I met with folks in Pittsburgh, PA; Northampton, MA; Providence, R.I.; and Westport, Old Greenwich, Hartford and New Haven, CT.

In Pittsburgh I was hosted by the Thomas Merton Center and Molly Rush.  We vigiled at Carnegie Mellon Institute on August 4 that today does millions of dollars of Star Wars research & development work.  Ironically, just across the street from the college was the Catholic cathedral, which underscored the point that the technologists are now playing God by developing systems to fight war in space and to change weather by interfering with the atmosphere.

On August 5 over 150 people turned out at an event in Northampton organized by the Traprock Peace Center, AFSC, PSR, and Nipponzan Myohoji.  Led by a Buddhist monk, a two day walk began in Leverett, MA and concluded at the Unitarian Church in Northampton. The event was well organized by Sunny Miller (Traprock) and Jo Comerford (AFSC) and I heard that folks came from Vermont, New Hampshire and Boston to attend.

On August 6 I went to the Northeastern Yearly Meeting of the Friends being held in Providence at Bryant College.  Frances Crowe made sure I stayed busy speaking to three groups in one afternoon, including 30 of the young adults. A minute (resolution) was passed and I was especially pleased to see that they expanded the final version  to include reference to Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) and the need to oppose all funding for Star Wars research and development.

On August 7 Bruce & Yaell Martin took me to Westport and Old Greenwich, CT for two presentations.  The first, a quickly organized mid-day event, was sponsored by Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen who has long been a leader in the United Nations Association.  Over 35 folks turned out, including the daughter of former U.N. General Secretary U-Thant from Burma and the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt in the 1960's.  A nine year old boy stole the show with his determined questions following my talk and his intense and well articulated opposition to nuclear power in space.  Ruth promised to organize an action on October 13.

That same evening Marcia Joondeph organized a meeting of her Peace Action group in Old Greenwich.  The room at the church was packed. It was exciting to be there since Marcia was one of the first in the country to pick up on this issue a couple of years ago and begin talking about it in her community.

On August 8 we began the day in Hartford at a meeting with Rep. John Larson (D-CT).  A dozen of us (from many different groups) confronted him on his support for Star Wars. He serves on the Research & Development sub-committee of the House Armed Services Committee.  I began the meeting by showing him the big poster of the space-based laser and the Space Command's Vision for 2020.  With his left eye twitching he finally could not take any more and began yelling at me and the others telling us that he was privy to "secret information" about the dangers from rogue states.  He went on to admit that the U.S. was now out to "manage" China saying that they are "not like us" and that TMD was vital to that mission.  He also admitted that he was a "guns and butter" Democrat who believed that we could have large expenditures on weapons and still afford social programs.  The folks around the table very ably countered him on every point and at the end of the meeting he apologized for losing his cool.  While no one feels that he will change his votes in the future, we all agreed that he would be watching closely over his shoulder, especially since a Green Party representative was in the meeting as well.

That evening over 125 people came to hear my presentation.  I'd been to Hartford several times before and about 40 people had been the largest turnout.  This very exciting meeting was evidence that folks were responding to the hard work of the growing committee in Hartford led ably by the likes of Martha Vinick, Mary Hess, Joe Wasserman and others.  They made a strong appeal that evening for folks to turn out for their planned October 13 event as well.  It was also very hopeful to see several leaders from communities of color at the event.

My last night of the four-city Connecticut trip was in New Haven on August 9.  Bruce & Yaell Martin, with Promoting Enduring Peace, had coordinated the very full three days of events in that state.  We began the day with a silent vigil in the town square of New Haven, met union organizers who are leading the campaign of Yale University workers for living wages, and then welcomed a Japanese Hibakusha at the public library for a Hiroshima-Nagasaki photo display.  The Hibakusha and I both spoke to a packed room at the local Unitarian Church afterward.  Come to find out, the Hibakusha had just seen Karl Grossman's video, Nukes in Space II, before leaving home. Our advisory
committee member Satomi Oba has  translated the video with Japanese sub-titles, and has now spread hundreds of copies throughout Japan.

On August 5, Mary Beth Sullivan represented the Global Network as a speaker
in Tennessee at the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance's annual demonstration in remembrance of the Hiroshima bombing.  Oak Ridge is one of the sites where DOE is planning to expand plutonium production for space missions.

My next trip begins on August 17 and takes me to New Hampshire, Maine, Cape Cod, Vermont, New Mexico and New York and I will return home again on September 3.

Thanks to all for a great visit. I feel more strongly than ever that the grassroots are coming to life and that they are clearly beginning to understanding the necessity to talk about NMD, TMD, space-based lasers and research and development.  If we continue to make the case that Star Wars is already costing our society dearly we will broaden the issue thus building the needed movement to halt this madness.

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