Coordinator Trip Report
(North Carolina, New York & Tennessee)

21 September 2002

From: Bruce Gagnon

I've just returned from a two week speaking tour that took me to North Carolina, New York, and Tennessee.

On September 6, I spoke at a peace rally at the state capital in Raleigh, N.C. that drew 575 people.  The event, coordinated by my old friend and Catholic Worker activist, Patrick O'Neill, was a very successful statement against the Bush war on Iraq.  In my speech I particularly highlighted how space is today used to direct all war on Earth.  (See our most recent newsletter on our website for more specifics on this topic.)

Following that I went to New York for a tour that took me to Syracuse, Ithaca, Cortland, and Corning.  I spoke at a well attended student/faculty event at Syracuse University (SU) and did a radio interview on the university station.  Hosted by Syracuse Peace Action, I also spoke at an event in a local church and was able to meet Jack Manno, author of the book "Arming the Heavens" that I've used extensively as a resource.  Many thanks to John Burdick, a professor at SU and local Peace Action leader for a great visit and great strategy discussions during the trip.  While there, the Syracuse Cultural Workers gave me a copy of their famous peace calendar for 2003 which will include a listing of our Keep Space for Peace Week next year.

Ithaca was a busy and exciting stop with talks to students and faculty at Cornell University, Ithaca College and at nearby SUNY College at Cortland. Also while in Ithaca I spoke at a large public event organized by a new broad-based Keep Space for Peace Coalition that is coordinated by local Green Party activist Pete Meyers.  It was fun to hear about Pete's current race for County Sheriff where he is taking on the issue of jail expansion and harsh drug laws.  Doing five talks in two days in Ithaca was a tiring but very rewarding experience as I met many great activists, especially those in the strong Ithaca Catholic Worker community.  After a talk in Corning, N.Y. on September 13, I headed for the southland and Tennessee.

Arriving in Knoxville in time for the weekly vigil at the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear bomb plant, I addressed those assembled at the main entrance, all the while under the watchful eye of Department of Energy (DoE) security. I told the story of Bush administrations plans to purify plutonium 238 at Oak Ridge in coming years, in a planned $34 million facility expansion, to meet the growing demand for space nuclear power.  The next day I attended the sentencing hearing in Knoxville of four activists recently found guilty for trespassing onto Oak Ridge.  Former Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance staffer Paloma Galindo interviewed me live for an hour on the local progressive radio station, another example in the expanding national effort to create alternative media outlets to counter the corporate dominated news.

My four-city Tennessee tour was initiated and coordinated by Rev. Tom Warren (United Church of Christ- UCC) who had previously organized a speaking event for me in New Orleans, LA..  Tom has since moved to Pleasant Hill, TN, a community filled with a couple hundred retired UCC ministers and missionaries that are incredibly active in social justice, environmental and peace work throughout the state.  Tom now pastors their church, which hosted a pot luck supper and talk for me with 60 of these wonderful folks in attendance.  It was one of the most well received visits I've ever had and I know these well connected, life-long global peace workers, will help spread our message far and wide.

My next stop was Chattanooga, TN  where I did a 30-minute live radio interview at a commercial talk show station that I assumed would be conservative, like the rest of the region.  But much to my surprise, the local host read aloud extensively from the copy of the Space Command's Vision for 2020 I gave him and allowed me ample opportunity to tell our side of the U.S. space "control and domination" story.  Later that day I substituted for a professor in her women's studies class at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga and then spoke again that evening to a group of Earth First/Green students and activists on the campus.  I was very impressed by the young folks, and afterwards over a beer at a local pizza joint, they impressed me even more with stories about their determined efforts to feed the homeless with their Food Not Bombs chapter in the face of challenges from the police and downtown merchants who want the homeless removed from sight.  One question I was asked many times during this visit to Chattanooga was "How do you keep from falling into despair after all your years of organizing?"  I told them that I too often feel frustration and rage, but that I try to turn those energies into hard, postive, and determined work that is sustained by the growing community of friends and dedicated activists I have met around the world.  At my Ithaca College talk in New York, an older woman had stood up and told the students, "I know this all might sound depressing but you've got to turn toward each other -- you need each other."  Afterward I learned that this grandmother, Theresa Grady, was a long time leader in the Christian pacifist movement in the U.S.

On September 19 I took a Greyhound bus from Chattanooga for the three hour ride to Nashville, my last stop on the tour.  There I did a one hour TV interview for a cable access show called "Left of Center," another good vehicle for reaching the public at large, and in the evening I spoke at the local Peace & Justice Center.

I am home now for two days and then move on to Great Barrington, MA; Trinity College in Hartford, CT; Falmouth, MA; Providence, RI; Portland, ME; and Milwaukee, WI as my September barnstorming tour to promote our October 4-11 Keep Space for Peace Week continues.  As I travel it is gratifying to see local folks take steps to join the many others around the world who will be campaigning to prevent war in Iraq and Star Wars during these coming days.

Let us hold hands tightly together and keep hope alive.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 90083
Gainesville, FL 32607
(352) 337-9274

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